6 Leadership Lessons I Learned from Triathlon Training

6 Leadership Lessons I Learned from Triathlon Training

By Nicki Anderson. CEO. Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce

I’m a runner, always have been. Well, at least for the last 35 years. Sure, there were phases while raising my family that I let it go, but running has always been my refuge. Some of my greatest ideas or solutions were the byproduct of a great run. But a few months ago, I was feeling as though my running days were over. I decided to do some investigating, and I found out that not only did I have many miles left in me, I also had some great lessons to learn.

Last spring, I reached out to a Chamber Member of ours, Joe LoPresto, CEO and Head Coach of Naperville based Experience Triathlon, who is well versed in anything running, swimming or biking. I told him I felt like my running days were ending and he noted that it’s got nothing to do with my body giving up, it’s my mind. He told me to start with diversifying my workout. He was right. So rather than just run, I decided to hire Coach Joe and begin training for a Sprint Triathlon this summer (August 6) which will set the foundation for my long-term goal of completing an Olympic Triathlon next July. So, what does this have to do with business? Everything. This process has resurrected not only my passion for running, but also leadership lessons I buried over time are now top of mind.

  1. Sometimes right when you’re ready to give up, there’s a breakthrough around the corner– I’m sure at some time in your professional career, you’ve been working on a project that just wasn’t going anywhere. Perhaps you decided to drop it, or perhaps you decided to see it through and discovered the success wasn’t that far off. Hard work pays off. Tenacity pays off. “The universe always falls in love with a stubborn heart.” JM Storm
  2. Never underestimate the power of positive self-talk– Ever been in a situation where you had to talk yourself through a tough test? A first date? A lost job opportunity? Do you remember how you reacted and the messaging you fed yourself? There has been many times that I’ve reminded people, “If you talked to your friends the way you talk to yourself, you’d have no friends.” The power of positive self-talk is potent. When you make a mistake, accept that mistakes happen. When you’re struggling, remember that it’s not the first time you’ve struggled and this too shall pass. Respect yourself enough to deliver valuable messages that will push you forward vs. pushing you to the back of the line.
  3. A positive attitude is catching– We’ve all been around “Debbie Downers” and know all to well they tend to suck energy out of a room. I have no control over how people act and react, but I do have control on how I act or react. A positive attitude is the difference between a great business partnership or a bad one. Attitude shows up at every meeting, at every event and every interaction. What do you want to bring to a day? A meeting? Job interview? Think before you speak and when you do, make sure it’s positive. Your world and how people respond to you will dramatically change.
  4. Don’t whine about the problem, find the solution– It’s so easy to elaborate about a problem, because well, it’s a problem. But the key when finding a problem is not dwelling on it, rather it’s exploring possible solutions. This may seem like a no-brainer, but all too often people come to me with a problem and my first question is, “What’s your solution?” It’s interesting because they came to me with a problem and didn’t think about the outcome they wanted from the problem, i.e. the solution. Problems and solutions are like peas and carrots, they belong together.
  5. It’s not about the win, it’s about a respectable finish– This is a tough one for me. I love to win. Every race I enter, I plan on winning. I don’t win, but I finish and often finish with a respectable time (This will be discussed in #6.) I remind myself, whether it’s a run or a business negotiation the best outcome is not winning but feeling good about the outcome. Let’s be honest, finishing a race or completing a big transaction is exhilarating. When we’re in the “this is fantastic” moment, we don’t look at it as a win, rather we view it as a successful accomplishment. Whether you’re going in to a business deal, interview or competition, think successful accomplishment. At the end the day, it’s a win.
  6. Type A personalities forget the power of recognizing accomplishments-I tend to be a “doer” which I suppose is common with Type A’s. However, in the process of doing, I fail to recognize what I’ve completed. I typically go from one project to the next rarely acknowledging the accomplishment or success. But with my training and coaching I’ve learned to stop and appreciate the things I’ve accomplished. Not to get so caught up in the “doing” that I forget the great things I’ve accomplished. They’re worth celebrating.  And I couldn’t have done it, at least not as well, without my Coach.


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