A tale of two soles

What can a pair of running shoes teach us about leadership and enabling people to do their best work?

Runners are advised to replace their shoes at 500, maybe 800km. An unavoidable truth that can be a double-edged sword for some.

The lure of new box-fresh running companions is very compelling. Who can resist that new shoes moment?

But then, you’ve spent a lot of time with your present path pounding pals. You’ve travelled a long way in each others steps. You’ve got to know each other well, through good and bad.

You’d love to get a few more runs in together.

But the heels have gone and they sound like Fozzie Bear’s fart shoes at the slightest drop of rain.

I’m not suggesting people get fed up with each other after a 100km and start sounding like fart shoes.

Well, maybe some people do…

Recruiting the right fit

Off to the shop, you pop.

“Do you want the same make as before?” you ponder for a moment “They were good, but I’d like to try something different”

A parade of pairs for you to peruse are placed at your feet.

The characteristics of each candidate are explained. You get close and personal. Interrogating them one-by-one, looking for that perfect fit.

You narrow down your choice. You try them a second time, maybe a third. You give them a good run up and down. Paying attention to how you think they’ll perform in the real world.

Your choice is made. You’re committed.

A new beginning

Day one. Full of excitement and anticipation. You venture out together. It felt different but positive. You’re already excited about day two.

Day two. Uh oh. This doesn’t feel as good as it did with their predecessor. But you’ll give them a chance. It’s early days.

Day three. This isn’t working. You cant put your finger on why, but something isn’t clicking. You get that creeping sense that you’ve made the wrong decision.

And so it goes on.

Sole searching

This happened to me. I looked for ways to fix it. I thought about a refund, going back to the trusted brand.

But then I remembered I was using a custom in-sole. They’d suited my old plodders so I’d assumed they’d make these ones better too. It certainly felt that way in the shop.

Maybe they were the issue. So I whipped them out.

I also changed the way I ran. The slightest of correction on my part. It didn’t take much and it was something I’d been meaning to try for a while.

Two very simple adjustments, made by me.

I wore them in, but in fairness they wore me in too. For the better.

Finish line

I’ve now retired that troublesome pair. But not through a refund or letting them gather dust in a cupboard.

They carried me over 1,000km. And they’ve been succeeded by the same make and model.

I loved running in those shoes. And I wondered how that was possible after struggling with them so much in the early days.

The truth was, I hadn’t given up on them. I’d flexed a little to suit them. And in doing so improved myself.

Transferable skills?

What if we don’t give up on people because they fail to meet our expectations or because we feel they don’t fit?

What if we flex a little to suit them, even though it goes against our better judgement?

And what if in doing so we improve ourselves in ways we can’t imagine?

That’d be box-fresh.

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