high-performance teams

What the Fitbit Workweek Hustles Taught Me About Pacing


It might be hard to make out from the photo, but this is a picture of my swollen foot and the red rash that covered my lower legs not too long ago.

In a previous blog, I related what I had learned about healthy competition through participating in Fitbit Workweek Hustles.

I shared how I had rediscovered what a competitor I am.  Given my schedule, I thought at first that it would be super hard to get to 10k steps per day. Then, thanks to the encouragement and example of my just-as-busy-friends, I started averaging 18k-21k steps per day.

I realized that when I did phone meetings, walking actually helped me focus more on my clients, and get to the heart of their concerns.  That was a side benefit, but during the first couple of weeks, I did not win a Workweek Hustle.  I marveled at how the winners could get over 100k steps in a five day span.  I wanted to reach that mark, but doubted if I could.

Then it happened.  I got into a deep competition with a friend in NY.  We pushed each other hard throughout the week.  Late at night on the last day of competition, we were both walking--she in NY, me in Atlanta.  We reached 100k at about the same time.

Though I was tired, I kept moving.  My socks were itchy, but never in a million years did I think I was doing to my foot what you see in the picture.

We both continued to walk until midnight, and I actually won.  It was close, but I was thrilled to finally have won my first workweek hustle.

As I approached the front door of our house and slowed my pace, I could tell I was somewhat sore. But when I started going upstairs to our bedroom, the soreness really hit.  My legs continued to itch, and when I took off my shoes and socks so I could shower, I could see that my feet were swollen, even though the light was dim.  “Oh well,” I thought, “I’ll elevate them with pillows and sleep that way.  I’ll be ok.”

But when I turned on the lights, I could see all the red splotches on my leg.  I had no idea what they were, and I feared what it might mean.

After showering, I felt even more sore, so I got into bed.  When my wife came upstairs, I asked her to check my legs.  She gasped when she saw them, and it was one of those gasps of real concern.  “I’ve pushed it too far,” I thought.  “I’m really going to pay for it.”  She looked at me as if I should have known better.  And she was right.

I am an overweight 47-year-old man who had just resumed working out a couple of weeks earlier, and I had overdone it.

The next day, I had a doctor look at my legs and feet.  The doctor said to keep them propped up, do light walking on the weekend, and then encouraged me to get back into the competitions.  She assured me that I had not done any serious harm, and that I would be fine by Monday.

That weekend I took it easy--maybe did 7k steps the entire weekend.

When I got to the office on Monday, I showed my assistant the pictures of my leg and foot and she said, “I know a blog is coming about this one.”

That got me thinking.

I did not want to write a blog about a setback since I recently wrote a two-parter on it (1, 2). I wanted to write something that showed the lesson learned.

So, taking my cue from business, where there is a need to pace yourself and your team and go for the most critical wins, I worked on pacing myself and building up stamina.

Over the next two weeks, I stayed between 15k-18k steps.  Then I built up to 25k steps and stayed there for a couple of weeks.  Finally, I did 56k steps in a day.

Here is the kicker.  I felt great after the 56k.  Yes, tired.  Yes, sore, but not that sore.  I felt really great.

So what does all of this have to do with business?

Often in business, we can let our impulsiveness and desire to win do tremendous damage to ourselves, our team, and those we care about.  We push ourselves hard to get results.  But we don’t stop to ask ourselves: can our team and even ourselves handle the pace?

I started thinking about some of the more successful people I’ve worked with and the price they paid to achieve their success.  Many of their key team members quit because, at the heart of it, they felt like they were being used.  The leader cared more about the glory of the leader than about those who were working really hard to get them their glory.

As a leader, how are you handling the pace you are setting?  How is your team handling the pace?

Sometimes we have to push ourselves to the limit to get a crucial win, but at quieter times, is there a way to change the scope of what you are trying to accomplish so that your team builds more and more stamina in their reach for the top?

How can you show your team that you love them enough to help them reach their potential at a pace that doesn’t break them?

Ultimately, pacing allows for a sustainable, steady high-performing team.

Chew On This:

  • What is the right pace for you and your team right now?

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of a company that equips business leaders to develop the teams that everyone wants to work with.

Ten Actionable Steps To Facilitating Great Skip-Level Meetings Part 2

Untitled design(8) In Part 1 of Ten Actionable Steps to Facilitating Great Skip-Level Meetings, we discussed how despite many attempts Bob, a business owner, could not get three of his eight teams to have higher engagement.  He knew he was missing the front-line’s perceptions of what was dragging down their engagement.   

In Part 1, we discussed the first four Actionable Steps.  They were:

  • As the leader, sit down with your manager and get the manager’s buy-in for a Skip-Level Meeting.
  • If you haven’t communicated much two levels down, start doing so months before the Skip-Level Meeting is solicited.
  • You and manager send a joint email to the manager’s team.
  • Create a safe environment.

Below are six other actionable steps Bob took to facilitate great Skip-Level Meetings:

  • Ask open-ended questions and do not judge or correct the answers. Just empathize and take in the responses.

This is a time when you want to turn on your curiosity and eliminate all judgment.  

As best as possible, ask questions from a positive vantage point. Some examples include:

  • What do you like most about being on the team?
  • What tools or resources have you found most helpful?  Why?
  • If you could wave a magic wand, what is one thing you would do to make the team even better?
  • Tell me about a time when your manager was most helpful to you.
  • If you were in your manager’s shoes:
    • What would you be focusing on?
    • What would you be doing more of?
    • What would you be doing less of?
  • What questions haven’t I asked that I should have asked?
  • What can I answer for you?
  • Utilize strategic storytelling.

When you sense one of the responses has a story behind it, ask for the story behind it.   Tell them what themes you hear in their story.

Find an opening to share a story that cements a key message or belief you want them to walk away with.  Ask them what they got from your story.  

  • Ask clarifying questions as you go.

If you are unclear about something they are sharing, ask questions until you are clear.  Among other things, asking clarifying questions shows that you value what they have to say and want to take it all in.

  • Thank them for their time verbally and in writing.

Thank them for spending the time with you and share what you especially found helpful.  Assure them that you heard them and will take what they had to say seriously.  Let them know that you will be weighing what everyone shares with you, and that you will be discussing their concerns, in order of importance, as you coach their manager. Ask them to be patient as you implement.

Then the next day or so, send them a thank-you email. Let them know that if they have anything else to share, they should feel free to email or call you.

  • Develop a strategy with the manager and execute.

Once you have interviewed everyone, look for themes and create a safe environment with the manager.  Share that you are looking to make things even better, and that you want their help in creating strategies to do so.

Discuss the themes you discovered with the manager.  

Gain the manager’s feedback on those themes.

Develop strategies to strengthen what could be strengthened and to meet the opportunities that were presented.

  • Follow-up.

Decide with the manager how you want to follow up with the group.  You could send the group a summary of the key themes. You could also share what you and the manager will start to work on, and solicit the group’s encouragement and possible help.

Skip-Level Meetings can be an empowering, motivating, and informative way to increase engagement and move the business to new heights.

Chew On This:

  • What would seeing your business from the eyes of your front-line do for you?

*This blog is a compilation of three different clients.  No one particular client is being singled out.

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.