What is the role of performance measures in achieving a courageous goal? This was the question asked of me by the HP sales managers at their recent leadership summit in Dallas. For it is one thing to have a dream but how do you build the capability to make that dream happen? In search of an answer I re-visited my experience working with Olympic athletes, such as Team GB rower Alan Campbell.
Alan’s courageous goal, which he set in 2002, was to win an Olympic medal; a goal he achieved ten years later at London 2012. True to the spirit of courageous goal-setting, he didn’t know how his goal was going to be achieved but he knew he had to make a start. He had to build his capability each day, each week, each month. He did this through a back-breaking training regime developed by his coach, Bill Barry. One of Bill’s mantras was ‘train when the others don’t’. This meant that on Xmas day morning each year Alan got up at 6.30am and completed the following ‘boot camp’:
- 10 mile run along the sands
- 20 laps of the largest sand dune on the north coast
- 40 minutes shuttle runs carrying 50 kilo sand bags
- 60 minutes of sawing telegraph poles (30 minutes each arm)
- 30 minutes heaving tractor tyres
You can see this boot camp in action via the following BBC documentary clip:
In this way, Alan used a range of leading indicators to drive himself forward. He knew each day and each week how many miles he needed to run, how many weights he needed to lift, how much protein he needed to eat, and how many minutes he needed to complete on the ergo machine. Do you have such leading indicators for pursuing your own courageous goal?
For example, if your dream is to write a book how many blogs, articles or essays do you need to be writing each month? If your dream is to secure the biggest sales deal your company has ever made how many customer calls do you need to make each week? If your dream is to invent the next iPad how many new ideas do you need to bring to market each year?
As the name implies, leading indicators predict the future; they are the prerequisites to lagging indicators such as writing a book or winning an Olympic medal. Whilst it is exciting and glamorous to dream, it is pure hard graft to get up at 6.30 am on Xmas day morning and complete a boot camp. As the Americans say, leading indicators are where the rubber hits the road.
So, in answering the question about the role of performance measures in achieving a courageous goal, we can say that some measures matter more than others. Leading indicators, whilst sometimes harder to identify, are often more valuable to focus upon than lagging indicators. You could say that we are all on a daily training schedule because we all sleep, eat, move and breathe, but the difference between an Olympic athlete and an also-ran is that one has a training schedule created by design and the other has a training schedule created by happenstance. Which type do you have?