A Tale of Three Paces

August 4, 2020 / Jenn Williams

Jenn and her husband Clark, keeping pace on their bikes (July 2020)

Pace matters. Let’s begin with a tale.

Once upon a time, a virus spread across the globe, seeping through the cracks and crevices we forgot to shore up in our attempts at invincibility and illusions of control.

It happened slowly and then all at once. It came from far away and then became a personal, immediate inhabitant of our daily lives. Reactions came first, followed by the consequences of those reactions, and then the whiplash from how quickly our world flipped its collective lid.

As we clawed to regain handholds and footholds, we found ourselves thrust into a season of Rapid Innovation. Overnight, we changed physical environments into online environments. We re-purposed living spaces into work spaces. We found ways to rework and pivot our businesses for a new reality. If it weren’t so insane, we could almost admit it was exhilarating, and even, at times, a euphoric high of invention and creativity with freedom to create new rules, and even an entirely new playbook.

Rapid innovation required fast-paced movements, and also quick decisions. We had to be willing to try things and fail, and then try the next thing with little time in between.

But, the euphoric moments became fewer and farther between. It turns out you can’t stay in rapid innovation non-stop. And so, the feverish hustle gave way to a season of Measured Execution. As our hopes and expectations shifted with each update of the CDC line graphs, we began to plan in 2-week increments. Our meetings changed from “No time to meet – innovate!” to strategic zoom calls focused on the immediate future with the only certainty being the flexibility of our expectations. 

Measured execution made space for our bevy of unknowns and also our need to breathe and work intentionally with steps that could build on each other, and also change directions on a dime. It was a pace full of forgiveness but still enough to start regaining ground.

Call it hopeful, or more possibly naïve, but with every 2-week meeting we flirted with the idea of stretching farther and planning more, but as the weeks became months, it started to sink in that this would not be a short race. In fact, it seemed as though we finished a marathon only to discover we were actually in a triathlon and the bike we needed to ride next had flat tires.

We shifted paces again, only this time our rhythm had to fit a Marathon Mindset. We needed ways of working that would allow us to sustain the distance. Our pace slowed (without becoming slow) into an even, sustainable stride. We started to make decisions about things we could not only do now, but also continue in the future. Our strategy sessions began dealing with the next two weeks and also how to redeploy staff and resources for the miles ahead.

And so, step by step, we became better pacers, ready to adapt to the terrain and able to make it to the finish line…wherever and whenever that may be.

Pace matters.

And like so many other COVID-induced realities, these three paces are not COVID-specific. 

Recognizing the pace you need for each circumstance and season can make or break your ability to keep going, not to mention your enjoyment of the ride. 

The three paces – Rapid Innovation, Measured Execution, and Marathon Mindset– often dance back and forth, and can even at times co-exist. However, it’s helpful to recognize where you are and what pace you need to help structure your work load, your decision-making, and your leadership over the other people you are challenging to move at a certain pace.

  • Rapid Innovation: to be used only when necessary, moving quickly and never alone. While best used only in moderation, the creativity and change you can experience is exhilarating and can set a new, exciting course!
  • Measured Execution: time to gather your team and work in two-week increments. Make decisions with what you know, and identify where you can “wait and see”.
  • Marathon Mindset: this is not the time for heroes. Now it is time to think long-term and look towards the horizon. Anticipate what is to come, set a new course for the future, and strengthen those things that are working for you now.

For more on these paces, listen to Episode 20 as The Sisters of Industry break down the questions you should be asking and some things to consider with each of the three paces.

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