Don’t Chicken Out!

Running a business is a lot like running a marathon. They both demand stamina, long-term dedication, and hard work. With December here, we notice something else they have in common: the temptation to pump the breaks when it looks like an intended goal may not be achieved. Whether that goal is to best one’s own per-minute-mile or to surpass a previous record of sales, when it seems like we might fall short of our aim, it’s easy to slow down and say, “maybe next year.” As we began to evaluate our own internal 2017 goals—both those that we’ve accomplished and those that remain outstanding—we have adopted a phrase that we often use with our clients: “Don’t chicken out!” It sounds simple, but it’s actually one of the most important mindsets you can bring to your organization. And it becomes even more crucial as the finish line comes into view.

But what does “Don’t chicken out!” really mean when it comes to your business? It becomes particularly relevant as you take inventory of your progress on your yearly goals. Before you evaluate the un-met milestones, it’s important to celebrate your wins. This celebratory step is so essential because it alerts you to your company’s strengths and, most importantly, builds morale—which any good marathon runner knows is invaluable. The next step, however, is to take an honest look at the goals you hoped to achieve, but aren’t on track to complete. With most of the year behind us, it’s not always feasible to get everything done. And this is a decisive moment for your organization. When the reality of an incomplete goal stares you down, you will have to face one difficult question: do you throw in the towel because you predict an inevitable failure, or do you summon all your energy and stay the course?

In the world of running, the scenario may look something like this: you’ve trained countless hours; you’ve timed every practice run; you’ve told friends and family about the big event. But now that it’s here, and you’re rounding mile 17, it’s clear you won’t reach the time-goal you set for yourself. Do you stop running, walk away from the race, and hope to do better next year? Or do you dig deep and finish as best you can? The answer matters because it reveals a much larger attitude toward risk, reward, and commitment. The reason you dig deep and complete that race—even if it means limping across the finish line—is that you learn more from trying and failing to meet a goal than from anticipating your own defeat and giving up in advance.

Some of our best clients understand this analogy firsthand. In 2016, one of our retail clients had an ambitious goal that was at risk as they entered Q4. They wanted to achieve preferred status with their supplier, which came with significant perks and financial rewards. But first, they needed to score high on the “Mystery Shop” test, in which a secret shopper would visit their locations at an undisclosed time. In order to attain preferred status, they knew they needed near-perfect scores. Those of you in retail know that this is no easy feat. It was a long shot, but this fact only galvanized them into action. The leadership team devised an incentive strategy for store managers and associates to dramatically improve the shopping experience. They overhauled an entire organization’s attitude and created a retail environment that was sure to deliver big points with their supplier. To their excitement, this huge effort paid off. Before year-end, our client earned the coveted preferred status and all the benefits that came with it. It was a big win for the entire team. But more importantly, if their efforts had not paid off in the way they’d hoped, the experience of rallying together to meet a difficult goal would have been a valuable learning experience.

Even if you don’t find yourself in this position right now, at some point, every business will face the equivalent of this marathon moment. How you respond will reveal the grit and growth potential of your organization – remember to use a Growth Mindset when in this position. Should you find yourself limping toward the finish line at year-end, “Don’t chicken out!” Gather your team and assess what needs to be done to accomplish the goals most at risk of failure. Like our retail clients, you may just surprise yourself.

Here are some essential questions to begin your marathon assessment:

  • The Big Wins: What goals are we on track to meet or exceed? How do we continue to build momentum and coach to these goals? What plan should we put in place to celebrate these wins?
  • The Remaining Challenges: What goals are at risk? Is there anything we can do to push ourselves to get as close to the goal as possible? If we ultimately fail to meet the goal, what can we learn from this failure? How do we improve as a team for the next year?

For more personalized help or how to utilize the growth mindset within your organization, feel free to get in touch. We always love to hear from you.


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