Simple rules. For running. And for managing people
“In the beginning, train at a pace that allows you to talk, but not to sing”
I started my book and I start each course with an analogy between managerial thinking and running. And this is because I often get comments (or at least frowns) with the message “A course for thinking? For making decisions? I think and decide very well, thank you! I run my company without anyone teaching me how to think!”. Then I use an analogy that sounds like this:
Everyone knows how to run. We have been running since we were little and we never had to take a class on that. We can always run after the tram or after the child in the park. But if the goal is not to catch the tram, but to run a marathon, it would be good to study running. Similarly, if the goal is not to make a shopping list, but to lead an organization, it is useful to study managerial thinking and decision-making.
Most of the time the analogy is effective and the participants’ frowns are replaced by curiosity and openness. I recently realized that this analogy can be taken further. When I started running, I learned a lot from experienced runners who shared with me simple rules like the one in the motto (thank you, Emi!). These rules are a sort of proverbs for running that summarize the lessons that others have learned from experience. Most of the time from negative experiences. Thank you to those who taught me, you know who you are! There are dozens of such proverbs, I will leave here only a few that were of great use to me:
Nothing new on race day.
Do not increase the weekly distance by more than 10%.
If you want to increase speed, do not lengthen the steps, increase frequency.
Dress as if you are going for a walk and it is 10 degrees warmer.
Stand “tall” when you run, as if someone is pulling you up by your hair.
Listen to your body and be lenient with it.
Beginner runners aim for a distance, intermediate runners aim for a time, experienced runners aim to keep running 30 years from now.
Okay, okay, interesting, but what does that have to do with management? Where is the analogy? In my research, I found out that managers learn by distilling simple rules similar to those in running. However, the community of runners is a perfect environment through which proverbs reach those who need them. For managers, it is not necessarily the case, this kind of wisdom distilled from experience is rarely passed on. And this is because sometimes the rules are personal, they cannot be applied to others, and other times because the lesson is not relevant without telling the story of the failure that led to its learning. And sharing failures is not a sport beloved by managers. Runners brag about their bruises, managers less so. Unfortunately. That is why I leave here a few simple rules learned from (and by) several Romanian CEOs. I know the story behind each proverb, the bruise that led to learning, but for now I will only write the proverbs here and leave the stories for another time.
From more than two hundred such simple rules that I collected, I chose a few that guide the relationship with the team:
Leadership is a position of support, not authority.
Do not make someone else’s decisions.
Those who come to me with a problem must come up with three possible solutions.
I hire people who complement my skill set.
Easy integration of an employee into the team is more important than what he knows to do.
Everyone affected by a decision must take part in the discussion.
For a good relationship, the ratio between praise and criticism must be 3 to 1.
When something goes wrong, I do not look for who is to blame, because that person is me.
And another thing. For managers, simple rules like the ones above play a very important role in unlearning. You think things happen in a certain way, you do things in a certain way, and at some point, a failure completely changes your perspective. Then your set of values changes and such simple rules help you get rid of harmful beliefs and behaviors (such as, for example, micromanagement).
Do you have such simple rules? For running? For management? Please share them!
This article first appeared in the Romanian running magazine Alerg.