In my teens and twenties, I was a runner.
Never a great runner, but a runner nonetheless. I believed that running was a key element to my fitness and wellbeing. I got up early on my own, trained on my own, and entered races on my own. Each time I finished a race, I accepted my medal as a badge of honour for my training and hard work. I then stuffed these symbols of grit and effort into a shoebox that I dedicated to collecting such artifacts.
In my thirties, something wonderful happened… I realized that all my actions aimed at making me a better runner (the right training, the right shoe, the right weather, the right running partner, the right nutrition, the right running path)… none of that aligned with what I really cared about in my life. I finally accepted the signals from my body and from my heart – I no longer needed running in my life.
That’s when I became a walker.
The challenges of being a walker are different than those of being a runner. When you are a walker, you continually have encounters with the world of runners and most of these encounters highlight how walkers are second class citizens in the world of foot races. This happened to me so frequently, that I created an unspoken mantra every time I encountered such a situation. I would breathe deeply into my body and my heart and say to myself: “No thanks, I’ll walk.”
Walking proved a serious shift in wellbeing and fitness for me. Walking allowed me to train with my best friend regularly. Together we completed long walks and we connected in a way that wouldn’t have been possible for us to do if we had run instead of walked. I will never forget our half-marathon experience… enjoying a hot sunny May day, being in flow, connecting with fellow racers, and taking in the journey together. When we stopped to help a dehydrated and disoriented racer on the side of the course (other racers jetting by us without a second glance), we knew full well we wouldn’t make our best time and we didn’t give it a second thought.
I’m sure that must have been given a medal for my efforts at the finish line (we completed the race in more or less 3 hours), but I have no idea where it ended up. “Medals and best time” are no longer what I value in my fitness and wellbeing practice…
So what’s all this to do with Agile leadership?
In a world of high achievers and high performing leaders… it’s very much a runner’s world out there. I know. I’ve been there. I’ve even collected a few medals myself.
For Agile leaders, our craft is about creating a context whereby our teams are honoured for acts of collaboration, for caring about end users, for deeply connecting and acting with courage to meet the collective vision of our business. In essence, we are asking our teams to put these values ahead of racing as individuals to chase a prize. For many, this means intentionally slowing down to get things right.
Now, consider the impact to our teams when we as Agile leaders continue to chase medals and best time? What happens when we are unable to embody the very values we claim to hold dear?
Now, breathe deeply and consider, how can you slow down and genuinely connect with what matters to you most? In essence, what would it take for you to say (with the strength of your own convictions) – “No thanks, I’ll walk.”?