Why do people run marathons?

November 24th, 2014

They’re even crazier than you think

 

Todays post is by Michael Figueroa an Account Manager at SafeSourcing Inc.

What kind of business can convince its customers to PAY to go through excruciating pain, has 10 times more volunteer staff than paid staff, and has everyone who witnesses its operations talking about it for weeks afterward? Marathons of course! And the overwhelming participation rate says a lot about leadership, and what it takes to move people to perform almost super-human tasks zealously.

I have a lot of friends and co-workers who run 1/2 or full marathons. So, I decided it was a milestone I wanted to achieve once in life, but after completing my second half marathon at the Nationwide Children’s Half Marathon in Columbus Ohio, I find myself wishing I could race every week. I am convinced, however, that no one would care to run that far without engaging the same inner drives that are at work both on the track, and in the office. 
 
When people believe in why you do something, they will go out of their way to help you get where you’re going. This particular marathon’s beneficiary was a children’s hospital, and every mile had former patients with giant orange foam hands giving high fives, some looking very healthy, some clearly disabled, some with walkers or crutches, most of them being kids. No matter how exhausted the runners were though, all 18,000 of us went out of our way to cheer for them, give high fives or hugs, leaving runners and patients alike in tears. We went out of our way to shout encouragement to every Wheelchair Division participant we passed. My brother saw a man tumble and fall short of the finish line, and other runners stop to help him cross. Motivation is contagious, and there was an unspoken consensus of purpose among the runners and spectators that moved them to go far out of their way to help each other see it through. 
 
Business consultant Simon Sinek has famously said, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” It’s no coincidence that everyone wants to be involved in Elon Musk’s quest to save humanity through the elimination of fossil fuels, Google’s mission to organize the world’s data, or Wikipedia’s mission to make an encyclopedia available to every human being on earth. But how do we get buy-in of the “ordinary” things we all have to accomplish within our organizations? Here are four things I’ve learned about what motivates runners as universal principles applicable to your organization:
 
Significance
Engage your workforce’s sense of importance by clearly defining a mission that contributes to the greater good of your community in some way. How does what you do make the world a better place, or better yet, how could it? Do you manufacture cars? Make them well to keep their passengers safe. Do you work for a bank? Identify your vision for how your product makes your customers lives better and potentially improve their financial health. This “gut check” is a great way to keep your business agile and adaptive to your customer’s needs as well.

Tangible Milestones
How often does your company identify major milestones and accomplishments? Can you think back through the year and identify 3 accomplishments that your company celebrated as “wins”? Or is every successful project just seen as a continuation of one infinitely recurring loop of fulfilling fiscal expectation? If you don’t identify where you’ve progressed from point A to point B, it will feel like you’re stuck at the starting line no matter how far you’ve gone. 
 
Autonomy
Running a race is a choice, but most of what we do in our work life isn’t. When people have the ability to choose or at least provide input into how tasks are accomplished, and what strategy to engage, they are much more likely to perform well because it is their idea. Sometimes just having permission to run with an idea is enough to motivate a workforce.  In this case you don’t have to convince anyone to do what you need them to; they’re already pushing their task along on their own. However, employees whose input is blocked/not listened to, will require a lot more pushing and prodding.

Ability
People do difficult things to prove to themselves and others that they are able. When people are given the opportunity to perform well in an achievable objective, they are more likely to excel. If your corporate culture is argumentative or adversarial, people tend to lose the belief that it’s even possible to excel at their job, because achievements are belittled in an environment where no one is allowed to be “right”.

How can we help you achieve your milestones? For more information on how SafeSourcing can assist your team in this process or for detail about our “Risk Free” trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative.  We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.
 
We look forward to your comments.

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