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Are You Running a Marathon—or Only A 100-Yard Dash?
by Mel Kleiman

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 Can you imagine an athlete training for the Boston marathon by strolling around the block once a week? Ideally, this “athlete” would find a coach who insisted on a more rigorous training regimen.

Marathon training demands committing to success, getting your body into condition, setting goals and targets and putting in the miles in good weather and bad. Unfortunately, too many companies approach developing a successful business as if it were a 100-yard dash instead of an ongoing event!

Building a winning organization is a lot like running a marathon. Both require discipline, hard work and training for success. Thriving marathon runners succeed because they commit to the goals they set, get and stay in condition through appropriate training, and practice self-discipline. Thriving businesses succeed for exactly the same reasons.

Run your business as if you were running a marathon:

Practice Self-Discipline: Hire and Retain Only The Best

In today’s competitive world, you can’t afford to settle for employees who are just “good enough” to do the job. Mediocre employees breed mediocrity, so make sure you recruit and select ONLY the best employees. Even if this means you don’t hire anyone right now, you’re still better off than you will be if you hire a new employee who can’t meet your highest standards. Discipline yourself to hire and retain only the best employees, those who will stay with you for the long haul.

Become an Effective Personal Coach

The most effective training programs are individually tailored to meet a single runner’s goals and needs, which is why the most successful marathon runners have personal coaches. One of the most important things these coaches do is to make sure that the runner’s workout level keeps improving performance without overwhelming the runner.

It’s especially easy for new employees to feel overwhelmed and usually hard for them to admit it. After all, we all unconsciously respond to a new job environment in pretty much the same way we responded to our first day of school when the bigger kids seemed so much smarter than we believed we could be. Then, we didn’t want to disappoint our parents by admitting how scared we were, and we don’t want to disappoint our bosses now. Anticipate your employees’ questions and needs and bring them up yourself.

Be sure your mean what you say. Too often, employees receive mixed messages from their managers. Your new hire may have been told a former employer followed an “open door” policy, but got the door slammed in his face for trying to follow it. Be sure you really are available if employees need to talk. And to further help new hires feel welcome and comfortable, assign them a work buddy who’ll act as a friend for at least the first full week.

Train for Progress, Not Perfection

Train for progress, not perfection. Design your training program to teach one step at a time. And be sure you acknowledge employee ability as it develops. It will develop more quickly and reliably than if you just keep raising the bar!

A brand new manager recently reminded me that covering all the information bases with new employees is fundamental to success. The manager said she’d given every employee a policy manual and figured they would ask if they needed clarification. 

Policy manuals are fine when they’re accurate and people read them, but new employees rarely do this on their own initiative. You can increase new employees’ sense of belonging by carefully going over your work rules and policies and encouraging them to ask questions. And be sure to cover clearly and honestly whatever unwritten rules exist that reflect management preferences.

Commit to Success, Even When It Includes Changes That Make You Feel Uncomfortable
Make your workplace a place where your employees want to work and where your customers want to shop. Our research shows that when new hires come to you through employee referrals they adapt to the job much more quickly and stay on it longer than employees do who come through other routes.

Hiring employees who reflect the diversity of community your business serves is one of the best ways to make your customers feel welcome, and feeling welcome is a big part of what causes them to return. Yet even today, employers sometimes feel reluctant to hire someone who speaks English only as a second language, or is older, younger or just plain different than the kind of person they hired 10 years ago. Remember that in business, as in a marathon, the scenery changes as you go down the road.

Mel Kleiman CSP, is one of the nation’s leading authorities on recruiting, selection, and retention of frontline employees and the people who manage them. He is a pragmatic businessman as well as a keynote speaker, trainer and consultant on hourly employee recruiting, selection, and retention. Mel is known for delivering high- impact, high-energy sessions that deliver hands-on, practical information and advice his audience members can put to immediate use to improve their businesses. The author of five books which include the best selling ‘Hire Tough Manage Easy’, Mel writes regular columns for numerous trade journals. You can sign up for his daily blog, or join his community at

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