Biathlon

“The word biathlon stems from the Greek word for two contests, and is today seen as the joining of two sports; skiing and shooting. Biathlon has its roots in survival skills practiced in the snow-covered forests of Scandinavia, where people hunted on skis with rifles slung over their shoulders.  Biathlon combines the power and aggression of cross-country skiing with the precision and calm of marksmanship.”

- U.S. Olympic Committee


A biathlon requires athletes racing around a course totaling 20km at pulse rates of 180-190 beats per minute and then completely calming themselves well enough at four intervals to shoot a button-sized target 50 meters away.  

What the heck does the one thing have to do with the other?  

How were these things combined into a single sport in the first place?

The essential skills of both skiing and marksmanship were born out of necessity. They have played an important role in combat for centuries. For instance, in World War II, 50,000 skiing riflemen held off a Russian army that had them outnumbered 10 to 1. The History Channel has a documentary about Simo Häyhä, “The World’s Deadliest Sniper” who is credited with over 500 kills as part of that effort.

In the first World War, 7,000 bullets were fired per person killed. In the Vietnam War, it is estimated that 25,000 bullets were fired per recorded kill. A professionally trained sniper averages 1.3 shots per kill. They are incredibly efficient and precise.

So why are we talking about the skiing and sharpshooting required for Biathlon in a leadership blog?

It turns out that those seemingly disparate activities were powerfully and essentially connected.  In order to complete a crucial task, a Scandinavian soldier needed to be proficient at both. As different as these skills and abilities might seem, both were required to get the job done. And so the biathlon celebrates and reminds us of all that.

We engage the archetype of the “visionary” or “entrepreneur” often.  These are very particular people that are the architects behind most of the businesses you know. Someone had to have the creative inspiration, the courage, and the tenacity to start and withstand the incredible inertia of creating something new and on their own.

The company would not exist without them and yet it will probably fail with them unless they tap into a completely different, but essential skill set. Every entrepreneur either needs to discover the ability to throttle and manage all that creativity, risk quotient, and resulting idea generation, or deal with the consequences of all the creativity and lack of focus. 

The skills and abilities necessary to start a business are almost the opposite of what it takes to successfully manage the business.

Rather than trying to become something that doesn’t fit them naturally, they typically will hire that skill set and ability. They will hire an integrator, a general manager, an ops manager, or a president to oversee and manage the business.  

Increasingly, our clients are using the leadership teams and the healthy execution model we created to embody that integrator role to help balance the entrepreneur. It requires incredible trust and maturity for the entrepreneur to hand off management and authority to another leader or a leadership team.

Those who can are richly rewarded with better decision making, long-term stability, and a more focused business. Those that can’t, typically continue to live in the same chaos and overwhelm without much hope for change. Working harder or longer only exacerbates the problem.

Consider

  • Are you like a Biathlete? Well skilled in both entrepreneurship and healthy management of your team?
  • Are your team members frequently frustrated by your lack of focus?
  • Are they less than enthusiastic about your new ideas?
  • Are you open to having someone else or a team of others oversee, manage, and even throttle your endless slate of new ideas?