Ironman participants are elite athletes of remarkable capability. They race at high intensity for about 12 hours, coving a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bike ride, and a marathon 26.2-mile (42.20 km) run. It’s staggering.
What is almost more remarkable is the preparation required to make it to race day – with any hope of completion. Athletes train for 15-25 hours weekly for up to 9 months before the race, while some of the elite push that up to 40 hours each week.
That’s a lot of work!
And even more impressive? That this is mostly an amateur sport. The vast majority of participants do it for “fun.” It’s nothing more than a hobby. It also means that the vast majority are doing all this while holding down a full-time job and managing a family.
These athletes are so pumped by their experience that many of them go and get Ironman tattoos to affirm their allegiance.
What can businesses learn?
The question for business: How can companies create an equally compelling offer for their staff so that they will fight for victory as hard as an Ironman?
In the business world, it’s slightly confounding that HR professionals spend a lot of time building culture and getting people engaged in their jobs. They do this to avoid churn, increase worker morale, improve customer interactions, and bolster productivity. They do all this on top of already paying the staff to do the job they are hired to do.
Yet, Ironmen are self-motivated, work harder than everyone else, and don’t even get paid. How can businesses get an Ironman commitment from their staff?
The fact is, 99% of people would hate to do an Ironman. And if they were actually forced to do the hours of grueling training, they would probably sue for assault. So it starts by finding the right people…
My thoughts on building an Ironman team in your business:
(i) The first observation is that people have to be willing. Without ‘buy-in,’ you won’t get any participation (even forced participation won’t work).
(ii) The second observation is that beyond will – if you want high commitment and performance – you need passion. The Ironman example shows that with passion, almost anything is possible – even seemingly superhuman feats.
(iii) Third, some people will feel the passion, and others won’t. That’s okay. Try to fill your company with those passionate about what you’re doing. It’s almost impossible to force passion.
(iv) Fourth, people can do extraordinary work and intense workloads – if their heart is in it.
The question for your business
Are you buying low, selling high?