What walking 1000 miles has taught me about changing management habits
I’ve been doing a lot of walking recently.
Not just because the weather is warmer and the evenings are longer. I’m taking part in a sponsored walk with some friends from 4Networking in Nottingham and Derby, to walk from Nottingham to Bondi Beach (and back) by Christmas. It’s 10,542 miles each way, and I have personally pledged to walk 1000 of them. We are raising funds for me&dee charity – more about them later.
Now I’m going to be honest here. Walking – or any form of physical activity come to think of it - has never been my thing.
And although it was me that put forward the original idea for this challenge (the walking 1000 miles part was my bright idea) I blame the big birthday that was heading my way at the time (one of those with a new number at the front!)
I honestly didn’t think anyone else would want to take on such a big commitment.
But 20 other people did. The daft idea became a thing, and everyone else got very serious about it. Activity trackers were purchased. Whatsapp and Facebook groups were set up. Calculations were done. Group walks were discussed.
We even found ourselves with a website, developed and donated by the wonderful Paul Drake of WhiteStar Systems Ltd, (who is also doing the walk) with design and graphics also donated by Marie-Louise O'Neill of Lovely Evolution (who sensibly isn’t!)
And I’ll be honest - I started to panic a bit. I mean 1000 miles in 8 months is a long way for someone who normally parks as close as possible to the supermarket doors. The thought of becoming fitter and shedding some weight was attractive – but 1000 miles in 8 months? I tried all the excuses I could think of.
"I don’t have time – how can I possibly fit all that walking into my already busy day?"
"When I said we could walk, I really meant you could do it. I don’t actually like walking."
"I’m not fit enough – I can’t do it, I’ll be rubbish and let everyone down."
"Isn’t a 1000 mile trip what cars/trains/planes were invented for?"
All wasted on the rest of the team who reminded me in no uncertain terms that it was my idea and I jolly well was going to do my share of the miles.
And that was the end of the discussion!
So on Thursday 25th April 2019 I started to walk.
It’s interesting when you start doing something you didn’t think you were capable of doing. I mean, of course I can walk – I’ve been doing it fairly successfully since I was a baby – but walking, on average, at least 10,000 steps a day, every day, for 8 months, is something else altogether.
It’s relentless actually. No matter how you feel, what else needs to be done, or how awful the weather is, every day you know you need to go out there and walk a shedload of steps. People are counting on you.
With 150 miles already on the clock (no-one is more surprised about this than me!) I have already had to make some big changes to complete this challenge.
A change of mindset – how can I fit more steps into my day?
Re-prioritising my daily activities so I get some steps done in the morning and don’t leave them all for the afternoon or evening.
Asking for help (did you know, for example, that although we put shoes on our feet in order to go out for a walk, not all shoes you can walk in are walking shoes?)
Patience with my lovely family (who say they are only trying to help when they ask each night how many steps I've done and whether I need to go for another walk?)
Accepting that life isn’t fair, and that 10,000 steps doesn’t take me (at 5’1 and a bit) as far as the rest of the group (who are mostly "normal" adult height). So not only am I short, but I also have to work harder. Thanks very much!
And sometimes you have to grab opportunities and be prepared for anything (particularly when the weather is pants).
In many ways this challenge and the resulting change in my priorities almost seems to have given me more time. I’ve already listened to a couple of audio books and loads of new podcasts, which have given me ideas and knowledge that will benefit me and my business. I’ve reacquainted myself with some cheesy music that makes me smile and walk faster. My head is clearer, and I’m making better decisions. Work is taking me less time to complete because I have cleared away the cobwebs in my head before I start.
And of course, every day that I complete at least 10,000 steps gives me a real sense of achievement. And a good night’s sleep!
And I've started noticing things I had never really seen before. I’ve been so used to driving from here to there, or hurrying from A to B with my head down, just focusing on the destination. Walking gives you time to lift your head up and look ahead, admire what is around you and really appreciate your surroundings. I’ve seen water voles and frogs crossing my path, dozens of swans guarding their growing cygnets on the local river and canals, white poplars shedding their cotton wool-like seeds, the sunlight glinting on the canal water, alpacas grazing, some stunning sunsets, and even spotted one of the Dunkirk Little Ships being restored.
Now, you might be wondering what any of this has got to do with Management and HR. So here’s the thing.
How often do you say you don’t have time to do something new or different, even if it would actually save you time in the long run?
How often do you say you can’t change the way you manage because “that’s just the kind of manager you are”?
How often do you stop what you are doing and look around you at what is actually going on in your business or team?
How many problems are there in your business that you know you could solve – if you could just find the time and the will to focus on them?
Who in your team is nursing a burning sense of injustice because something they are being required to do doesn't feel fair?
When did you last ask for help to learn new skills to help you manage your team more efficiently and effectively?
I’m starting to think changing habits – and changing the way we manage - might not be as difficult as we think it is, if we have the right things in place before we start and while we are on the journey:
1) a clear goal that is challenging but achievable if we can just do something towards it each day
2) a way of measuring progress, and checking whether we are still on track to achieve our goals
3) some support in the background, to keep us focused and positive
4) the right tools and skills to do the job at hand.
5) A really good reason why we want to make the change.
My reason why? A networking friend of ours lost her husband in April. 32 days after he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Sadly some years ago my cousin and my friend both lost their beloved husbands in similar circumstances and timeframes.
Life sucks sometimes.
There is nothing anyone can do or say to make things better. But the wonderful me&dee charity help families facing short or uncertain futures to make some precious memories. My networking friend got to spend a couple of days at the seaside, staying in a lovely caravan on a peaceful site on the East Coast, where they could be a family. Without the doctors, hospitals, machines and everything that comes with a terminal illness. Just to be together and make some special memories.
I’d like to help other families facing the very worst of times, so every penny we raise will go to help me&dee make precious memories. You can find out more about our progress, and sponsor us if you would like to, via our website.
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