Leadership and Crossing the Finish Line

There have not been many really hot days in my neck of the woods this summer, but one such day recently reminded me of another midsummer day quite a few years ago.

I was nearing the end of my degree program, sitting, and sweating, over a particularly tough assignment. It was one I needed to submit prior to my final residency and graduation.  I was hot and tired.  And, because the subject matter was not a favourite, I was struggling.  I wanted to quit.  In fact, I remember saying to my husband something like, “I’ve had enough. I just want to give up.  What made me think I could do this in the first place?”

He said something like, “I know it’s hard right now. But you’re not going to quit. You’re going to sit there and finish what you started because it’s important to you.”

Well, of course it was…so I did.  But at that moment in time, I wanted to pack it all in and I needed someone who cared about me to give me a little push.

I expect we all, at one time or another, have experienced this kind of dwindling interest as the finish line comes into view.

At first, when we embark on a new project or business venture, we are full of enthusiasm, raring to go and dreaming of how it’s going to look, or be, when we have accomplished it.  As time progresses, we encounter problems (or challenges, however you wish to express it). Things we imagine don’t quite manifest themselves according to expectations.  We experience mission“drifts” and relationship“rifts”, disappointments, victories and defeats along the way.  By the time we get close to the journey’s end, we wonder if we are going to make it.  Exhaustion sets in and sometimes we start thinking about the next project before this one is done because it looks like so much more fun.

It’s not a unique scenario is it?  The question for the leader is;  how do you, not only get over the finish line but make sure that everyone else does too?

Well, we all have ideas about that I’m sure.  Here are a few of mine:

Keep your eyes on the prize ~ When the going gets tough, I think it helps to remember the fundamental purpose of the project; why it was important when you started it and why it continues to be important as you work toward accomplishing it.  Consider the tangible rewards that will come from having completed it and also how you’re going to feel when all is said and done.

Celebrate small successes ~ Sometimes a large project can create overwhelm that feels somewhat akin to a snake swallowing a pig.  If, however, you were to break it down and take time to celebrate milestones along the way, it might be entirely more digestible and provide sufficient energy to keep going.

Make Time for Rest ~ to function optimally, the human engine requires rest.  It is easy to get caught up in the demands of a critical project and tempting to work right through until it is done.  However, doing so and expecting others to do so, without respite, is a mistake.  We are at our best when rested and focused.  The time we think we save by not resting is usually lost when our physical and mental energies go on the wane.

Exercise the empathy muscle ~ This means checking in with people along the way; acknowledging their challenges and the feelings that go along with working toward a collective goal.   In other words, recognizing and relating to the emotional ups and downs that occur over the life of a project can be very reassuring.  In truth, empathy and encouragement fuel the journey and can make the difference between giving up and going on.

That’s what I think anyway. What do you think?



Filed under Employee engagement, Leadership, motivating & Inspiring, Uncategorized

9 responses to “Leadership and Crossing the Finish Line

  1. Excellent post. Role modeling pushing through… and supporting the team when the going gets tough is vital. Seth Grodin’s concept of “The Dip” comes to mind…

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Karin ~ I hadn’t heard of Godin’s book, “The Dip”, but looking at the description of it, it does touch on some of the things we’re talking about here. It also opens up another thought, and that is, sometimes there is indeed a legitimate case for quitting and moving on to something else…but that’s a topic for a whole other blog post!
      Thanks for the book reference. Here is the link for anyone who, like me, hadn’t heard of it and wants to know more.http://www.amazon.ca/dip-Seth-Godin/dp/1591841666

  2. Hi Gwyn,

    In my last blog post (http://blog.davidgreer.ca/2012/07/29/positive-every-day/), I wrote about how critical it is to use positive phycology with teams. For high performers, especially myself, it is all too easy to focus on the next challenge. By first focusing on the successes, no matter how small, that you have recently had — today, yesterday, or this week, you change the whole nature of the discussion. By acknowledging the things that you have achieved, before you start climbing the mountain to the next challenge, you set the stage for that next push.

    Powerful stuff. At least for me and my teams.

    Thanks for your post and the reminders about how we need to pause and recharge on our way to the prize, no matter where on the mountain that prize might be.



    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi David ~ I like the notion of focusing on recent successes to aid success in the next. Positive thinking provides much needed buoyancy that helps us get over the hard parts. Thanks for that and for sharing your blog post here.

  3. Alex Jones

    Happens to me too, and literally in running races. Useful tips to overcome it. Thanks.

  4. Great advice Gwyn. Having just come back from vacation I am reminded of the importance of giving my mind a rest!

  5. Pingback: Leadership and Crossing the Finish Line | digitalNow | Scoop.it

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