Archive for the ‘1’ Category

Remembering the past can drive our future in business and racing

January 15, 2010

Sentimental journeys can be rewarding in business and in racing. You don’t have to stop to smell the roses. You can do it at race pace too.

Not long ago, I ran the Kansas City marathon. Kansas City is my home town. So I was excited to run this race. The course, while challenging, is spectacular and extremely sentimental for me because the course goes through numerous neighborhoods that hold fond childhood memories.

Add to that, I ran the first 7 miles with one of my best friends from grade school before she split off to finish the half marathon and I continued on to finish the full. Then at mile 8, I ran past another grade school friend’s home, where she and her family were in their front yard cheering me on as I ran by.

Before I ran the marathon, many of my friends asked if I had a goal finishing time in mind and if I thought I would set a PR (personal record). I explained to them that I really didn’t think I would set a PR and that wasn’t my goal for this race for a couple of reasons. The KC marathon course is a much harder and a more hilly course than the marathons I’d run previously. Also, I really just wanted to take my time to enjoy running with my friend who I hadn’t seen since childhood and reminisce about all the wonderful memories I had from my youth as I ran the course.

The first seven miles flew by. For me, the miles go faster with other people and I had seven miles to catch up on life with my friend, Maria. That was the highlight of the race for me. The other reason those miles went so fast was because I was pacing Maria for her goal finishing time of the half marathon which was a much faster pace than I would normally run a marathon. It was critical to me that she not sacrifice her goal because I would normally run a much slower pace for a full marathon. I felt like I could push really hard for the first seven miles with her and then slow down a bit once we split off. I realized this strategy could mean I’d burn out early and struggle in the later miles, but it was a sacrifice I was more than willing to make.

After splitting off from Maria, I was on my own for the rest of the 26.2 miles. I ran through neighborhoods that included the home where my grandparents used to live, the place where my mother bought my birthday cakes as a kid and numerous areas with restaurants where my family celebrated major milestones such as birthdays and anniversaries. There wasn’t a neighborhood that didn’t hold a wonderful memory for me from my youth. It was a glorious sentimental journey.

Normally, at mile 20, my legs start feeling some fatigue and my pace slows significantly. In this particular race I knew that would surely be the case because the course has a continuous three mile incline from miles 21 to 24. I’d heard from members in my marathon group on LinkedIn how brutal this stretch was so I was prepared for it. When I crested the hill at mile 24, I looked at my watch and realized I was well ahead of my last PR time. Knowing I was only about two miles from the finish and the last two miles of the course were flat or slightly downhill, I decided to kick it into high gear and give it all I had. The result…a new PR that was about 18 minutes faster than my previous one.

The day after the race, Maria and some of our other grade school buddies got together for brunch. Maria kept apologizing that she slowed me down. She said I would have finished in under 5 hours if I hadn’t had to wait for her at the top of every hill. I told her it was just the opposite. I told her I finished in just over five hours and way faster than I could have ever imagined because I ran the first seven miles with her. My pacing her for the half marathon put me far ahead of my usual marathon pace and she was the reason I had such a good finishing time.

So how does this relate to business? I think we often forget to stop and smell the roses in our work lives. Many times I see a “first dollar” on the wall in retail establishments. That’s very sentimental to the owners. But there is nothing displayed that shows other sentimental milestones that occurred after that first dollar. We get so focused on tasks of the day, deadlines or getting that next job or promotion that, in the process, we forget to appreciate all the wonderful people we have in our lives and all the lessons we’ve learned along the way. We neglect to pay tribute to our sentimental journey and the people and lessons who helped make us who we are. They are the same ones who will also help shape our future and the future of others on the road ahead.

So the next time you think you’re too busy to appreciate what you have…slow down for a minute as you crest the hill or climb the corporate ladder. Take the time to reflect and continue on at race pace. You will get to your goal much faster being fueled by all those positive memories and your appreciation for them and the people who made them possible. And believe me, there is nothing more valuable than a sentimental journey. It is the ultimate finishers medal.

