Parenting is leadership in its pure form!
According to statistics, approximately 8% of those who set New Year’s Resolutions actually achieve them. The numbers aren’t promising, but in 2017 I am determined to be one of the 8%. My NYR is simple:
I will go on a run every single day in 2017!
I will admit that in 2016 I ran the least I’ve run in a very long time. I don’t know the numbers, but I comfortably predict running less than 30 times all year!!
Like all good goals, I’ve kept it simple and SMART and I’m taking a ‘no pressure’ approach. A run simply means, a run! Move my body every single day at a pace beyond walking.
Now goals need to be realistic, and also stretching, so to stretch this goal out, I tried to convince my family to get in on the action. I suggested that we do the weekly parkrun together.
We recently celebrated our 10th official parkrun, but trust me, this new tradition didn’t come easy!
You see, we don’t do things by halves in our home, and by “home” I mean our current abode, which is a caravan travelling around the country doing a lap of Australia, all while I remain working full-time and fully flexibly for my employer.
When I said the parkrun tradition didn’t come easy, I wasn’t kidding!
I’m referring to the 6+ months of trying to convince my family that it would be a great idea for us to run 5km together in every town we visit as we travelled Australia. Honestly, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to ‘sell’ in my life. In the end, I begged and they complied! I’m convinced they agreed to run just to shut me up!
What has parkrun taught me about Attitude and Leadership?
1. Deal with different personalities as a leader to strengthen relationships.
Effective Leadership respects differences and looks for strengths in everyone. Our girls (Layla and Libby) are opposites. Layla is strong willed, determined, assertive, academic, introverted, yet negative with poor self-awareness and low self-confidence. Libby is carefree, inclusive, mature, emotionally intelligent and positive with strong self-awareness and confidence. Just like the workplace, the differing personalities call for flexibility with our parenting and leadership style.
Both girls are under 11, and parkrun state that a parent must accompany the child the whole 5km’s, so when we initially asked the girls what they thought of doing the parkrun event each Saturday, their responses couldn’t have been more different:
Libby: “Sure, sounds like fun”
Layla: “Wait! What? A parkrun? No, I can’t do it, I’m not doing it, there’s no way I can run 5km non-stop. No, I won’t do it! Why are we doing this anyway?”
Team dynamics like this are common in families and the corporate world, so we knew our approach to take the team on the journey needed to be different for each.
Libby needed no convincing, she was on board!
As leaders (and parents), sometimes we all have moments where we see a weakness and think we can ‘fix it’ or somehow encourage development. With Layla, acknowledging her ‘weaknesses’ seems to fuel more exaggerated versions of negativity, so that wasn’t an option. This means, when we try to encourage Layla to believe in herself, it just backfires into a mega-meltdown of tears. However, when we focused on Layla’s determination and strength-of-will (both traits that also challenge us), it was these very strengths that led Layla to start and finish all 10 (and counting) parkrun events. She was determined to fulfill the commitment made, all while deep down inside not having the courage or self-belief that she could actually do it.
Layla even created homemade parkrun vouchers as a gift for my birthday. I’m certain this was a way of holding herself accountable.
By not letting the negative talk dominate the attention, it successfully gets us all out on course each Saturday.Being flexible with our leadership and focusing on strengths was a MUST!
2. If you think you can you will, if you think you can’t you won’t, either way you’re right! – Henry Ford
Anyone close to me knows that I’m a glass full person, not just half full, but always full and overflowing. I see the good and the glad in everything and have always overcome adversity with a positive ‘I think I can’ mindset.
The first parkrun was a surprise to us all. We all ran with no expectations. The girls had never run 5km before, so we let it flow.
The next week was when it all fell apart. Layla couldn’t stop complaining the entire run and I literally mean the ENTIRE run. She would say things like:
It just went on and on and on the ENTIRE 5km’s. Despite my offer to slow down, walk or even stop, she just wouldn’t quit (remember her strength and determination?)
I just wanted to block my ears and turn the volume down!
Long story short, Layla ran the 5km’s, ended up loving it and did a faster time to the week prior. We talked afterwards about what was going on in her mind, the thoughts, the negativity, the whinging, the whining and the struggle. She felt remorse, apologised for the negativity and opened up about what went on during the run. We talked about Henry Ford’s quote “If you think you can you will” and we unraveled what this meant to her. She said “It’s my attitude Mummy”.
Layla is strong, athletic and incredibly capable. In fact, her primary school PE teacher once told us that her running style was technically perfect! She has a gift!
As leaders, we have a responsibility to inspire, to help others reach their full potential. Simon Sinek says it best:
” A leader wants to see those around them rise”
If you have ever worked with someone who is naturally gifted with genuine capability and talent, yet clouded with a negative attitude and limited desire to please, you know what I’m talking about. It can be frustrating and often brings out the best (and sometimes the worst) in us all.
