I just completed one of the most inspiring runs of my life.
Not fast. Not far. But it left me with a lesson I’ll carry forever.
So how does this relate to business? We’ll get there. Just stick with me…
Running with a purpose
This morning I shared a pre-dawn jog with Kathy DeFrancisco on Day 354 of her Run365Days project. She’s no Olympian, no marathoner. She’s a mom, a wife, and someone with an extraordinary ambition.
DeFrancisco initially had conceived of her goal – to run at least two miles every day for an entire year – as a way to get fit and inspire others. But when her brother-in-law was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, she decided to use her project as a way to raise awareness and funds to battle this rare form of cancer. Donations in support of her efforts go directly to MMORE, Multiple Myeloma Opportunities for Research & Education.
Do it every day… Every stinkin’ day
Hers is a no excuses endeavor, without the fanfare of those well-publicized 5K benefit runs that attract tens of thousands of participants and spectators for a single-day event. While she has shared runs with friends and co-workers, most of her time has been spent in solitude.
Most of us would never commit to such a venture, and we’d quietly take a day off if we encountered the obstacles that have confronted her. But nothing has kept DeFrancisco from her appointed rounds:
- Bad weather? Treadmill.
- Busy day? Set the alarm for 5AM.
- Foot problems? See an orthopedist, get an MRI, and buy new shoes.
- Sick? Suck it up and run.
“To date, I’ve logged 934 miles and gone through 7 pairs of running shoes,” she told me. “I’ve run in temperatures ranging from 104 degrees to 10 below zero. I’ve competed in a half marathon, a quarter marathon, a 10K, and eight 5Ks. But my hardest day was the day we put our dog to sleep after his battle with cancer. I cried the entire 3 miles and seemed to pass everyone in town who owned a black lab.”
Don’t let the team down
DeFrancisco uses social media to keep her friends updated on her daily progress. With RunKeeper, Facebook, and her blog, she shares details of her runs and personal thoughts as she advances toward her goal. This sharing of her daily routine is more than a psychiatric outlet, it’s a way to connect with her support community and it enables followers to encourage her along the way.
For DeFrancisco, knowing that she’d be letting people down or failing in public if she didn’t follow through on her commitment is a major motivation to see it through.
She explains, “I’m encouraged by my family who holds dinner so mom can run and by my co-workers who have taken up running and sweating with me over lunch just to be a part of this. I’m encouraged by my friends who have worked running into their lives to help me through it. I have changed lives and inspired others. Mission accomplished.”
It has become part of her identity
What have you done every day for an entire year? Seriously… think about it. I bet there’s a day in the past month when you’ve even skipped your morning shower.
DeFrancisco organizes her entire routine around her run. Whether it’s a pre-dawn solo lap around the neighborhood, a lunchtime trot with a co-worker, or a scenic tour of a MetroPark on the way home, her schedule is determined well in advance.
“Ever worn a Dri-Fit shirt under a suit jacket so you can run right after your 9am meeting? I have,” she laughs. “My life and the life of my family are centered around my run. I’m not sure what I’ll do on day 366 when I wake up and I have accomplished my goal, and I don’t have to run. I think I’ll feel like something is missing.”
So where’s the business lesson?
I’ve had the opportunity to research and speak with a lot of businesses lately. The ones that have impressed me the most are those with simple and clearly stated goals and in which everyone in the organization knows exactly how the work they do contributes to the collective mission.
One of the best examples is a credit card company that states its growth goal in a strikingly simple manner. They call it “5 In 5”. Paraphrasing: “We’re going to grow by $5 billion in receivables in 5 years by signing 5 new clients each year, renewing 5 existing clients each year, while establishing 5 new capabilities and 5 new channels/markets over 5 years.”
Brilliant. Every single one of their employees plays a part in at least one of those objectives. And each person I talked to is motivated to achieve.
Managers, take this to heart
At first glance, one woman’s daily commitment may not seem to be instructive for the today’s business leaders. But to me, the lessons are clear:
- When the goal is clear, simple and aspirational, your team will run with a purpose.
- When employees understand how their work contributes to the bottom line, they will do it every day… every stinkin’ day.
- When progress is made public, nobody wants to let the team down.
- When your team consistently strives to reach its goals, it becomes part of their identity.
The final steps
On the evening of June 4th, I’ll be honored to be among Kathy DeFrancisco’s friends and family who will join her to run the final 3.65 miles of this yearlong journey, to celebrate her accomplishment, and to help in the fight against Multiple Myeloma.
But I wouldn’t be surprised if DeFrancisco wakes up on the morning of June 5th and instinctively reaches for her running shoes. After all, it has become part of her identity.
Authors Note: In this role, I can’t advocate for you to contribute to MMORE in support of Kathy DeFrancisco’s yearlong project. But if you are so inclined, please be sure to follow the instructions on the Run365Days website so she receives appropriate acknowledgement for the funds raised as a result of her efforts.