There’s nothing like the winning feeling of seeing someone you have mentored pay it forward.

November 23, 2009

In racing and business,  I think some people are so focused on getting themselves to the finish or to the top of the corporate ladder, that they forget part of that process requires other people.  And when we include other people in our journey,  it’s more rewarding for everyone involved.

One of my favorite movies is “Pay It Forward.”  I love how the child in the movie has this idea of how to make the world a better place and word of mouth makes his dream a reality.  I have always believed that in racing and in business, we need to pay it forward.  And one of the most rewarding parts of that is seeing or hearing about how someone you mentored,  is returning the favor.  And hopefully, those who benefited will do the same…and so on and so on.

In a previous Lessons from the Road blog, I talked about a woman I mentored in a half marathon named Jan.  She’s a remarkable woman and a great athlete.  She was so grateful for my mentoring during the race that she thanked me profusely.  I told her it was my pleasure and about my philosophy of paying it forward.  That was my way of honoring my mentors.

Not long after we ran the half marathon together, she ran another one and emailed me to tell me that she wanted to pay it forward and honor the lessons I had taught her.  She told me she took two runners in the pace group under her wing.  She also shared that she could have run well ahead of the group and had a better finishing time, but felt it was more important to help the other two runners achieve their finishing goal times, as I did with her and another runner when we ran together.  She closed her email with “Thank you again for showing me that being a competitor isn’t all about my personal goals but can be even more satisfying when I can share success as part of a team.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

In racing and in business, it’s important to do well for yourself and set personal goals. But it’s also important to help those who need a confidence boost, some advice or someone to pace them to help them do their best.

As we continue to go through these challenging economic and business times, it’s more important than ever to pay it forward.  So the next time you see a business professional or athlete looking like they could use some direction, take the time to help them.  Your kindness and efforts will be appreciated and could start your own “pay it forward” movement.

Perception can drive a strong finish in business and in racing.

October 12, 2009

We know the saying perception is reality and that saying applies to business and racing. I recently participated in a half marathon where I decided to aim for setting a personal record. To achieve this goal, I decided to join a pace group.

A pace group is headed by a pace leader who is tasked with making sure that everyone in the group runs a consistent pace and finishes the race in their goal time. The group leader is easy to spot because they’re holding a sign that has the group’s goal time on it. It serves as a constant reminder and landmark of what you’re trying to achieve.

One of the many nice things about a pace group is you have some company. You learn a great deal about people when you run with them for 13.1 miles. And that makes the journey to the finish line interesting and fun. It can also make that journey very rewarding.

I’m always excited to meet experienced runners and new runners to a race or distance endeavor. In this particular race, I met one of each in the pace group.

Jan was running this half marathon as a gauge to run her first marathon in October. Sherry had run a number of half and full marathons and is a triathlete and triathlon coach. Both women are athletes in their own right and I was honored to be in the group with them.

As we got off the starting line, Jan shared with me that her coach really felt she could finish the race in 2:11, but she wasn’t sure. She had never run that fast before, much less for that long a distance. I told her that there was no doubt in my mind that she could do it and we would do it together.

When we got to the water stop at mile 2, we realized they were out of water and we ran through without stopping. I noticed I’d lost sight of the pace group leader so I picked up my pace and so did Jan. About a mile later, I looked at Jan and told her I was a little concerned that we hadn’t caught up to the pace leader and was wondering how much longer and faster we were going to need to run before we caught up with the group again. Jan just smiled and told me that the leader and group were behind us. I didn’t realize we had passed them going through the water stop.

Since we were in this race together, I asked her how she was feeling and if the pace we were running was okay. She said she was fine and let’s keep the pace we were running as long as possible. I agreed, and we did.

Around mile 7, Sherry joined us. She had gotten split from the group at one of the stops too, had paced a bit too fast and was now looking to maintain a steady pace to the finish. We welcomed her and the three of us continued our journey to the finish line.

