Today’s cross-training moment is a guest post from David Tumbarello. When he’s not guest blogging for Let’s Grow Leaders, David provides data and writing solutions in the health care field. The leisure activity he enjoys the most is coaching children in the art of creative writing. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Cross-Training to Strengthen Skills
I was injured – it was another summer when I couldn’t run as much as I would have liked. My body told me it had to exercise but my Achilles wouldn’t comply. The solution was as old as the sport – begin another exercise and work out different muscles. I pulled down the bicycle and began biking around the lake. It was my summer of biking.
In athletics this is called cross-training. Instead of repeatedly using the same muscles every day, the athlete develops complimentary muscles. Instead of strengthening the running muscles, it was time to let those rest and develop the biking muscles.
I think about leadership muscles. One leader might be strong with her project management muscles. One leader might excel with coaching. Another with leading in creative purists. And another might be good with running a successful meeting. Those are strengths and leaders should maximize their strengths.
But occasionally, a leader should take a sabbatical from their primary leadership muscle. Step back from the typical routine. Begin to cross-train. Instead of running meetings, a leader with this strength should delegate the responsibility. While resting that muscle, the leader can act as a secretary or take notes on the white board or volunteer for a committee. Instead of mentoring, a leader can take a year off and find a way to improve the feedback loop for the enterprise. Let one muscle rest. Let another grow.
A leader at church recently said that there are years when the land produces an abundance of crops and years when it must lie fallow. It’s a cycle. The resting land will reward the farmer the following year. In the same way, leaders should consider resting certain muscles which will allow those practices to come back stronger.
With cross-training, the leader will benefit by learning a new practice — and with new eyes. And then upon returning to the first strength, after some time off, the leader will be able to see that old routine with new eyes. Strengthen, rest, and repeat.
Your turn. In what ways can you practice cross-training? How have you experienced a sabbatical from a routine and then returned to it later with new eyes? What would you say to a mentee who is determined to be the best at one set of skills?