By Eileen McDargh
The dictionary defines workout as a “physical or mental effort or activity directed toward the production or accomplishment of something.” Sounds just like our workplaces where effort is expended to provide either a product or a service. Look closer at a gym and one can learn seven lessons in leading self as well as others for performance improvement.
Lesson #1 – Everyone needs a baseline: How can you track improvement if you have no idea what is your current capability or baseline? In a gym weight is but one measure of physical ability. You also consider body fat, inches, how many repetitions of a specific exercise and more. The truth is, you might not lose a pound but become stronger and leaner by muscle development. What are at least three different baselines that would be good benchmarks for improvement? For example: What is your current number of client contacts that you make? What is your current level of quality reports you generate? You get the idea!
Lesson #2 – To get results, you must vary your routine: I see gym members who have been coming for months and yet there is no sign of any improvement. What I discovered is that their bodies plateaued and the muscles simply remember the exercise and is no longer challenged. We can do the same thing in our work. There’s comfort in the familiar but there is also little room for improvement. How might you change your “routine” and try a new way of getting a task completed? Perhaps you’ll even discover that your routine contains activities that can be discarded or given away!
Lesson #3 – Plan your hardest work for your optimum time: Everyone has a time of day in which they feel most alert and engaged. To the degree that you can put your most difficult work within YOUR best time slot, do it. I am pretty darn useless after 6pm but I can rise and shine in the early morning which is also my exercise time.
Lesson #4 – A workplace workout buddy keeps you honest: Think of this as your accountability partner. In a gym, a trainer serves that role: watching, recording, and assisting with specific exercises. In the workplace, many of us serve as coaches to senior level executives. These executives need someone to “keep them honest” and focused. We can all find and use an accountability buddy.
Lesson #5 – Know how much time you can take off without losing your “tone”: It’s a hard fact of life but stop exercising and within three weeks, our bodies lose muscle tone. Doesn’t seem fair and yet, the same thing is true of work. Stay out of the business for months, and it will be harder to jump back in. Whether you are on sabbatical, seeking a new position, or waiting for an employment contract, stay engaged. Read. Network. Practice. Unless, of course, you have decided to retire and move to Fiji.
Lesson #6 – Be clear on exactly what you can really do: Try as hard as I might, there is no way my body will do a split, a handstand, or a cartwheel. I watch one man who can move his feet like greased lightning in a kick box routine that would have me tripping myself and everyone next to me. However, I am strong with weights, cardio step, and climbing mountains.
In the workplace, what do you honestly know is not within your forte and never will be? If cold calls make your skin crawl, then learn how to ask for referrals from people whom you already know. If you are interpersonally intelligent but math leaves you clueless, don’t apply for an accounting position.
Lesson #7 – Strength, endurance and flexibility are all important: Just as these three qualities are a hallmark of a good workout program, so too are they critical for effective career development. Strength of character and a will to learn provide a breeding ground for success. Endurance allows you to be in the great game of work for the long haul. Without flexibility, rigidity steps in and many an organization has vanished because of outmoded thinking, dated systems, and legacy procedures. What are you doing to grow in strength, endurance, and flexibility?
Workout wisdom truly works out in today’s global, 24/7 world.
Since 1980, Hall of Fame speaker Eileen McDargh has helped Fortune 100 companies as well as individuals create connections that count and conversations that matter. Executive Excellence ranks her among the top 100 thought-leaders in leadership development. Looking for help with work and life challenges? Visit www.eileenmcdargh.com today!