The Tortoise Always Wins

turtle winning the race against a rabbit

I’m training for the Columbus 1/2 Marathon. That’s 13 miles, which is about 7 miles further than I have ever run in one stretch.

I’m following a training program that slowly increases my running distance over the course of 12 weeks.

Sunday is “long run” day. During the week, I run anywhere from 2-5 miles every other day. On Sunday, the run gets longer and longer. Basically, the program adds one mile each Sunday. This past Sunday, I ran 7 miles (a new record for me, by the way).

Besides feeling like I have the lung capacity of an emphysema patient, the hardest part of running for me is being passed by other runners. Granted, I do most of my running around the athletic fields at Ohio State University, so I’m usually passed by young college kids who haven’t had the chance to get out of shape yet. However, the other day an 80-year old guy blew by me like I was standing still. Honestly, I felt a little deflated. But not for long.

While I was running, I was listening to a podcast of my friend, Dave Ramsey, who wrote the NY Times bestseller, The Total Money Makeover. On the particular show I was listening to — and at exactly the right moment — he said, “Don’t worry too much about getting there fast. The tortoise ALWAYS wins the race.” Dave was talking about saving money to buy a house. But as I watched that 80-year-old increase his lead on me with every step, I realized that it didn’t matter what he was doing. It mattered what I was doing. I just needed to keep running.

I quickly reminded myself that I’m not out to win a marathon in record time. I’m only committed to finishing the race.

A few steps later, my thoughts shifted to customer service and teamwork, and how we always want to make our teams work better RIGHT NOW (or at least over night). So we go to a workshop, or have a staff retreat, and then expect major change all at once.

Not gonna happen.

The companies that win in the long-term are the ones that commit to ongoing development. The best companies I have ever run across are not the ones that do a retreat once a year and experience life-changing aha moments. The companies that really rock are the ones that regularly and consistently train and develop their people. They’re not looking for instant change. They’re looking for constant and never-ending improvement.

We’ve always had that attitude at sparkspace, but this year we decided to bring our actions even closer to our attitude. We have committed to doing some sort of training with our entire staff every 4-6 weeks. We also hold monthly development meetings with each person on our team to discuss performance and to help them set and achieve goals and dreams.

We do see some spurts of improvement whenever we do any kind of training or development, however I’m convinced that it’s the accumulation of effort over the past several months that has led us to have our best year ever.

If you do regular training to improve your customer service or teamwork, congratulations. You’re a rare class of company, and you should be proud. You’re probably achieving greatness as we speak.

If you don’t do regular training to improve your customer service or teamwork, stop what you’re doing right now and pull our your calendar. I mean it. Stop. Pick a day in the next month when you can commit at least an hour or two to improving your team.

Then, when you do your training event, the last question that you and your team should ask yourselves is, “When are we going to do this again?” Schedule it right then and there to make sure that you keep moving forward.

From one tortoise to another, the most important thing you can do is to just keep running.


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