Half-Marathon Leadership Lessons: Perseverance & Push

On Sunday, January 24 at 9:18 a.m., I was dragging myself across the race finish line. Technically, I was running. However, I believe most people could have walked faster than I was running at that point.

At the end of a 13.1 mile half-marathon my energy tank was empty. The first 8 miles of the race was probably the best run of my life! I was in the groove. Adrenaline provided a nice runners high. However, my run began to change between miles 8 and 10. The race guide prepared us for a ‘slight uphill climb’ but it felt significantly slight and my runners high quickly disappeared. By mile 10 my body began telling me to stop.  By mile 11 it was yelling at me to stop. At mile 12 it was screaming! Somehow, the last 1.1 miles felt longer than the first 8 and it required concentrated mental effort to keep my body parts moving.

But I finished! In fact, I even set a personal best time.

I am not telling you this story for self-glorification (if you look up my race results, you will see that they were nothing to brag about!). Rather, life experiences, like running a half-marathon, often provide great insights into leadership and success. In today’s blog I want to share four lessons that I learned as I traversed 13.1 miles.

  1. Leadership will empty your tank. As we begin new jobs, new projects or a new life, we often begin with something akin to a runners high. Like my first 8 miles, it begins pretty well. Until you hit that unexpected uphill stretch. That unproductive employee. The micro-managing boss. At some point, your natural energy will subside and you will need to dig deep. You have untapped reserves but until you push yourself, often one mile at a time, you will not realize or experience the depths of those reserves.
  2. Leadership takes practice. In preparation for this race, I have run many miles. You cannot jump onto the start line and expect to succeed without preparation. Effective leaders grow into their roles. They don’t begin with half-marathons. Place yourself in leadership situations that allow you to run a bit longer than last time as you practice and develop your leadership endurance.
  3. Leaders push boundaries. Sometimes, these boundaries will be pushed by others. The idea to run my first half-marathon was not my own. A few years ago my wife decided it was a great New Years Resolution (yes, she set my New Years Resolution!). I would not have run this race apart from her willingness to push my boundaries. Sometimes, the push must be generated from within yourself. My progress from mile 10 to mile 11, to mile 12, and to mile 13.1 required me to push my running capacity harder than I ever have. My body told me to stop. My mind was encouraging me to stop. Sometimes, the only way leaders finish is because they are willing to push boundaries.
  4. Your leadership environment matters. In fact, it your environment matters a lot! We need to be surrounded by good people to help us be our best. They help us on the days we don’t feel up to the task. Race training is something my wife and I do together. We have discovered that the encouragement and accountability of running with each other makes a huge difference. It motivates us to keep going on the days we just don’t care. I can think of these kinds of people over my career as well. They encourage us to be a better person and to finish what we start, especially during the times when we feel like we are out of gas at mile 12!

My half-marathon experience helps me understand leadership a little bit better. You have your own metaphor that helps you understand leadership in deeper ways. So what’s your metaphor?


Head ShotJeff Suderman is an amateur jogger, futurist, professor, consultant and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman. Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

FutureWatch: The Move to CX – Self-Service

It is not unusual to hear companies speak of their desire to provide excellence in customer service. However, the emerging trend in customer service is having you do it yourself! Self-service (also called CX) is an emerging trend in the customer service realm (Shaping Tomorrow). Consider whether you have used any of these self-service options recently:

  • Reserve your own ride-time at Disneyland using Fastpass. While you may feel like you are doing this as a means to manage your time, you are actually providing your own services via a digital interface. You are also helping Disney manage their attraction line-ups!
  • Check out of your hotel via your television. Many hotels allow you to check-out and review your bill in your own room which allows you to bypass the busy front desk when you leave.
  • Check into your flight on-line and print your own boarding pass. While this helps you secure the seat you want, it also helps airlines anticipate no-show rates on high demand flights.
  • Rent a movie through your TV remote from your cable service provider.

