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Learning a New Running Strategy

As we headed out, I noticed that he soon stopped and started walking. I kept jogging along and would move ahead and then he would catch up and drop back. This went on for a few cycles and after a short distance he easily pulled up beside me and began a conversation. He explained the basics of his strategy of run-walk-run. I have always been an off-and-on runner but never really dedicated, so I hadn’t heard of this strategy.

Having learned of his fame as a coach shortly before this event, I thought I should listen and learn from him. He told me how he had won a marathon in the U.S. Rocky Mountains by using run-walk-run. I noticed we were gaining on a group ahead of us that ran continuously, so I listened even more closely to Jeff’s advice. He explained that most people, and especially older folks, would run faster and have far fewer injuries using this run-walk-run strategy.

The First Lesson Learned

At the three-mile point I realized that our run intervals were getting faster and faster and that I was holding Jeff back, so I encouraged him to leave me in his dust. The end of the story was that I was able to beat my goal for minutes per mile for the run. I ran better than I expected by walking one third of the time during the run. What a shocker!! So I learned something about running that has helped me resume this healthy practice with more energy and passion than ever before. This insight was there all the time, but I would’ve rejected it immediately had I not been taught by an experienced coach.

The Second Lesson Learned

And that’s the second lesson. More often than I care to admit, I realize that I have to let go of an old mindset that really does not work so well in order to adopt a new one that works better. As a coach, I have been able to help many leaders adapt to a new mindset that greatly improved their influence on others. The powerful leadership idea of connecting with the heart is so obvious, yet not natural or practiced by most results-oriented leaders.

What Does Connecting With the Heart Look Like?

Typical heart-connecting actions include listening, supporting, encouraging, believing in, and almost any action to connect to the deepest needs of another person in a positive, respectful, and honoring way.

Why does it work?

Every human being has deep desires to be valued, heard, seen, respected, trusted, feel important, feel as though they are contributing to something important, and believe they’re doing something that has purpose and meaning. We want to know that we count for something. These heart level connections mentioned above communicate this type of value and lift the spirts. The idea is succinctly captured in this quote –

“The goal of many leaders is to get people to think more highly of the leader. The goal of a great leader is to help people to think more highly of themselves.” – J. Carla Northcutt

What is the Impact?

  • Heart connections energize people with positive emotions that give hope and confidence.
  • They empower people to perform better and work harder.
  • In short, they enable us to produce more and better results.

So there you have it, and you can take it to the bank. If you will take this heart-connecting coaching principle and try it for 30 days, you’ll see immediate improvement in your leadership and others’ success.

Take it from your coach: The old mindset of only encouraging results, without taking time to encourage the heart is a losing proposition in the long run. As I learned from Coach Jeff, my mindset of running non-stop was not the most effective. I hope you will trust me and begin connecting at a heart level for a healthier run in your leadership assignments.

*Lee Ellis – As president of Leadership Freedom® LLC, a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company, Lee Ellis consults with Fortune 500 senior executives in the areas of hiring, teambuilding, human performance, and succession planning. His media appearances include interviews on networks such as CNN, CBS This Morning, C-SPAN, ABC World News, and Fox News Channel. A retired Air Force Colonel, his latest award-winning book about his Vietnam POW experience is entitled Engage with Honor™: Building a Culture of Courageous Accountability. Learn more at:



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