One sport that is fascinating to me is the relay race. This could be running, swimming, cross-country skiing, or other events that require several individuals to be involved. During a relay race, members of a team take turns in a circuit or performing a certain action.
Regardless of the race, each person is counting on the other person to do their part. There is a lot of strategy that goes into each of these races. In most of these races you will usually see the strongest swimmer or fastest runner going last to make up any time needed. You’ve heard the old saying: “Timing is everything,” or “In the right place at the right time.”
As an example, in a running race each runner must hand off the baton to the next runner within a certain zone on the track. In sprint relays, runners typically use a “blind handoff,” where the second runner stands on a spot predetermined in practice and starts running when the first runner hits a visual mark on the track. The second runner opens their hand behind them after a few strides, by which time the first runner should be caught up and able to hand off the baton. Usually a runner will give out a yell, such as “Stick!” repeated several times, for the next runner of the baton to put out his hand.
If you watch any amateur relay races and see the baton dropped or someone leave the platform too early, it’s usually followed up by a look of defeat on their face. All the practice and work that goes into split second timing is gone for that race. No do over.
With athletes who train sometimes for years to be the best, it is a rarity to see them drop the baton. They’ve practiced that hand off hundreds of times, leaving the platform within micro seconds of the tag.
In the workplace, we are continually running a series of races. Most of the time they’re relay races. We hurry up and do our part just to hand off to the next team waiting to take the next leg of the race. On our teams we may not have the opportunity to train with each other for years. Teams are put together to handle a particular task or project. Me personally, I have dropped my share of batons or left the platform too early at times.
So how do we get better at this so we can finish the race? I have found that not having clear hand offs will cause you to fumble if not drop the baton every time. If the first team or person doesn’t have clear expectations of what is expected of them and when it needs to be handed off, you are setting them up to fail. This goes for each person involved in the race. In a relay race, we all win or nobody wins. As with any professional team, they develop a strategy, a plan to execute the strategy, and practice, practice, practice. Come game day, the baton is passed, no ball is dropped and we put a check in the win column.
Do you know what your role is in the race, and when to hand off the baton? I’m coming around the track, are you ready?
Mike Klockenbrink is Operations Officer at Lakeside Church in Folsom, CA. Mike worked for W.W. Grainger Industrial Supply for 16 years in many different capacities. In January 2000, Mike quit climbing the corporate ladder and started climbing the Kingdom ladder. Klockenbrink can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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