As we talked and ran, I learned Sherry was recovering from an injury and this was her first race since the injury healed. I asked her if she was feeling okay and she said she was, but she was concerned. There was a problem with the water stops running out of water at most of the stops and Sherry was starting to feel some muscle pain from dehydration. As we continued to keep our pace for several more miles, she looked at me and said every muscle in her body ached from dehydration and she didn’t think she could keep the pace. I told her to do what she would tell her athlete clients…try to relax and work through the pain. We continued on, and I tried to keep the conversation lively in an effort to distract her from her discomfort. At one point Sherry looked at me and said, “You’re my angel. I couldn’t keep this pace without you.” I just smiled and said, “No, I’m just the course entertainment. There’s no charge.” And we continued to run ahead of our goal pace.

In the end, we all finished well under our goal time and each set a PR. After the race, I ran into Jan as we were milling around in the finishers area. She said Sherry kept saying to her that I was her angel who got her through the race and to the finish line and Jan felt the same way. I later got an email from Jan saying that she felt running with me made all the difference. I was such a motivator and helped her achieve what she never dreamed was possible. She said I was so unselfish for pulling her and Sherry along.

That was their perception.

My perception was very different. My perception was that they pulled themselves along with their motivation, drive and athletic abilities. They had what it took to achieve and exceed their goal finishing times. They did it all themselves. I was just honored to run with them, enjoy their company and make two new running friends. Their spirit, stories and presence made the miles fly by for me. My perception is they got me to the finish line feeling strong, and we accomplished and shared something very special, individually and together. That was my perception.

While our perceptions were very different, our realities were the same. All three of us had a great time running together and set PRs in the process.

So, how does this relate to business? It’s simple. Never underestimate the power you have to effect someone’s perception and ultimately their reality. Seize opportunities to help people along their journey to setting personal goals in the workplace. Nurture their spirit, motivate them and help them see and believe that they can achieve things they may not think are possible. When you believe in others, they in turn believe in themselves. And when people believe in themselves they exceed their own expectations and can achieve amazing things. When you show your faith in others, you will reap the ultimate reward of knowing you have positively impacted someone else’s reality. And that’s truly powerful. Because when we do that, we all cross the finish line setting a personal record.

Pacing in racing and business can be the difference between a great finish or disappointing one.

August 17, 2009

I recently participated in a triathlon that I also participated in two years ago.  While the race was basically the same, there were some significant differences.  Two years ago, this race was my first triathlon.  This year, I had a total of five triathlons under my belt.  So I hoped the lessons I’d learned from the road over the past two years would pay off with a faster finishing time this year.

The goal for most racers is to set a P.R. (Personal Record).  We all, ideally, want to finish feeling strong and improve our performance every time we race.

One of the key components of racing is pacing.  If you start out too fast, you burn out early and often don’t feel strong crossing the finish line.  If you don’t pace fast enough, you feel like you could have done better and may miss setting a P.R.  Finding the ideal pace is a fine line and one that just takes time, knowledge and a lot of trial and error.

It’s not any different in business.  Businesses have to pace wisely.  How many times do we see companies get a really aggressive start off the starting line and show up on the fastest growing companies in America list.  But the following year, they realize they paced way too fast and they’re not able to sustain that momentum, so they’re not seen on that list again.  Or worse, they pace so fast, they “blow up” on the course and never make it to the finish line, closing their doors forever.

But pacing too slow can be an equally serious issue.  We often see companies trying to get it just right or their product or service so perfect that they are beaten to market or maybe never get there.  Thus their race is slow and painful, never seeing a P.R. Sometimes their inability to pace well means they fail to make it to the starting line and sometimes they start, but never make it to the finish.

Neither of these scenarios in racing or in business are what we’re striving for.  And the key to success or failure in these cases is pacing.  Finding that pace that’s fast enough to get you to the finish but not so fast you can’t maintain it for the long road ahead.  Triathlon, like business, is about pacing and endurance.  Those that pace well and can endure the bumps in the road, unexpected course changes, unpleasant weather conditions and much more will ultimately be successful. It’s about fueling and training wisely and knowing when and how hard to push.  It’s about being able to realize when you’re pushing too hard or not pushing hard enough and alter your pace accordingly.

This year, I paced the race well.  I shaved time off in every aspect: the swim, bike, run and both transitions for a total finishing time of 10 minutes faster.  Now that may not sound like a lot to you, but in racing terms it’s a significant difference.  To put it in  business terms, it would be equivalent to a company spending $110 million dollars two years ago to stay competitive in their industry and saving $10 million this year by spending more wisely and improving their competitive ranking and overall business efficiency in the process.  Now, I know you can see the significance of that.

In business the road is often bumpy and uncertain.  The course is constantly changing and you may have detours.  Pace wisely and you will feel the victory of success and set your own kind of P.R.

We Need to Make Mentoring a Priority in Business and in Racing

July 14, 2009

I recently competed in the Fit to Fight Ovarian Cancer triathlon. I love this race. First, it raises awareness and money for an important cause. It’s also different than most local races. In this race, the women and men race separately. One of the most unique aspects of the race this year was the increased number of first time women triathletes. For me, that was very exciting.

It was exciting to hear newcomers talk about why they decided to do their first triathlon and it was equally exciting for me to be able to share my passion for the sport with them. But most important, it was so rewarding to be able to mentor these women to help ensure they had a good race and hopefully fall in love with the sport that brings me so much joy and continues to enrich my life and fitness.

When I was picking up my race packet, there were three women in line with me who were first time triathletes. They had all kinds of questions. It was great to be able to help them be better prepared for the race by explaining things that aren’t in their race packet. My parting words to each of them were, if you have any questions or need anything on race day, find me in the transition area. I’m happy to help you.

They did find me and so did several other first timers. Word travels fast in the transition area before a race. Some just wanted a little reassurance and encouragement. Others had specific questions. Also, if I noticed something in their transition area that wasn’t set up in the ideal way, I’d offer to fix it for them and explain to them that my mentors taught me this and why it’s faster and easier to set up that way. I also asked if they’d ridden or driven the bike course prior to race day. If they hadn’t, I would share with them the course and where the hills were so they could prepare for it by building up speed on the approach, shifting to easier gears before they got to the hills and not starting the race too fast and finding themselves physically spent less than halfway through bike course.

While on the course, I would shout out to racers if we had cars approaching from behind. Many racers are not expecting car traffic even though race instructions make it clear there may be some. At the end of the race, several racers thanked me for letting them know about the cars and said it was really helpful. I told them they were welcome and that my “bike mom” and mentor taught me that and why it’s so important, whether riding in a group or racing.

Another lesson I wanted to share with racers is one I think is often forgotten but so important…if it weren’t for the race staff and volunteers we wouldn’t be able to race. These race supporters are vital. No matter what race I’m in, when we hit an intersection with police controlling traffic, I shout out to them, “Thank you for being here and keeping us safe.” The smiles, waves and good luck wishes from the officers tell it all. I did that for the first several miles in this race and as the race progressed, I heard other racers behind me, doing it too. My hope is they will continue that habit in future races. Also thanking the volunteers is very important. They don’t have to be there. They do it out of the goodness of their hearts and we all need to show our appreciation. Many of these volunteers get up before the sun on a Sunday morning. Now that’s something special and we need to make sure we tell them so.

As someone who has been fortunate to have so many great mentors in my racing life, I want to pay that forward and inspire others to do the same. My hope is that my help enhanced their race experience and they got bitten by the triathlon bug, like I did, and will pay it forward down the road and mentor athletes at their future races.

While mentoring in racing is vital to its growth and success. It’s equally essential in our business lives. The mentors in my career have played a crucial role in helping me map my course. I think we often get so caught up in our day to day work lives that we forget to share our knowledge and support with those in our own offices and those looking for guidance outside our office walls.

