Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Plan for Success: Does your team have control issues?

Have you ever had a working relationship that was very productive, and a little frustrating? You may agree on the 'what,' the important matters, but not always the 'how.' As a team you are getting it done, navigating tension, and making each other a little crazy. Can we be effective using different means?

This brings to mind the relationship I have with my daughter, Haley, as a running partner. We have run 5 or 6 marathons, supporting each other as we go. Haley and I make each other crazy every training run and race because we have slightly different means to the end. I run slow and steady, she runs a little faster, with walks as needed. I try to keep her with me by coaching running form and encouraging, which she finds maddening, or slowing my pace, which I find maddening.

Porcupine Mountains
We were a little worried before the Porcupine Mountain Marathon of Michigan's UP this September. This marathon was on a trail we had never seen, and had a relatively short 7 hour clock. We recently finished the Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon separately, achieving personal records, in 7:30 and 8:00 hours on a familiar course. We had never finished separately before; that day we each finished with a running club friend. As we trained for the MI challenge, stress started to build. Haley would pace, and I would follow, wondering if we would be fast enough.Was my finishing goal more important than our usual camaraderie? Would I leave her behind if I felt I had enough left and was close to the seven hour cut off? In our discussion we decided we really wanted to meet this challenge as a team. During our final long training run we had an epiphany-we would take turns pacing two miles at a time. Haley knows she can run my pace for two miles, keeping in mind that she will pace the next two. I know that I have opportunities to pace, so can follow for two miles. Haley observed: We seem to have control issues. After a bit more running-and thinking, I suggested that it was not control, but meeting our individual needs. I really did not want to control the entire experience, I know that Haley pushes me and I slow her sometimes, as individual energy and mood ebb and flow.
Productive Struggle is Expected

When you find you are at odds as team members, consider: are you or your teammate maneuvering for control or to have your individual needs (or students' needs) met? How can you get to your final destination using means that meet each members' needs?

Epilogue: The Porcupine Mountain Trail Marathon
I started pacing the marathon; Haley paced miles three and four...we implemented our plan with fidelity, trading the lead/pacing responsibility every two miles. As we continued we found the other receptive to suggestion,"I need to slow," or "Can we pick it up?" were accepted because they worked as minor adjustments to the plan and fit our changing energy needs. We completed the first half in 3 hours optimistic, suffered a fall, recovered, finishing in 6:53- under the cut-off! It was the hardest we had ever worked together for a finish, with the possible exception of our first marathon.
Plan to Meet Needs and Succeed


  1. Thank you for this insight!! Desire to control, in my experience, comes from something deep within. I applaud you for exploring this in yourself -it's one I have to explore constantly because unfortunately, mine sometimes comes from a place of insecurity which can erode a team very quickly if left unchecked. It's so important to stay mindful of these "triggers" that make us (and our teams) less effective than we could be. Well said and well done! Thanks for sharing! ~Alison

    1. Your insight regarding triggers is something I must find a way pursue further with myself and those with whom I collaborate. Thank you for your thoughtful response :)