Have you ever been working SO hard and are SO proud of your progress – only to see someone breeze by you, leaving you deflated and asking, “Why is my progress so slow and painful and they are flying by not breaking a sweat?” Maybe you were incredibly proud at the revenue goals you hit three months in a row, which you and your team busted butt to do, then a colleague also mentions reaching revenue goals that are three times yours? Or you’ve painfully hired several assistants and finally have “the one,” only to see others who have been in business much less time than you with teams of 10 or more working like a well-oiled machine?
This hit me hard last weekend while I was hiking. (I’ve moved to Austin, and apparently you must hike if you live here.) New to the hiking thing, I was reaching the top of a stretch of stone steps, sucking in air but feeling pretty good about myself for the strenuous path I’d taken. And then, I kid you not, a man JOGGED past me up the stairs. JOGGED. Who does that? I realized then that each person I passed on my path was at a different place than I. Some were more tired, some were stronger, some were faster and some struggled in areas where I was strong.
I started to think about this, how it was a lesson in not making up stories and stuff about other people’s progress. Maybe the man who jogged past me devoted more time than I did to exercise. Maybe that’s just his strength, and I have others. Maybe the person more tired than I was finally made it up to exercise after years of neglect but has the courage to get on the path, or maybe that person is far stronger than I am physically but is recovering from an illness.
Then I realized that it’s not about why they are where they are on the path at all. Because the point is that my path is my path and my progress is my progress. So whatever their stories and why they are where they are – what does it have to do with me and my progress? Nothing, usually, other than perhaps an interesting chat. And I thought about how often we do this in our lives, and particularly in business. First we get stuck comparing, and we become deflated by the comparisons. Then we start analyzing and learning WHY and HOW others are where they are and HOW we can get there. I see endless essays on Listservs and forums asking HOW exactly someone achieved the progress they achieved. In coaching calls, we hear clients wanting their team to operate “just like so and so’s,” so I asked one for a copy of his employee manual. While there is something to be learned from the experiences of others, your path and progress will never look “just like theirs.” And it shouldn’t. Your path and where you go on it is uniquely your own, and the answers you look for should guide you to building your own team’s progress, not mirroring another’s.
For instance, a client and I were talking about a potential partnership her business was offered, and she realized that the company that wanted to partner with her wanted to build an empire! Big and strong! Great, right? Not for her. She doesn’t want an empire, not in that sense of large, big and strong. She wants a powerful, intimate company serving a few and serving them well – with a much larger profit margin. That’s her sense of community and where her unique abilities lie. It was a huge realization that kept her from entering into a partnership that would have depleted her just because it looked like how others were “running” on the path.
I won’t ever be that guy running up the hiking staircase. Not because I can’t train to do it, but because that isn’t why I’m on the path. I wouldn’t want to run past the ponds and the cliffs and the hidden mysteries. Whatever he gets from running the path wouldn’t give me what I need or want.
So, why are you on the path? And what can you do to support your team’s progress towards THAT reason?
By Laney Lyons-Richardson