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Speed or Distance?


I ran on the track and field team in high school. We had runners who were fast and skilled at short distances. We had runners better equipped for mid to long distance. I usually ran the half-mile, which is a mid-distance race.  In those days it was unusual for anyone to run both short and long races. You trained for one or the other, because the stamina was different and the mental approach was different.

Leaders make a similar choice with their work teams. Are you going to push for short term results, whatever the cost? Or, are you going to build for the long view and develop your people even as they make some mistakes along the way?

I'm a strong advocate of the long view, of building for going the distance. In the mean time, leaders still must deliver short term results.

Like modern track athletes, leaders now must ask: are you running for speed or distance? -- knowing full well that it's not a choice. You must deliver both.

That's the tough news. The good news? When you build for the running the distance your speed -- and your short term results -- can improve as well.

High performance leaders are very skeptical about either/or questions. Like a great improv actor, leaders should ask "what if we did both?"

-- doug smith

Leadership Call to Action:


  • Think about your current short term pressures to perform. Ask yourself, how can you deliver on that short term result while also developing for the long haul?




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