Our company participated in the Colfax Marathon Relay again this year. It’s a great event with the marathon broken up into 5 legs (6.5, 4.0, 5.5, 4.1, and 6.1 miles). While I was running my leg, I started thinking about why I like running this race every year with my coworkers (mainly to distract me from the hill I was running up).
Some teams are in it to win it. Some are all about outfits and fun. Then there are those that just want to finish (the survivors). Our team has been made up of all of the above over the years, just a bunch of outdoor cats.
Anyway, somewhere around mile marker 5, I landed on 3 reasons this is such a good team builder for corporate the world:
There is a clear goal
Complete 26.2 miles. It’s that simple. The distance is fixed and everyone knows their part in achieving the goal. There is no misalignment, misunderstanding, alternative motives, or miscommunication (unless someone sleeps in and misses their hand-off). It’s just not that complicated and doesn’t require a change management plan to implement. Apply that kind of simplicity and focus to your daily goals in the workplace and you are off and running.
A different kind of teamwork
Although each person runs 4-6 miles as an ‘individual contributor’ in business speak, there is a great sense of accomplishment completing the marathon as a team. Each member of the relay team wears the same bib number and you really feel the team pride when you pass the baton at the end of your leg. This year, I ran the first leg and our team captain, who was running the last leg (over 2 hours later in a different location), texted me to ask what corral I was in to start. I just thought he was making sure that I made it to the starting line on time since the run started at 6:00 a.m. Then I saw him standing there with his coffee and he said, “I felt it was important to be here for the start and show support for the team”. That level of connection and commitment really touched me.
It’s bigger than you
You’re not running for your own success, you are running your hardest in order to not let the team down. The results are not controlled by one individual and the overall outcome is based on everyone’s contribution and effort. The cool thing about this race is the Corporate Cup, with the top 3 teams in a division winning monetary awards that are donated to one of the many qualifying charities. This allows the team to make even a bigger impact. We were fortunate to win our division a few times and had the privilege to hand over that giant check to Colorado Canine Rescue.
So next time you are using a cheesy metaphor at work; Instead of saying, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint!” Change it up and say, “It’s not a marathon or a sprint, it’s a marathon relay!”