Who will you slow down for

For the past 15 years, I have been an addicted triathlete. Addicted to the finish line feel of the sport. The training is hard. But the racing is rewarding. Triathlon is a sport that has given me so much. Even though there have been times during the last 15 years, when I have not been a very fast finisher. At times I compete. At other times I just complete. 

During some of my slower periods in the sport, I have relied on my running buddies to help me get fit. They are generally fitter than I am, but at the same time, they are friendly, caring, and willing to slow down for me. Which I appreciate. 

One of those running buddies is Ashley. For a few years, Ashley and I would run at least 20 kilometres every Sunday morning. Without fail. 5am starts, we were like clockwork. 

The problem was that Ashley was always quicker than I was. He was quite the runner, and no matter how hard I tried, I was always between 15 and 30 seconds per kilometre slower than he was. 

And here is where the story gets interesting. 

It was hard for me to speed up. But I did. And it hurt at times. It helped my running get better. And Ashley improved at the same rate. 

But for Ashley, he always struggled running slower than he wanted to. He had this natural gait, a natural pace. That suited him, that was comfortable, and that was his sweet spot, so to speak. He looked like he could run all day at that pace. And it was still quicker than I ran my long runs at. 

But Ashley slowed down to run with me. 

The challenge was that Ashley struggled to slow down more than I struggled to speed up. When he ran at my pace, I could see that his knees started hurting, and he never looked very comfortable running at my pace. But he did. Even though it hurt. 

And I appreciated it. 

We used to call our Sunday runs our counselling sessions. We would download our week’s challenges to each other and talk through all sorts of issues. We would ‘solve the problems of the world’, as they say. 

As I reflect on that experience, with someone slowing down for me, and slowing down, even though it was painful, and it hurt… I started to think about how that plays out from a leadership perspective, and what lessons we can take from Ashley into our leadership. 

Here are the insights I came up with: 

1. Your team members maybe be slow movers 

And that is ok, if they are. Everyone is different, everyone works at a different pace. Leadership is about acceptance, and being willing to reduce your speed to make sure that everyone on the team has the chance to contribute.  

Recently, I did a session on transformative learning, and the speeds at which people learn and lock in new skills. Some learn fast. Some learn slow. And there are times when you might have to explain things a few times for the penny to drop. 

This is frustrating for a leader. And it was painful for Ashley. The rewards on investment though, are significant. 

Slow down, to make sure no one gets left behind. 

2. Know your leadership limits 

Leadership is a bit like running, where you have a natural pace. A natural rhythm. A natural flow. And to be out of that flow can be a challenge.  

Leaders need to know what works for them, the zone in which they are comfortable. The boundaries in which they get their best work done. And some leaders might not be able to slow down enough for some of their team members. 

I get that too. That is reality. If you are that leader, you need to find someone on your team who can slow down to support the slowest learner. The training, or the work, has to get done. And if the leader can’t slow down, someone has to. Or the slowest team member gets isolated.  

One concept I love is the 70:20:10 concept of learning, which states that 70% of learning is done on the job. 20% is done though dedicated instruction (and conversations). 10% is through structured training or coaching. Formal training. It is the 20% that matters. 

Don’t move so fast that you don’t take the time to have the training or growth conversations with team members that need it. 

Slow down and have the conversations that count. 

3. Breathe, pause, and focus 

The challenge for most leaders is that they need to be in three places at once. Which is a recipe for disaster. They are crazy busy (not just busy). And sadly, that is symbolic for their team members, who know that their leaders don’t really have time for them… a sad reality of the 2020s, especially now that the pandemic is a thing of the past. The busy-ness is back. 

When I was running with Ashley, he was never out of breath as much as I was. I was always running faster that I should have been, trying to keep up. And although his legs hurt, and he was uncomfortable slowing down, he could talk clearly. He never seemed out of breath. He seemed in control. 

As leaders, we need to be able to breathe. To breathe is to oxygenate the frontal lobes of your brain. That organ in your body that uses up to 20% of all the oxygen used by your entire body. You can’t think clearly without oxygen. And you certainly can’t talk clearly without it. You can only talk on your out breath, so regulate your breathing for better speech. 

And when you are regulating your breathing, you can pause. You can focus on the other person. You are not running around all over the place. You are not out of breath.  

Slow down and take time to focus on the other human.  

In summary, slow down for your slowest team member. Even if it hurts. Breathe, pause, and focus. The slower you go, the more you will connect. 

And please click the image below if you’d like to chat about what leadership means to you.

If you would like to learn more about Anton or The Guinea Group, please click hereto book into Anton’s calendar, to:

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About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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