My arms are going to fall off.
Wait – that was a warmup?!
Everything hurts. Everything.
Those were some of the thoughts running through my head last Saturday, when I participated in my first-ever boot camp class. I had been invited by a friend who one might describe as a fitness junkie. She’s a fixture at the gym, and never fails to finish in the top five in local 5K races.
Put simply, we’re not in the same league. Although I exercise regularly, I prefer less intense forms of physical activity, like yoga, swimming and biking. When we both competed in a recent 5-mile run, her time was less than half of mine.
And yet, I chose to work out with her, which either makes me crazy, overly ambitious, or a little of both.
But somehow, I managed to complete the session. I lagged behind during the running drills, used a much lighter dumbbell than most, and repeatedly cursed the instructor under my breath, but I finished, and I’m glad I did. It was challenging, at times horrible (especially when I noticed one of my classmates who looked about 7 months pregnant was barely winded), and completely out of my comfort zone.
The funny thing is, I’ve known for a while that it was time to switch things up a bit on the exercise front, but it was a blog published on healthsystemCIO that inspired me to take the plunge (which, quite fittingly, is exactly what I wanted to do at the end of the class).
In a piece titled, ‘What My Fitness Journey Taught Me about Leadership,’ Michael Saad talked about the need to make changes when you hit a plateau. If an individual does the same routine week after week, month after month, the body learns to adapt and ceases to grow. When this happens, it’s time to “shock the muscle” by changing the order of the exercises, the rep range, or the exercise type altogether. “It forces your body to adjust,” noted Saad, who is CIO at University of Tennessee Medical Center.
The same concept can be applied to leadership roles, where it’s quite easy to get stuck in a rut. The good news is, there are many different ways to get un-stuck (that don’t involve sprints or 15-lb weights). “I have found that reading something from a different perspective, attending a seminar, or even taking time to invest in someone else can challenge you to improve,” Saad wrote. “We can become so ingrained in our routines that we forget to invest in our growth and neglect the growth of our team.”
He makes an excellent point – particularly in regard to the team. Just as leaders need to break routines, so do those who work for them. And perhaps the best way to do that, believe it or not, is through team-building activities. In fact, Forbes called it “the most important investment” leaders can make, noting that it “builds trust, mitigates conflict, encourages communication, and increases collaboration.”
And when engagement and morale increase, so does the bottom line, the article stated. Most leaders already know this; what’s not as obvious is how to find an event that can draw interest, without breaking the bank.
One idea is performing a community service. A number of CIOs (including Sarah Richardson and Robin Sarkar) have talked about the benefits of letting employees choose the organization and help plan the activity, which can instill a sense of unity.
Other budget-friendly options include book clubs, pot luck dinners, and scavenger hunts. For organizations that do have some wiggle room with funds, there are a number of out-of-the-box ideas, like hatchet-throwing (yes, this is a thing), culinary classes, and sporting events.
The best part is that it doesn’t have to feel liked the forced, awkward events that most people associate with team-building (think: anything planned by Michael Scott in The Office), and there doesn’t have to be a practical takeaway. Actually, it’s more beneficial when there isn’t an end goal. “Spending time together, sharing an experience or working towards a common goal allows bonding to happen more organically and far more effectively,” the Forbes piece stated.
It also allows everyone to stretch their boundaries and gain a new perspective. It’s like boot camp – only far less painful.