Attitude challenges leadership. Attitude is absolutely everything!
Thinking you can is one thing, but thinking you can’t is when leadership and parenting is most challenging. Navigating this inner ‘self talk’ is easier said than done!
3. When measuring results, it’s not always about the numbers!!
At parkrun number 8, we saw the impact a positive attitude can have on results! Libby was closing in fast, she was going to catch us legitimately for the first time ever! At the 3km mark, the girls were now running together hand-in-hand – it was teamwork and love all wrapped up in about 30 seconds of pure parenting joy! Libby said ‘Come on Layla, let’s run together’, but Layla couldn’t sustain the pace, Libby was running like we’ve never see her run before. She finished in under 30 mins, matching Layla’s best PB. (Libby’s time was actually a few seconds faster than Layla’s)
During the run, Layla ran the first 2.5km consistently, but then slowed immediately the moment she saw Libby was close. Libby was closing in fast and Layla let this impact her performance. It’s hard not to when it’s your younger sister, and this set off alarm bells for the future, mainly because Layla tends to ‘give up’ easily.
Libby’s positive mindset won that day and when we saw the results, we were blown away by the 5:10km pace in the final 1km.
The splits in the 5km prove “When we think we can ‘we do’ and when we think we can’t ‘we don’t’”
This pattern emerged in the metrics, and while the ‘mapmyrun’ app measures the pacing; it doesn’t monitor the attitude. Only we can do that! While we use the app weekly, we don’t tend to focus heavily on the numbers.
When we finish a run, the girls recover and enjoy a slushie from Maccas to cool us down. Layla likes to look at the results and talk through how she felt during the run. She’s picked up on a pattern and we find it interesting.
Layla noticed that when she’s complaining and whining the most, her pace slows down. Then she shared with me the most profound lesson of all. She said “Mummy, even when I’m not whining, but just thinking negatively in my brain, that’s when my pace slows down the most”.
The hardest time in the 5km for Layla is usually the 3rd and 4th km. She doesn’t know when they are during the race (we don’t have the volume up on the run app), but she almost always starts to speak negatively between the 2.5km and 4.0km mark. You can see the pattern in the results below, with the 6:32 and 6:20 pace of the 3rd and 4th km.
We decided to test Layla’s theory out. In the Manjimup parkrun, Layla announced that she wasn’t going to complain the whole 5km, she also said that she was going to try to ignore the negative thoughts in her head. To help her focus, she negotiated some iPad time after the run to keep motivated.
Something clicked that day, Layla went out strong on the run and then settled into a comfortable pace. She was running beautifully, determined to stay positive, we kept the chatter to a minimum and I could visibly see she was proud of not complaining. (Clearly the power of the iPad is beyond belief.)
We passed the 2.5km turn-around and saw Leigh and Libby not far behind us. Instead of slowing down, Layla stayed true to her word and continued to believe in herself as she made her way to the 4km mark along the 600m uphill leg of the course. We learnt after the event that the locals call it ‘spew hill’ and while it was the slowest km split of the day, it was a strong effort uphill. Layla’s attitude was positive, we were having a blast and she was speeding up into the last km, I was grinning from ear-to-ear. Layla finished in a PB of 28:28 that day, with a record 5th km in 4:56, which is just unbelievable!
In business, I’ve heard it referred to as ‘soft skills’, but they’re anything from soft. This ‘human factor’ is quite possibly the most important skill of all. In leadership, we often get all caught up in the metrics, the numbers, the measures and the hard results. parkrun has reminded me that the numbers are merely a by-product of work, often a guide only.
With mental health issues on the rise, more than ever as leaders we need to listen to our team, care about feelings and consider what might be going on inside the minds of those we work with. We’re lucky, Layla is open and honest about the battles and worries she faces inside her head. We provide a comfortable safe place for her to talk, and together we explore ways to work through the moments that challenge her the most.
Our focus as a family right now is all about taking Layla on a journey of being a ‘worrier’, to a ‘warrior’. There’s no thinking about the numbers, just the feelings and connectedness this journey provides.
parkrun is just one way we connect as a family and we use this simple Saturday morning activity as an opportunity to learn the most valuable leadership lessons in life, in work and most importantly, in love.
Thank you for a great day for all my family members at Cowra parkrun. You were all so friendly and run a very well organised parkrun. We were greatly relieved that you had checked the track was clear of kangaroos and snakes before we started! Loved your chalk messages and the very supportive volunteers,…
Rocco Cutri is one of several runners with a vision impairment who participate at parkrun each week. Rocco suddenly lost his vision, as a very rare and unforeseen side-effect of cancer treatment, in December 2013. This happened over about 30 days, leaving him with only limited light and dark perception. Before losing his vision Rocco was…