On a recent trip to Europe, I experienced a few interesting twists on CX:

  • Paying for my excess baggage fees prior to my flight. While I could have done so at the airport, I learned that I would save $10 per bag if I did it myself. This is an example of incentivized CX.
  • Pre-clearing customs. Our trip through US Immigration & Customs in Chicago began by being directed to a machine. There, I swiped my passport, scanned my fingerprints on a touchpad (no, I am not a criminal!) and declared my goods purchases. I received a printed receipt which was then presented to the traditional customs official. After I cleared customs, I asked him what I should do with the unused blue customs declaration card we filled out on our flight. His reply was, “Throw it away – we don’t ‘use those anymore”.
  • Booking our airport taxi using an on-line app. This story did not have a happy ending as the self-service app failed to be able to interact with non-European phone numbers and we had to hail our own taxi in the morning (a great reminder of the dangers of CX!).

Expect significant growth in the CX industry in the next decade. In fact, Shaping Tomorrow states that 70% of us already expect web sites to have self-service functionality (business tip – how often have you experienced frustration searching for this on a web site? How easy is it to find on your site?). Already, over 60% of customers use self-service for their baggage at airports and over 200,000 terminals support ApplePay.

Self-service can make our lives a lot easier. Sometimes!

There is a time and place when we really like self-service (like the hotel key drop-box when we are leaving our hotel in a hurry). There is also times when it can be incredibly frustrating (can you recall the 15 minute phone calls where you press 1 and 2 repeatedly to try to find the service you need?). I believe that successful self-service is based on a simple principle – making your customers life easier or more convenient! In contrast, when self-service is driven by the need to make a company’s life easier I believe it will be prone to fail.

However, when it provides you with an advantage, you will use it.  After all, spending less time with an immigration agent is a good thing, isn’t it!?!

Postscript: An hour after posting this I read a related article titled, The UK Wants Nationwide Contactless Travel by 2022. It embodies this concept very well!

Consider subscribing to my blog and have it delivered to your inbox! You can do this through the self-service “Subscribe” button on my blog page.

Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, professor, consultant and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman. Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com


Help yourself in the future. Shaping Tomorrow. Retrieved from  http://www.shapingtomorrow.com/home/alert/1270950

Photo Source: PBS  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/tech/biometrics-and-the-future-of-identification/

How Do Leaders Deal With Disappointment?

Prior to some business travels I arranged for three people to help me with some small projects while I was away. As my trip was an extended one, it was helpful to lighten my load by downloading a few tasks. However, upon my return I discovered that none of the tasks had been completed and I had to play catch-up with things I thought had been taken care of.

Does this sound familiar to you? Can you recall the emotions you had to manage as you handle the disappointments of your professional (and personal) life? As a result of this experience, I have been pondering a question which lies at the crux of this story:

How do leaders deal with disappointment?

As I have pondered this question my mind was drawn to some work from a colleague, Dr. Catharyn Baird. She has developed an ethical decision making model which is a helpful way to understand the different approaches that we use to make moral choices. By adapting her framework, I have developed a means by which we can assess our disappointment response styles. Here are the four leadership approaches to disappointment.

Head: This mindset takes a logical approach to disappointment. It deals with the facts, assesses alternatives and then acts on them. The inner voice of this perspective says, “Be logical. Define the problem, determine options, select the best option and deal with it. Don’t focus on the things you cannot change and deal with the things you can.”

Heart: This perspective takes an empathetic approach to disappointment. It may focus on the emotions that this challenge causes you (frustration, anxiety, anger) or it may try to assess the heart of the other person (what is going on in their lives that led to this outcome?). The inner voice of this perspective asks, “How does this make me or the other person feel? What are the issues that caused this disappointment? How can I positively (or negatively) respond in light of these emotions?”

Me: This approach considers how disappointment personally affects you. The inner voice of this perspective asks, “What did I do that caused this? Were my requests unclear or unrealistic? What could I have done differently to achieve my goals? How can I respond in order that this doesn’t happen to me again?”

Them: This approach considers the other person and minimizes your own personal disappointment. The inner voice of this perspective asks, “What are the issues in the other person’s life that caused this? Did they see my requests unclear or unrealistic? What do we need to do to ensure that this doesn’t occur again?”

I believe that leaders must learn to use all four of these perspectives in order to make well-thought out conclusions. Each perspective has questions that are salient and helpful. However, each perspective also carries a bias which naturally excludes consideration of some other useful perspectives.

