Fit to Lead: Eat Your Elephant

Fit to Lead is a weekly series sharing the leadership lessons that I learned from getting fit.

As I explain in my book, Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year, I have recently gone through a significant personal transformation. I attribute much of my success to my decision to leverage my years of project management and continuous improvement to accomplish my goal.

Throughout my transformation I learned that there are many important parallels between getting fit and becoming a good leader. There are also lessons that I have learned about fitness from being a good leader. In short there are significant synergies between fitness and leadership.

Fit to Lead is part of my quest to build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness.

Eat Your Elephant

Last week I talked about why it is so important to be bad at things. It is important to be bad at things because it is when you are bad that you grow the most. Being bad at something means that you are pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. Comfort is the opposite of growth!

My point last week is that it is good to be bad at things not to stay bad at things. Yes it is important to be bad at things in the beginning it is equally important to get better. If you stay bad at things you aren’t leveraging the opportunity to grow.

There is one clear way to get better at something. This saying is one of the core strategies in project Management and is embodied by a famous saying.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

The best way to get better at something is to keep trying. Keep take small step after small step. Break your goal into bite sized pieces and start at the beginning.

In my book I talk about how I set a big goal, to lose over 100 pounds in a year. This was a big elephant that I couldn’t eat whole by any means. I was 325 pounds so a big bite wasn’t just out of reach it could also be dangerous. So I started small.

I started tracking what I was consuming and adding a little bit of walking into my daily routine before work. This turned into more walking. That turned into a little bit of running. That running turned into running my first mile. From my first mile I built to running my first 5k on the one year anniversary of starting my journey. Then, sixteen months into my journey, I ran my first half marathon.

I went from being bad at fitness to being an athlete by taking one bite at a time. I dedicated myself to trying my best every day and getting a little better each day. And it work better than I ever imagined possible.

This is how leadership works too, focus every day on trying your best and getting a little better. It is ok to start off bad and to make mistakes. But making the same mistakes and not improving is inexcusable. Staying bad and not getting better isn’t fair to you and it certainly isn’t fair to those who you lead.

How do you get better at leadership every day? There are lots of things in your control to make it happen.

Set short and long-term goals. Start by figuring out where you want to go. Set a SMART goal about what kind of leader you want to be and the skills you will need to develop to get there.

Practice. Find ways to practice these new skills at every opportunity. This doesn’t just mean trying to stretch your leadership muscles at work but also looking for non-work opportunities. Many organizations are looking for volunteers to step up and take the lead and make things happen.

Track progress. Since you have set SMART goals for your leadership you are able to measure how you are doing, right? So measure it! Track your progress towards your goal every day so you know if you need to course-correct or if you are on the right track.

Ask for feedback. Not sure how to measure progress, consider consulting the experts. Ask people for feedback on how you are doing with your leadership goals. Get this feedback from the people you are leading, your peers and trusted mentors. Feedback is a great way to track your progress.

Repeat daily. Finally, repeat this process every single day and keep getting better.

Thanks so much for reading this week’s Fit to Lead article. I hope that you continue to eat your elephant one bite at a time. When that elephant is gone, find a bigger one and start over. By working to improve our leadership together we can help build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness.