We have been traveling quite a few miles this year; from L.A. and Austin to Portland, ME and Portland, OR. But frequent flyer miles aren’t the only thing we are tracking over here. There is another daily journey we find ourselves on, and our friend Jim Collins (well, we consider him a friend), refers to this journey as the 20-mile march.
In his book, Great by Choice, Collins sets out to answer some big questions: How do you lead successfully in an uncertain, disruptive, chaotic world? Why do some companies and leaders thrive in uncertainty and others don’t? The common assumption is that they must have been more visionary, ambitious, creative, charismatic. Wrong. Collins identified another set of predictors that framed their success. We won’t share them all here (visit this article for more), but one of these predictors is fanatic discipline.
Collins describes discipline as consistency of action– consistency with values, long-term goals, methods and performance over time. Having a vision and knowing your destination is half the battle. It’s the day-to-day that is hard. You most likely have a long road ahead, and it’s more than just putting the pedal to the metal on the sunny days and stopping dead in your tracks when the going gets tough. When we commit to consistent action towards a destination and form habits that support sustained movement, that’s your 20-mile march.
Our lovely Leadership C-Suite coach, Katie Mckay, has experienced this first hand over the last two months. Katie is the Operations Lead opening the first international Starbucks Roastery and Reserve Tasting Room in Shanghai. This is no small feat, literally. With 30,000 square feet of space, Katie is helping to create an interactive retail environment that will invite customers in China (and around the world) to be part of a multi-sensory experience combining roasting, manufacturing, education, and retail within a single facility.
Thankfully Katie isn’t doing this work alone– she has a team coming from around the world to work alongside her. Facing challenges that accompany a new position, a new team, a new country, a new culture, Katie anticipated that this would be a time of learning and discomfort mixed with discipline and growth. And Katie knew that leading her team towards a shared vision would take more than just hours of training and lots of coffee. Katie decided to take our Leadership C-Suite to Shanghai to help anchor her team as they embark on this journey.
We asked Katie to share a glimpse of her 20-mile march this past month.
Shanghai C-Suite has been tough. Getting this (small but ever-so mighty) cohort, to lean into development outside of their “normal norm” and now “new norm” is like both herding cats and slowly pulling a band aid off. It’s scratchy and wicked hard.
This team is brilliant, driven, stubborn and passionate. Being involved in an immense project like the one we are on has created a tremendous challenge to commit to stopping once each week and focus on ourselves. We find that when we are together, we usually talk about work. We live with each other, eat with each other, explore Shanghai with each other – we are together every day, every waking minute. Finding “mental space” (and physical, for that matter here in China) to peacefully reflect is hard.
Today I deleted our C-Suite meeting series…and immediately felt angst…it was the wrong thing to do. I quickly put it back on, because I realized this: Our project NEEDS the 20-mile march to be successful. We MUST flex our work styles to get there, and we ARE creating systems to get our work done to shape the future… of this Roastery and of others.
This week we will discuss the 20-mile march and our commitment to it — and to those we are bringing along with us.
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About the authors: Brooke McDonald is the co-founder & CEO of LeadLocal – you can follow her on Twitter @brookemc23. Katie McKay is the Operations Lead for Starbucks Roastery & a LeadLocal Leadership Coach.