Disappointed leaders who only focus on themselves (me) are apt to stomp on others. Those who only focus on others (them) they will have a tendency to place the needs of others above their own. The heart approach can focus on feelings instead of action. The action-oriented head approach can be a means to avoid the relational efforts required to work with others.

Effective leaders know themselves, their biases and their blind spots. Your disappointment style is one more way by which to understand your leadership style. Do you know your bias? Which of these four perspectives – head, heart, me or them – do you gravitate to most quickly? Which disappointment perspective do you find the hardest to use?


Jeff SuHead Shotderman is a futurist, professor, consultant and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman. Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

The content of this article was influenced by the work of Dr. Catharyn Baird and her work on the Ethical Lens Inventory.

Photo Credit – Lithuanian beach via @jlsuderman (Instagram)

Fast Forward – Six Forecasts for 2016

Now that the New Year is underway, it is time to use my futurist skills and make some forecasts about things that I think will become prominent in the years ahead. So here it is, my second annual Six Forecasts for 2016! Those who wish to critique my 2015 version of this second annual blog can review it here.

A simple way that futurists develop balanced insights about the future is through the use of the STEEP methodology. This acronym simply stands for Social, Technological, Environmental, Economic and Political factors. By default, each one of us tends to gravitate to one or two of the STEEP categories. However, robust future insights are a result of considering more than what we look at naturally. This also helps us avoid biased or unbalanced views of the future. So here they are, six forecasts for ’16!

  1. Environmentalism 2.0 – As the reality of a globally changing climate takes hold of our consciousness, I believe we are going to begin acting differently as individuals. Things such as disaster preparedness home kits, Facebook apps which help you contact people amidst disasters (Safety Check) and supplementary insurance will become mainstream. As an example, I purchased home flood insurance for the first time this winter because it is an El Nino year in California!
  2. Friends for hire – As technology changes our relationships (both literally and virtually), we will migrate to looking for new ways for real-life interactions. Welcome to Friends for Hire! While this service in the U.K., Australia and Japan allows you to rent someone to hang out with, this will have a more practical side as well. As retirees hit the years when they need personal care, healthcare services which provide more than just physical care will flourish. Expect friend-matching to migrate towards the quasi-scientific methods used by on-line dating agencies!
  3. Big data ethics – We are getting used to web sites referring products to us (via ads) based on them scouring our surfing habits. Our composite surfing profile has led to the rise of big data (see Understanding the Implications of Big Data). As this data is used in non-traditional ways (for example, to assess your loan worthiness when you apply for a mortgage), we are going to enter an entirely new level of ethical implications of data and how it is used. Look for the ethics of big data to become a dominant issue in the next decade.
  4. The rise of the shrinking middle class: This is a repeat from last year but I think it is really important! The gap between rich and poor (measured by something called the GINI index) has historical links to societal stability and peace (indicated by a low income gap) and instability and unrest (a high income gap). Between 2009 and 2012 the top one percent of Americans enjoyed 95 percent of all income gains. This does not bode well for the middle class in America and we will begin to see more signs of unrest and this gap increases. I believe we are also seeing this trend manifest in other parts of the world.
  5. Wearables 2.0 – In the past decade we have witnessed the growth of smart clothing. Fitbits, Apple Watches and clothing that ‘plug in’ are becoming normal. Look for this to disappear in the next five years. WIRED magazine notes, “Look for fitness and fashion companies to integrate sensors and trackers in a way most people never notice”. This will be done with sensors invisibly woven into your fabric, jewelry with a simple LED or shoes with computer chips in the sole. The next wave of wearable tech will be virtually invisible.
  6. Politics 2.0 – I believe major shifts are occurring in global politics. Political power is shifting from a ruling minority to the populace majority. This is occurring in different ways in different places. In Egypt we witnessed the overthrow of a dictator in 2011. In China we saw an Occupy movement protest heavy-handed democracy in 2014. In America, two of the current leading Republicans are not politicians at all (Ben Carson and Donald Trump). While I do not know exactly how a reshake of our political systems will occur (and it will be different in different locations), a growing disenfranchisement with ineffective political systems will be a strong theme in the decade ahead.

Whatever actually occurs in the years ahead, I wish all of you a safe and joy-filled 2016!


Jeff SuHead Shotderman is a futurist, professor, consultant and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman