Iron Leadership: Dynamic Leapfrogging, Expert Teaming and Joyful Submersion

"This is the age of the Corporate Athlete. People need to be physically, psychologically, and socially fit to succeed in the new volatile and complex world we live in."

I spoke with many top endurance athletes to find out what we could learn from them about leading in a time when change is ongoing and the challenges keep coming and found eight thinking patterns that created Iron Leadership.

In the final part of our three-part series, we’ll discuss Dynamic Leapfrogging, Expert Teaming and Joyful Submersion.

Dynamic Leapfrogging

Cassidy Phillips has traveled the world empowering others to take care of their bodies and live healthier, more active lifestyles. He’s worked with everyone from elite NBA, NFL and endurance athletes to personal trainers and "weekend warriors." When it comes to getting in the right mindset, Cassidy has great advice for any endurance athlete. This advice comes from his success applying "Dynamic Leapfrogging."

Cassidy also suffers from fibromyalgia. When doctors diagnosed him years ago, he was told he’d never be able to train or compete again. Refusing to accept that, he spent two years intensely researching muscular therapy and developed a line of self-therapy tools to manage his own aches and pains called "Trigger Point Performance Therapy Tools." Since then, Cassidy has successfully completed multiple Ironman Triathlons and Ultra-marathons.

Louis Tafuto, the Olympic hopeful also used Dynamic Leapfrogging to leapfrog over unforeseen obstacles. One day while riding his bike, and was speeding down a hill, came around a corner and hit a car head on – going 30mph. He went flying onto the road and was rushed to the hospital. After a day home, he decided to go for a run. With his first step, his left hip hurt really bad. Instead of stopping, he did what any committed endurance athlete would do: he tried to figure out how to run so it didn’t hurt. He spent three hours trying to figure out how he could run without pain. He did it! He developed a new gait so he could run pain free. A later x-ray revealed that he had fractured his hip! The doctor wanted to put him in a cast for three months, but he wanted to work out. And work out he did, with his new gait, until his hip healed.

These are just two of the stories I heard of endurances athletes dynamically overcoming unforeseen obstacles. You must learn to dynamically leapfrog over the problems, or you can never endure.

Application: In addition to just focusing on planning to prevent problems, high performance change leaders of change dig deep and come up with creative solutions to unforeseen obstacles. What length are you willing to go to make your change succeed? It is always in direct proportion to how strong your e-motivator is (see previous articles).

Expert Teaming

I love to tell the story of Dara Torres. Dara was 41 during the Beijing Olympics, the same age as I was at the time. She was the first American swimmer to compete in five Olympics and the oldest to qualify for the Games. That year she won several medals. As I watched her, I said to myself: "I am a flabby loser! Look at her. Look at me?" Then I was saved by a Special Segment on NBC about Dara Torres’ training. She didn’t do it alone. She had someone who helped her stretch. People who helped her lift weights and workout. A nutritionist. Swim coaches. And more.

She had an expert team of people supporting her. People to teach her, motivate her, guide her to success. It struck me that in order to overcome challenge and achieve great success, you really need a team. A smart team. A team of people who have been there-- and succeeded.

Application: Who is on your support team? Who can you turn to for knowledge, advice, and morale boosting when times get tough? Without a large and diverse team, you cannot endure. What can you do to give your employees an expert team? Who can they turn to? Who are the experts to guide them through change? Books, videos, stories? Create a team for yourself and your employees if you want to endure the challenges of on-going change.

Joyful Submersion

Many endurance athletes would echo what Paul Ryan said: "I hit my job between 9 and 9:30 am and work until 6 pm. I am in bed by 8 pm because I am up at 4 am for my workout. This is a lifestyle."

To do what it takes to compete in triathlons or ultra marathons, you have to love it. It is a total commitment. And you will never succeed if it is not fun. You need to joyfully submerge yourself into the lifestyle.

Dr. Steve Jonas, a Professor of Preventive Medicine at the of Stony Brook University (NY) School of Medicine is starting his 30thseason of multi-sport racing in 2012. He has done over 220 duathlons and 130 triathlons from sprints to the Ironman distance. "I have been rather slow since he started racing and has been gradually getting slower!" he says.

He claims to hold the world’s record for most time spent in transition (changing from swimming to bike gear, and/or parking the bike and getting ready to run). When competing, competitors are trying to get out of transition the last time, not the most, as Dr Jonas. In fact, At the 2008 USA-T Nationals at Hagg Lake and the 2010 Sprint Nationals at Tuscaloosa, he received the official post-race award for Most Time Spent in Transition, Male. This is an award he is proud of!

Dr. Jonas joyfully says, "My primary goal in each race is to finish happily and healthily, and I continue to do that!" Nevertheless, he is no slacker - as a member of an age-group shrinking in size (75-79 as of 2012) he has qualified seven times as a member of Team USA for the Triathlon Age-Group World Championships and once for the Duathlon Age-Group World Championships.

Joyful Submersion is contagious. Lynn Jawitz, owner of Florisan Florists in NYC, says her son runs with Joyful Submersion too. Her son, Jeffrey, is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where he went as a recruited middle distance running (up to 5 miles competitively, and long runs of up to 19 miles). When he graduated and got a full time job last June, he did not want to give up running. He decided to train for the NYC marathon. He ran before and after work every single day, barring injury or exhaustion in all types of weather. There was never an excuse to not run, whether home or away, the running came first.?? This motivated his mother-- when she is bogged down with an extreme amount of work, she thinks of her son running through sleet, hail, snow, wind etc. and it keeps her going.

Application: The research is clear. Happiness is contagious, and so is negativity, fear or skepticism.

How happy are you about the changes being implemented at your company? Employees will know, and copy you, whether you tell them directly or not. Do what you have to do to stay positive. Take care of yourself. Eat right. Exercise. Take time for fun. And confront the change challenges head on. You must do whatever you can to stay joyful during change, or your negativity will infect the team and sabotage your efforts.

Closing Thoughts

We all know you are working hard leading change. You work long hours. You are often under extreme pressure and stress from all directions. In fact, the research shows you work HARDER than Olympic level athletes. You read that right. Harder. This is because organizational leaders are usually not scheduling in breaks, they are not eating properly to support their performance, and they are pushing themselves to their limits every day. Add to this the fact that the world is changing at an unprecedented pace. This places leaders under extreme economic, technological, physical and mental pressures.

By implementing these eight strategies, you can raise your performance to the next level. Not by working harder, but by focusing smarter.