What I didn’t know about winning as a professional athlete but soon learned as a business owner.

How systems help you maximize performance and help you fulfill your mission and reach goals.

As a professional runner, I relished the freedom of an unpredictable day: do what I want, how I want, when I want.  Hard to believe but freedoms like these can led to paralysis in making daily or long-term decisions.  As a competitive runner, my focus was to maximize performance to be competitive and strategize to achieve a positive result (run faster, place higher). That meant, regardless of how I was emotionally or physically (kind of one and the same), I had to buck up and compete if I wanted to achieve my goal: to improve my time, make a US team, receive recognition and invitations to international world class competitions, or to just earn a living.

Discipline, perseverance mindset from an athletic career are obvious assets to a legal or any business career. But I was somewhat surprised to discover how systems I rely on for business could equally be as effective in reaching goals athletic or otherwise. I see that with systems I would have a more logical measure to hold myself and others accountable. Competing and training intensely, frustration, and disappointment were challenges one has to manage.  As an athlete my response was often an emotional one.  I could have used a system to more easily get beyond the disappointment or perhaps even to avoid it. A system based on my goals and mission could have protected me from interference, my own and that of others. Not only could a system have mitigated interferences, it would have allowed me to measure my progress and the progress of others and provide security that I was making logical decisions in furtherance of my goals. Without a system and sufficient data there is rarely a true understanding to make a sound decision for moving forward.  

Now, as a business owner (and a hobby runner with smaller goals😉) I value everyday how systems and their subsystems help us toward our firm’s mission and supportive team member goals 

Even the process of creating a system and subsystems helps you, because it forces you to understand where you are, where you want to go, and how with the system you will get there 

Subsystems are essentially the system’s checklists of tasks.  One of the most important subsystems, in every system, is the collection of data and its evaluation, to measure where you are (or aren’t!) and to logically understand challenges.  

Collecting, evaluating, and interpreting your data you can better: 

  • forecast to plan for success 
  • make the daily decisions based on data, not emotion 
  • prevent or at least mitigate interference by events or people  
  • mitigate emotional interference to the mission, goals  

As a business owner with team members and clients I appreciate that in order for systems to be effective and followed, our “why we do what we do” and mission under which the systems are created, must be shared.  

To that end, the following questions should be addressed with each team member/client: 

  • Does the team member or client understand the purpose of the system and how it helps them? 
  • Does the team member or client understand how they or the work product may be harmed when a system isn’t followed? 
  • Does the individual see how work is easier when systems are followed as designed?  

An important component in every system, and its success, is that each team member and client contribute to creating a system’s design and to adopting improvements.  

Below is a sample checklist to help you create your personal or professional system: 

  • Define the goal you want to establish that will help accomplish your mission, e.g., 100,000 sales or running a 21-minute 5k 
  • Define the specific date by which it needs to be done, e.g., December 21st 
  • Answer who is served by the system?  That is: why will this system make things better? E.g., increase sales, improve my business and financial goals, help team members to achieve group sales goal. 5K goal increases fitness, physical and mental well-being, more positive mind and body. 
  • What are the other benefits when the system is followed? For example, why will the system make the path to your goal more reliable, predictable, stable, productive, and even fun? Increased sales may lead to a promotion, a vacation you couldn’t afford, provide stability for family. 5k system may improve mental and physical state,  leading to improved self-esteem, improved relationships with others, new positive relationships (you get the idea). 
  • How is the system to be executed? Working backward from the goal, what needs to be done weekly and daily?  For sales, how many calls, how many meetings, what do you need to do to get those meetings? For 5k, where are you now, e.g., running a 26-minute 5k? What kind of training will help you improve (running hills, running intervals, a better stretching/flexibility routine)?  
  • Is there room for choice or creativity within the system? Whether the system is strictly followed or allows for creativity, a team member’s contribution will likely make system creation and adherence more rewarding. Input from a professional or learning a new skill can allow for new insights leading to improvement. 
  • As you work through your system, document how the system has improved your business, your life personally and professionally. Looking back at this will help to reinforce why it is important and to help you share how the system works for your increasing buy-in and possibly for helping others. 
  • Establish a monitoring system that holds those involved accountable. Have an accountability partner or coach to whom you have to report on a weekly, daily or monthly basis where you are in obtaining your goal and following the system. For sales, you will be tracking your progress and what is working to help you toward your goal. For 5k, you should also track and document your efforts on a daily, weekly and monthly basis (running a race) and evaluating progress to appreciate your improvements and bring some understanding to setbacks. Evaluating the data with another can help identify and troubleshoot challenges and help one make decisions for the next month based on the data from the system not how you feel that day, or some other influence that doesn’t stem from your data and system. 
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