This is especially important right now, where we have so many people of all ages in transition with work. We have people who thought they were on course and knew their career path, now feeling lost, frustrated, and helpless. We need to reach out to these people and offer our assistance and mentor them in any way we can.

Like in the race experience I described, they just may need some words of encouragement or they may need us to help them set up their transition for better success in the race they have ahead of them. Whatever they need, we need to be there to help them navigate their new course, approach the hills and finish the race successfully…even if their finish line is a moving target.

While I truly believe competition makes us all better because it helps us set benchmarks for ourselves, we cannot lose sight of the bigger picture. And that picture is that we’re all in this together. And while we want to do our best in the race, we can still do that while helping others compete to be their best. When we help others compete we help ourselves in ways far beyond financial reward. We improve the lives of others and ultimately improve our own lives and ourselves in the process.

Never forget that you didn’t get to where you are without the help of others. Now it’s time for all of us to pay it forward.

Your Support Network Gets You to the Finish Line for Work and Racing

May 5, 2009

Before running the Flying Pig marathon, I’d heard a great deal about this race. One of the things that struck me most was what a friend said about running the relay. She said she didn’t like running the final leg of the relay because all you saw was pain and heartbreak. Being that I’m not in the front of the pack, I knew I’d get to see for myself what she was talking about. The other thing I kept hearing about the Flying Pig was how great the crowd support is for this race. What I found was what you see and what you experience is a matter of perspective.

Sure, I saw people in pain stretching out muscles, getting sick on the side of the road, in tears and struggling to make it to the finish line…but they made it. And I believe the reason they made was because of their support network. That support network came from many places such as their family, friends and training partners prior to the race. But the support network I got to see for 26.2 miles was a support network of caring strangers…people who came out to cheer the runners on and stayed for the duration, not just for the front runners. These kind strangers knew that their support was more important to the back of the pack than the front.

There were people on the side of the road with cow bells, clappers, signs and cheering at the top of their lungs. Kids put out their hands to high-5 the runners. People and churches handed out oranges, candy, and other nutrition to help the runners keep going and reach their goal of finishing. There were thousands of people, many who didn’t know a single runner out there, showing their support. But on this special day at this special event, we were all family…in it together for the long haul.

There was a man in the last leg of the race with a sign that read, “You’re our inspiration.” I shouted out to him, “No my friend, you are ours!”

His sign reminded me of one of my all time favorite books by Ken Blanchard, Gung Ho! The message of this book is all about inspiration and focuses on three principles:
Worthwhile Work
In Control of Achieving the Goal
Cheering Each Other On

Just like with our real jobs, when training for a marathon, you must believe the work you’re doing is worthwhile or you won’t continue. How many people leave their jobs or their careers for others because they don’t find their work rewarding? It’s critical in work and in athletics that we help people find the reward and worth of their work, or we will lose them. I heard a statistic that only one out of every three people who begin training for a marathon will make it to the starting line. Work is not much different. We need to improve our odds in both areas.

In work, as with the marathon, we need to keep our eye on the finish line and be proactive in guiding the course to achieve our goals. If we lose control or get off course, it’s much harder to finish. So focus, commitment and dedication drive our success…or our failure.

Last, but in my opinion, the most important is cheering others on. We often hear the main reason people leave their employer is because they didn’t feel they were appreciated. If we do a better job of cheering others on and showing our support, we can lessen this problem or maybe eliminate it.

Like most things in life, perception is reality. My perception, my reality of the Flying Pig is simple…while the road to the finish may have been long and hard, those kind, caring strangers, made me and many others gung ho and got us to the finish line with a true sense of the worth of our work, the goal we achieved and the power of a great support network who cheered us on for 26.2 miles and many hours.

If any of you reading this were part of the cheering section along the course, thank you! Your time, kindness and energy meant a lot to thousands of runners. As the sign said…you are our inspiration. And in the spirit of inspiration and cheering others on, I urge you to follow their lead and encourage and inspire the people you touch in every aspect of your life. It makes a huge difference.

It’s All About the Journey

April 10, 2009

About 5 years ago, I went in to have my first mammogram, as you’re supposed to do at age 40. I was feeling great and had no idea anything could possibly be wrong with me. But I was wrong. A day after the mammogram, I got a call from radiology…there was a problem. I had a tumor. Long story short, the biopsy determined it was benign.

Needless to say, I felt very blessed and thankful. It was at that point I decided to live each day as if it were my last and do more things I’d thought about, but had put off because I was young, healthy and had plenty of time. After this experience, I truly realized, the time is now to start doing those things.

With that said, I took up running in October 2006 and ran my first 15k in March 2007. I enjoyed the training and the event very much, but wanted a new challenge. So, I decided to train for and compete in a triathlon. Now this may not seem like a big decision, but keep in mind two things. First, it wasn’t on my “to do” list, but when my friend who is a personal trainer suggested it, it sounded exciting. Second, I didn’t know how to ride a bike when I made this decision. Sure, I rode a bike when I was 6 years old but not since. And the bike I had as a child didn’t have gears…only a banana seat and moustache handlebars. It hardly qualifies. So, the journey began with my decision to take on this new quest.

I think one of the best parts of any journey is the people you meet along the way and what you learn from them. I had the honor and joy of meeting some amazing people. Some became mentors. Some are extraordinary athletes. All are incredible human beings who inspired me and taught me.

First there was my trainer, who had taught me how to train properly to run long distances. A superior athlete, herself, she inspired me. Her work with me when training for the 15k made the difference in my ability to compete in the triathlon.

Then there was the woman I refer to as my “bike mom.” She took me under her wing and helped me get up to speed with bike knowledge and skills…literally and figuratively. She introduced me to a weekly cycling group comprised of some very savvy cyclists who gave me tips and helped me find my way as I struggled with various aspects of cycling including riding with traffic and clipping in and out.

Next there was the owner of the bike shop I got my bike from whose honesty, patience, training tips, encouragement and passion for biking and racing made a huge difference for me. His ability to see my potential truly helped me see and believe it too.

Last, but not least, there were the instructors and women in my triathlon training group who taught us racing bike skills and taught me so much more than that. All of the women in the tri training group are incredible cyclists and true athletes. They were patient and understanding and never made me feel like the slow poke as I tried to keep up when we first started training. Instead they would encourage me, assure me they remembered what it was like to be a new rider and told me it would get better and easier. They were right.

But I think the one thing that really helped put a true perspective on my journey as I struggled through the early learning weeks was something sent to me in an email by one of the women in the weekly cycling group. This woman is a very strong cyclist, and I had shared with her my frustrations of wanting to be at a certain level right now, but knowing it would take time to get there. She sent me a lengthy email talking about her experiences when she first started riding. It was heart felt and encouraging. But what really made me realize it would all work out is the quote she included at the end of her email. A quote that I think is one of the best ones I’ve come across in quite some time and want to share with you.

John Bingham of Runner’s World said, “The miracle was not that I finished. The miracle was that I had the courage to start.”

When I read that, I thought to myself…yes…it really is all about starting. It really is about the journey, what you learn, who you meet and how the experience enriches and changes your life for the better.

Yes, I did finish my first triathlon, and in much less time than I had expected. Yes, it felt great. But in the scheme of things, the journey was my greatest reward. And the finish was a very sweet, but tiny part of the journey.

The journey got me hooked on triathlons and now marathons. I continue to compete in both and continue to cherish the people I meet and the lessons I learn on the road to wherever this incredible journey takes me.

I urge everyone reading this (whether an athlete or not) to find your passion, find your courage and embrace the journey. You won’t be sorry!

Work is like racing. You can’t always be first, but you can always strive to do your personal best.

March 27, 2009

Spring means the beginning of racing season for age group athletes. And with racing season underway, I began thinking about how racing, work and life are very similar.

