Four Leadership Lessons Learned From My Cross Country Coach

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Fall is here, and for me it doesn’t bring back memories of football, the turning of the leaves recalls memories of high school cross country. Many would argue cross country is an individual sport,  and when you have gifted runners the team does well. But why are some cross-country teams consistently strong? I attribute it to the coaching.  And York High School in Elmhurst, IL, is a proof point. Under coach Joe Newton’s leadership, the team won 28 state titles in 50 years. As a cross-country runner from a small town in Iowa, we didn’t consistently win state titles, but we were consistently strong. I benefited from some wonderful coaching. Here are four lessons I learned from my coach that have been applied at G2 Crowd:

1.  Joy can be experienced while working hard 

There are very few high schoolers that will raise their hand and say, “I would love nothing more that to run 5-to-6 miles every day”.  

It is hard work, but our coach made it fun. It was social — she was a bit goofy at times (making us do aerobic’s to songs from the 60s) — but the joy was in training and winning together.  

A business setting can be very similar. It is rare for someone to declare, “I would like nothing more than to make 100 phone calls today.”

However, the people you are doing it around can make it a lot of fun. There is nothing like the feeling of contributing to the mission of the team. Every day I get excited about the wins we are experiencing together, the wins taking us closer to our vision of bringing transparency to B2B buying.

2.  Recruit the best 

My coach would spend time building relationships with kids in the school. In addition, the team members were some of the biggest advocates and recruiters. If you could recruit the best athletes (from a limited pool) to participate, the probability of success goes up.  

It is no secret that G2 Crowd’s recruiting process targets the best. Read our Glassdoor reviews and you will find out that to be a part of G2 Crowd, you will have to take an assessment that measures your ability to think on your feet, and also ensures you are a fit for our culture and values. We realize this may deter some from going through our process, and that’s ok. We believe the best will attract the best, and the assessment gives you another level of confidence that you will work with the best.

3.  Long-term improvements are made with interval training 

I hated running hill intervals. For those of you not familiar with hill intervals, we would sprint up a quarter-mile hill and jog back down repetitively. Although I didn’t like it, I knew it built speed and stamina for the longer races. In addition, it was the most efficient way to get the workout in.  

In a business setting, I believe the same to be true. By focusing on a problem intensely for a short period of time, you solve problems efficiently. It creates an ongoing sense of urgency, which improves your average speed and endurance — enabling you to achieve your longer-term goals.  

4.  Great teams create great Individuals 

In cross country, the performance of the team inspires the individual. When training, you typically run in a group. The group members hold each other accountable and encourage each other to do their best every single day. The individual runner trains harder because of the people around them, no matter their skill level.  

In a high-growth startup, it is the same. Teamwork amplifies individual talent. We learn from and encourage each other while holding each other accountable. Nothing brings me more joy than when the team succeeds.

PS: My high school cross country coach also happened to be my mom. Thanks, Mom!!