Aside from being able to run long, grueling distances, marathon runners have something else that makes them extraordinary—to keep going, running, and training despite the aches, pains, and exhaustion they may feel along the way. They have the insight to know when to rest and heal, and when to push themselves to go farther. While they celebrate the small wins, they always keep their eye on the goal, and return again and again until they reach it.
For entrepreneurs and professionals, this same mindset sets a team or a leader apart from the rest. It’s the mindset that differentiates between successful growth and stagnation.
You need more than an excellent mindset to successfully lead a business, a team, or grow in your career. But this core ability generates the resiliency and steadiness that results in success. Cultivating this mindset helps you maintain the proper perspective through all the small steps you must take (and accomplish) before reaching your goal.
For leaders, the marathon mindset will help maintain your vision. It will keep your vision in your sights and your team’s sights when things feel too difficult and keep everyone going when projects lag on, and team morale starts to fade. And it’s more than seeing the light at the end of the tunnel—it’s the remarkable ability to coach and encourage your team to reframe the challenge they’re facing as part of the journey.
Play the long game
Taking an idea from concept to fruition is much easier said than done. You might have heard of the famous statistic: 20% of businesses fail in their first year. There may be many reasons a company fails, but there’s no denying that creating a business is a hard road littered with potholes.
The beauty of the marathon mindset? It takes you out of the present moment long enough to put current challenges into the proper perspective: this is just another mile on the journey. Playing the long game, keeping that distant goal in your sights has a startling effect on how challenges are perceived. And perception is a powerful tool in combating burnout.
As a leader, it may be easier to maintain a long-distance perspective since it’s your job to think strategically about the project. You constantly have to zoom out to think about the next step, the final product, and the project as a whole. But for your team members, it may be an entirely different experience.
To be in the midst of a project that’s months or maybe even a year away from being complete can be draining. Slow progress can frustrate team members. Frustration can turn morale into fading hope. And for those team members who have never participated in a significant long-term project, it can be a bewildering experience, leaving them wondering how their teammates or leaders keep coming to work every day with energy.
Coach the mindset
To help your team successfully navigate a long-term project, focus on coaching them to build the endurance and resilience needed to persevere.
For many, it’s easy to come to work and get swept up in whatever is currently on their desk. Their perspective doesn’t go beyond what’s right in front of them or on their calendar this week—a narrow perspective. This can be a helpful tool for getting things done and being detail-oriented, both things you want them to do. But this limited view can also wreak havoc on morale when a setback appears and takes everyone’s attention to overcome.
If you have a narrow perspective, the challenges you face fill your entire range of vision, leading to feelings of overwhelm and defeat. Make a point to have team conversations about the overall arc of the project. Bring your team’s attention to the final goal and help them remember past challenges they’ve already successfully overcome. Engage them in strategic discussions around how to overcome what’s currently challenging them. This exercise will help put things into perspective, reduce the perceived weight of a challenge, and give your team a sense of agency over their work.
Watch for burnout and fatigue
We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare: The tortoise wins because of his slow and steady pace. In a marathon, the runners with the best endurance win over those with the fastest sprint.
If you see team members start to flag and burn out, immediately address it. Their burnout might be due to their belief that they must sprint constantly. Advise them to mediate their sense of urgency against their energy spend. Sure, they should work hard and stay focused, but they should also measure their pace and strategically reserve their energy to maintain it and not burn themselves out. Ensure you’re having consistent conversations with your team around burnout and energy spend, and do not engage in leadership practices that enable burnout.
Together, you win
You might think of marathon runners as solo athletes, but that’s far from true.
They have a team of trainers, peers, doctors, and friends, all coming together to help them cross the finish line.
Remember, everyone is in this together, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to support, encourage, and advocate for one another. Teach your team to manage their energy, so they know when to sprint and when to walk. Unite around a shared vision and think about it strategically as a team so each person owns a piece. Together, the wins will be sweeter, and the challenges easier to overcome.
Together, you win.
Content provided by Q4intelligence
Photo by Jacob Lund