In racing, there are winners…the person who comes in first and the people who come in first in their age groups. But my guess is that many people who participate in races, even if they are the last to cross the finish line, feel a sense of accomplishment and feel like a winner even if they didn’t win the race, didn’t win their age group or set a PR (personal record). They feel like a winner because they did what I call their P.B. (personal best). And isn’t that what racing, work and life are really about…doing your personal best every day?

As many people know, I’m a triathlete and marathoner. I love these sports. I compete in them because I love the journey…the people I meet while training and competing, the things I learn about others and myself and how I improve each day and each year as I strive to do my personal best. Someone I know once said to me, “I don’t know why you call it racing. You never win these races and you’re never going to win.” This comment was made by a person who thinks winning is all that matters. And if he can’t win or be first, he won’t participate. But the reality is that you can’t always win. You can’t always be first. And what a shame it would be if everyone had his attitude and refused to participate in things they weren’t sure they could win.

While we all enjoy winning, I think that winning is very personal and doesn’t always mean you came in first. I think winning is more about doing your personal best, being proud of who you are and what you have achieved.

Savor your victories…all of them and learn from each one. That’s what racing, work and life are really all about.

How you deal with a crisis speaks volumes about your business.

March 19, 2009

Businesses hit bumps in the road. But it’s how a business deals with those bumps that sets it apart. Deal with it well, and the crisis is a speed bump. It gives you a bit of a jolt, but you get over it and move on. Deal with it poorly and it can be a major detour or a complete highway shut down that puts you out of business.

Crisis media management is something I have specialized in for more than 16 years. My background in my previous career as an investigative reporter gives me a unique perspective in helping clients think about the kinds of crisis situations they might face and how to deal with them if they should arise. Good crisis communications is based on being prepared and planning ahead. No, you can’t plan or prepare for every crisis. But you can at least prepare for ones you know are more likely to effect you and/or your industry.

We’re seeing more stories in the news that require crisis media management than ever before: Enron, AIG…the list goes on. Frankly, when my firm gets calls like this, I turn these types of companies away. It’s not that we couldn’t help these types of companies or the task is too challenging. It’s that morally, I don’t want to help them. One of the best things about being the boss is that I have the luxury to pick and choose who I work with. And I have always chosen to work with clients of high integrity who choose good decisions over greed. I work with clients who work hard to earn their money and success…not get it dishonestly and at the expense of others.

With that said, even companies who operate with the highest of ethical standards face adversity that attracts media attention. How those companies respond to the media and perform under pressure says a lot about the company and its leadership.

Let me give you an example of a crisis media situation that one of our clients faced a number of years ago, and this situation is becoming more common these days. The situation was an impending bankruptcy.

I got a call from this client one afternoon saying they were trying to sell the restaurant franchise, but if the sale fell through, they would have to file for Chapter 11. The president told me he wanted me to be aware of this before anything happened so that I could help him plan for the best and worst case scenarios. That was his first really wise move. Being proactive and planning ahead for a crisis is the best strategy if you know something could be coming down the road.

I told my client that being proactive if they filed for Chapter 11 was the best strategy vs. letting the media find the court filing in their daily court rounds and being bombarded by media calls. I told him that we should alert the media that the filing was happening (if it did indeed happen) and tell them that the company’s president would be available for interviews to answer any of their questions. My client agreed that was the best course of action.

Our next step was to create the news release and talking points for our client. There were several key points we wanted to make sure reporters and their audiences understood. First, this was a Chapter 11 (a reorganization) and not a Chapter 7 (closing/liquidation). Second, that the restaurants would be open for business as usual other than a couple locations that would close later that month. Third, employees jobs were safe and so were their 401k plans. Any employee who worked at a location that was being closed would be relocated to a nearby location. Last, but not least, the company intended to pay back every penny it owed and hoped to do so in about a year and was asking vendors to be patient and stick by the company as they reorganized.

