Finish Your Race

One of my favorite books is Unbroken, written by the same author who wrote Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand.

The book is the story of Louie Zamperini, who ran at the age of 19 in the 1936 Berlin Olympics along side of Jessie Owens and Jackie Robinson. According to Wikipedia, Zamperini was lagging behind in the final 5,000 meter race, and he made up ground by clocking a 56-second final lap.

It turns out that that Zamperini’s last lap was faster than any other lap run by any other runner that day. Louie had what track professionals call a “kick.”

Louie Zamperini was focused on finishing this race in the Olympics, to the best of his ability, even though he knew he was not going to win a medal. He finished in eighth place.

He did it because that was who he was; and if you read Unbroken you will also learn that he was simply not a quitter; not in anything he did in his life.

Why does this little known historical fact matter to your business?

There is just over one month left in 2013. Will you strive to have your company finish the year going all out or will you allow your team to walk to the finish line?

Your race isn’t over. There is another lap to run. As the leader, you simply cannot allow your team to take the month of December off.

In the retail business, the term Black Friday is not a bad thing, far from it. That is the day that in retail stores, the losses stop as the holiday season shopping season takes off.

All year long stores incur losses on the profit and loss statement and start to make money, as in “being in the black.” These final days of the year make all the difference for a large sector in the US economy.

If you watch a football game, in the fourth quarter teams use a “hurry up offense” or a “two minute drill.” When this happens, the players on offense seem to be more focused; energized, and appear to be using all of their talents and skills to score points in order to win the game.

The defense seems to have a matching sense of intensity to prevent the opposition from scoring. The players go to a higher level individually and as a team, making super human plays; all the while trying to use the game clock as a weapon to hold on to their win.

As I watch this take place, I ask where the sense of urgency was during the first 58 minutes of the game. I wonder if the team has the talent to run this kind of nonstop, get it done game plan all the time, and if they did, what the outcome would be.

Some years back I interviewed the owner of a large executive recruiting firm. One of the questions I asked was if there was seasonality to his business. He replied, “Companies hire every day of the year, and we have built our business knowing their sense of urgency to get good people on board.”

Your team may be tired and ready for a break. But the race isn’t finished.