FT 2 We often have sprinters who need to remember it’s a marathon. 12 months in a yr – use them all wisely or live w/same regrets #sachat
“Running on – running on empty, Running on – running blind, Running on – running into the sun, But I’m running behind…You know I don’t even know what I’m hoping to find- Running into the sun but I’m running behind” Running on Empty, Jackson Browne
My home city admires the marathon runner. That’s not to say that Bostonians have anything personal against the sprinters out there, as we most certainly do with NY Giants fans. Patriots Day holds a special place in its heart for the endurance of those who choose to do something that many of us do not have the talent or the desire to do, to go the long distance and run in the Boston Marathon.
I’m sure that I have embraced some part of this admiration and applied the going the distance concept to my professional work ethic. Over time, I have formed the opinion that in this field there are a lot of sprinters, running mad dashes with great intention and for great cause, but without enough long distance direction and connection to the big picture. Student Affairs is a marathon, not a sprint. Too often we speak of responsibilities like move-in, homecoming, training, assessment, registration, recruitment, orientation, etc. as if they are each only disconnected and isolated sprints in time. We lace up our sneakers for a quick run to get through each event before a gulp of water and then move on to the next sprint, or event, on the calendar.
Surely we need to have those with the sprinter skills of intensity, speed, strength and power to get through crises, events, or processes in our work. We do also need to remember our professional fitness to provide a vision and cohesive plan for what we want to achieve, the endurance to implement it, and the stamina to conclude and assess the prepared plan. These qualities are all about distance, not a dash. Unfortunately, in my experience I have seen and heard far too much of the former shaming the latter by saying things like “you know what you signed up for,” as if the implication were that the profession is intended to be a series of 365 sprints rather than a marathon, with its varied pacing throughout an entire academic year and summer. First, our support for diversity of staff would inform us that not every professional signed on for the same thing. Second, a great many professionals out there would gladly contend that they signed up to be trained and properly prepared to run that marathon with both a team and a leader who knows the difference between simply “surviving in August,” or allowing the urgent to crowd out the important, and those who lead with thoughtfulness for strategic planning throughout the entire year, as articulated by fellow Tweeter Mallory Bower.
Yes, we need our sprinter and marathon runner skills on our teams as we need diversity of all work styles, including diversity of thought and of degree programs (which is another blog entry entirely). I recognize that thinking about or being the one to prepare the year-long to-do list or strategic plans over 12 months or more is not for everyone and can be daunting rather than inspiring. I don’t fault any one person for holding that opinion, or knowing their own work style and strengths and weaknesses. However, I do find fault with embracing “busy” that we often create to then collect our own gold medal. I do find fault with organizations that do not clearly provide the systems, structures, or supervision to support the narrative that what we are participating in is in fact a marathon. What’s most troubling of all, though, is when we shame, shun, or don’t take seriously the professionals who understand the nature of this marathon and seek to prepare professionals for success in November, April, or even the dreaded month of August.
We don’t just join in the Boston Marathon the day of the race wearing the wrong shoes and then shame the shoes, the person who told us they were wrong for this kind of race, or the person who offered to train us. For organizational health and well-being purposes we also don’t just sprint our way through a year and achieve performance excellence without proper preparation. If we’re prepared for this marathon then there will no longer need to be an ongoing theme of burnout and running on empty. With technology, innovation, and understanding we’re dealing with a marathon not a sprint and we should be able to appropriately lace up for any road ahead as we tackle the long distance run and expect excellence over emptiness.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Ed Cabellon on The #SAFit Community