When the client realized there would be no sale and they would have to file for bankruptcy, we sent out the news release and told reporters to call me to schedule an interview with the president of the company. I think reporters truly appreciated our proactive, open and honest communication. They called and every media outlet who requested access was given an interview so they could have the story before their deadlines.

The strategy worked well and became the national strategy for this type of situation within this restaurant chain. While the news of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy is never good news, the coverage was fair and let the public know the restaurants would remain open. One reporter asked our client, “What does this mean for your restaurants tomorrow?” Our client responded (and this quote was used in one newspaper story), “We’ll be making pancakes as usual in the morning. We hope you’ll join us.”

The final chapter on this situation was that creditors did stand by the restaurant, the restaurant did come out of Chapter 11 successfully, paid back creditors and was later purchased. It continues to operate and thrive today.

How lessons from our personal lives positively impact our business lives.

March 16, 2009

After running my first marathon last year, a client asked me, “Do you really think the human body is made to run 26.2 miles?” My reply was, “It may not be made to do that, but I know the human spirit is capable of making your body and mind do that and so much more!”

Her question got me thinking about how many lessons from our personal lives can be insightful for our business lives too. So many lessons from the road, things I learn personally from running and cycling, also teach me things I can use in business.

While running a marathon, you have a lot of time to think, learn and experience a different side of life and yourself and you get to see first hand what the human spirit is truly capable of…not just yours, but many other people’s too.

In Columbus, there was a portion of the course where the front runners would go by the slower ones. I got to see for myself the beauty, grace and determination of the wheelchair and handcycle athletes. They are poetry in motion with the fastest athletes finishing in under two hours.

Not far behind them were the fastest runners, who would ultimately run the race in less than 2.5 hours for the men and under 3 hours for the women. To me, this is also an amazing tribute to the human spirit and what it can do.

The next part of the journey included learnings and insights from our Clif pace group leader, Marie. One thing Marie told us early in the race was to dedicate each mile to someone or something important to us that helped us reach this point. I thought this was a great way to pay tribute to the people and things in my life that helped me reach the starting line…and would ultimately get me to the finish line. It was also great to spend that mile thinking about those people and experiences and how they have enriched my life and the joy they have brought to me and others.

The people you meet while running a marathon is another great part of the experience. Some of the people I met included a man who decided to run the marathon to lose weight. He lost 15 pounds training for Columbus. Another guy I met around mile 20 was struggling up a hill, we tried to energize his spirit with “Good job. Keep it up. You can make it.” It’s a cheer that is common in races and it makes a difference whether you’re hearing it shouted out to you while you’re passing someone and feeling strong or you’re hearing it as you’re being passed and feeling tired. This particular guy thanked us and told us he entered this race on a bet and it was a bet he’d never make again. I’d be willing to bet when he got to the finish line he felt differently because he had done something so special, even if it hurt and was really hard. That feeling of crossing the finish line is something he will have for the rest of his life. And it’s the human spirit that got him there.

So what lessons from this experience can we all use in our work lives?

Lesson 1: No matter what your challenge…physical or other, you can overcome it and achieve great things if you put your mind and body to it.

Lesson 2: You may be born with a gift or you may not be, but the harder you work, the more successful you will be…even if that hard work may be very painful or frustrating at times, it’s worth it in the end. But you have to stick to it.

Lesson 3: Thank the people who helped you get to where you are and will help you get where you’re going. No one reaches their goals alone. There are always people there to guide you. Make sure they know how much you appreciate them and their efforts. Then reflect on all they’ve done for you and pledge to pay it forward to others.

Lesson 4: You’re never too busy to cheer others on. Cheering others success is as important as being thankful for your own.

While your human spirit may never inspire you to run a marathon, I encourage you to listen to it and embrace it. You don’t truly know what you are capable of achieving until you really push your limits. When you do, I think you’ll be surprised what you can accomplish and the impact those accomplishments can have on your life and the lives of others, both personal and professional.

As for what my human spirit has in store for me next, it’s a work in progress. And I say bring it on! I know there are many valuable lessons to be learned.