In my former life, I worked as a performance technologist. The goal of that work wasn't much different than what coaches do, except I was less teacher and more troubleshooter. Most of that time - when not (desperately) searching for projects - was spent identifying barriers to optimal performance in the workplace. I've talked about the categories of barriers in the past, especially when looking at injury causes (the five "whys?"), so I won't do that now.
My employer decided to transition to Lean Six Sigma a couple of years ago. At the surface it's continuous process improvement like performance technology, except the focus is more on the product and the process and less on the worker. The worker is important, but the view of the big picture comes down to value. If a function provides no value for the company it's likely going to be pared away, cast aside or lowered in priority.
My wife and I talked about Lean this morning, especially priorities and work tasks. I reminded her if a task had nothing to do with what brought income or customers to the business it was probably a waste of time. Naturally, with every rule there exists an exception: There are some things we do which have little to do with core functions. The utility is based on our enjoyment or it strengthens a relationship.
A good example comes from my experience with the Emerald Coast Racing Team: It started as a weekly dinner and chat with my coach and his wife. What began as a nice, quiet evening out at the local pizza pub between the four of us spun into up to a dozen team members quaffing beer and cracking jokes on Friday evenings. The socials took on a life of their own and became more popular than the Tuesday and Thursday night workouts.
When a person who hadn't been to a track workout for three months asked where we were going to meet on Friday night I knew it was time to put the social aside for a time. Not long after that I also stopped booking hotel rooms for road trips when friends of those "once-every-three-month" members "desperately" needed a room. Too much trouble; not enough good karma coming back to me. To borrow from Leonard "Bones" McCoy of the "Star Trek" television programs/movies, 'I'm a running coach, not a social coordinator.' I lost some potential clients but the decision allowed me to return to the basics of coaching runners.
I've a small group of fairly dedicated runners this year, and the coach-athlete relationship over time has developed also at the friendship level. It's easier to speak to a friend in very honest terms, especially when "under-the-surface" issues stand in the way of a good race performance. Not that it's happened with this group, but it's nice to know the conversation goes both ways; sometimes in a tone which could send a "customer" off to patronize another coach.
After a workout about two weeks ago, my wife, Suzanne, mentioned about how we used to meet at a local barbecue restaurant after Tuesday night workouts. We all felt it was a great idea - I'm rarely in a rush to go home immediately after a good workout - so we started to talk about what we wanted. What were the basics we needed for a post-workout meal?
We've eaten in places which were a little crowded, with other patrons watching "Dancing with the Stars" who definitely were not thrilled in the slightest to share their evening with the endorphin-fueled quacking of a half-dozen runners. So, we knew we wanted something a little on the laid-back, runner-comfortable side of the spectrum. We all live anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes away from the track, so we did not want to inconvenience anyone too much by a location too far one direction or another from the track. We suspect we have found that "80-percent solution," a place which lets us blow off a little steam, have a beverage and a bite to eat before we go home to continue our recovery in earnest. And if it doesn't work for us we'll scale it back or find another place at which to decompress.
The best part of group training is - at its most basic - the ability to suffer through together; to pull and be pulled through by each other. And, when it's all over, the chance to laugh about how you somehow made it through.