Updated: Apr 11, 2022
When you least expect it
Come on mumma ‘chop chop’, said Caleb (8) as we tackled our first long distance run together - ever. It made me laugh as I tried to gather my breath after we had only just started, not even 500m into the run.
We had been chatting about going running together and this lockdown in Melbourne looked like the best opportunity for us to tackle a new goal. I’ve been trying to make a ‘come back’ with running after a year of just not finding the time. For anyone who knows just how hard a ‘come back’ can be I was more than open to having a running partner to motivate me. Leading up to our first big run I tried explaining to my ambitious Caleb that the ‘experts’ in running say you shouldn’t increase your distance too much otherwise you might get an injury – so he adjusted his (our) initial goal from 5km to 2km. That was my risk assessment done!
We had our goal: run without stopping for 2km
We were off. It was only after 500m that Caleb took the lead and declared to me that he would be my coach – perhaps he heard me puffing or maybe it was the lack of response he was getting to his chit chat along the way. I think he knew I needed some help, so I wondered out loud ‘what does a coach do anyway’? This was his response (all whilst running too of course)
I'll be the leader so you can make it to the bridge
I’ll encourage you mumma, so ‘chop chop’
I will help you cause I think you might need it
I will do it with you too
When we made it to the 2km mark I suggested we stop as planned, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen when he responded with:
We can do 3km mumma, we don’t have to listen to the experts, we can listen to us. I’m doing it for Jaspey (our dog). Come on 'chop chop' keep going.
Just as we got to the end and I’m still drawing for breath Caleb offers a final piece of coaching advice:
I think we should celebrate with an ice cream mumma cause I’m really impressed with myself
I couldn’t help but find wisdom in this exchange, some hope for what it means to lead intuitively and to run the race well. It also was quite funny. Here I was thinking I was just going for a run, only to find myself deep in philosophical thought about ‘keeping coaching simple’. These were the simple yet complex insights I gained thanks to my 3km run with my enthusiastic 8-year-old. Perhaps they will offer you some encouragement too.
Leaders in any role are often layered in responsibilities, the most significant one is leading their team towards the vision they have set their gaze upon. Focus, direction and clarity is critical. For Caleb and I it was the bridge, it was 2 kms and then it was 3 kms. Our goals can change even though the vision is the same. Its important to be able to adjust to changes, shift our expectations and realise new possibilities. I couldn't help but think about how crucial my 'rest days' were going to be if I kept up my 'come back' with running.
We all need encouragement along the journey, weather it's a gentle ‘chop chop’ to maintain focus or perhaps some feedback about how we are going. It is the breath of motivation we all need from time to time. It enables us to stay the course together in ways that draw forth our unique attributes.
Leaders who notice and tune into 'how and when' people need help are super good at meeting people where they are at, caring for their contribution and believing in the role everyone plays in a team. We all need help and support in different ways so we can work to our strengths and live into the vision of our workplace.
Leaders who walk with and alongside us lead by example. That means different things for different times, we adjust and bend with the wind far easily when we walk together in collaboration.
Taking a risk every now and then and deviating from the plan is an important part of being an intuitive leader. This is how innovation happens. It is about bringing yourself to the equation and being wholehearted.
Last but not least lets always celebrate our progress, finding ways to recognise and express our appreciation to one another. Taking time to be in the moment and enjoy each other’s efforts is so valuable to a positive workplace culture. The ice-cream was so good after our effort and sharing it together meant something more.
Sometimes the gift of insight comes when you least expect it.
I invite you to listen deeply and closely to children and those around you.
Perhaps an important insight is being shared with you just when you need it ...
... so CHOP CHOP.