Recently, I undertook the physical challenge of running Hood to Coast, a 12-person 199-mile relay from Mt. Hood, Oregon to the Pacific Coast, with the Building Champions team. Physical challenges like this are a genre of leadership development (through extremis) programs. Benefits from breaking a sweat with others include increasing confidence in your ability, learning to trust others, and a better team. I was honored to be asked and loved the experience. I learned 4 big things over the 3 days:
Set the tone, maintain the tone.
Our sponsor, Daniel Harkavy, set the tone for the team from the start by holding a team dinner for us at his family home the day before the race started. Many of us were complete strangers and several were newbies. We had a chance to rub shoulders, learn faces and names, get some advice and fellowship. Daniel didn’t stop there. He also met us at the midpoint to see how we were doing and cheer us on. And he met us at the end as the team crossed the finish line and spent time with us celebrating. His sustained interest and attention gave us something to look forward to, a sort of punctuation and structure for a run-on sentence.
Believe you can
Several team members had stories that would make you think they couldn’t run that far. One person had 4 knee surgeries and knee pain, one person had sprained an ankle the weekend before, another person hadn’t worked out in awhile after having 2 children and he had the hardest leg. And yet. Each person did it because they believed they could (or were at least willing to try) and had the support of the team.
Follow the shepherd
Todd Mosetter was our shepherd for the 6 runners in Van 1. He consistently put the needs of the team first. As an example, he made sure each runner had what they needed at the start of each leg and made sure each runner had someone to meet them at the end of each leg. His approach was incredibly powerful at building trust and followers.
It’s amazing what a team can accomplish together.
I know. It sounds like motherhood and apple pie. Who could dispute it? But there’s something different about feeling it. On my 3rd and last leg, tulle fog settled over cows, a horse, two sheep and a donkey. Queen Anne’s lace furled tightly against the wire fences as I struggled to move my quads of cement down the 2-lane asphalt road in the gently hilly coastal mountains. At that point we had run roughly 150 miles since 10:30am the day before and on little or no sleep. Like an ice cold glass of water in the face, I realized in my daze, that’s far more than I could or would do alone. I was awed by what we could do together. Later that day, as the last runner on our team, Steve Kelly, came into the finish line, my amazement was complete.
In the weeks since Hood 2 Coast, I’ve endeavored to put into practice what I learned, most especially approaching team work with greater encouragement, commitment, support and respect.
The next time you’re thinking about developing your leadership skills, consider a physical challenge, if you’re able, undertaken with others, in service of a goal. It will for sure reveal a thing or two.
Here’s to the amazing cast of characters who made up the 2017 Building Champions Hood to Coast Team:
Van 1: Bob Noack, John Bermudez, Michael Harbin, Emily Hartley, Todd Mosetter, Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson
Van 2: Sean Ritchie, Matthew Schatz, Evan Redos, Derek Rotz, John Budd, Steve Kelly
Sponsors: Daniel Harkavy, Kristen Moreno
[Easter Egg: and sometimes you get to see amazing beauty along the way:) This photo is from one of the exchanges. We parked in a field full of overgrown old cars, trucks and equipment. A lost in time moment.]