05 Nov Pacing for growth – STOLT interview with Alison Eyring
Alison Eyring is an endurance athlete, a growth expert and the founder and CEO of Organisation Solutions. We asked her about her training and how some of the core ideas of endurance training can also be applied to business.
Alison Eyring is the founder and CEO of the global consulting firm Organisation Solutions, established in Singapore in 2000, helping businesses to solve the people and organisation challenges of business growth. She is also adjunct professor at the National University of Singapore Business School, an endurance athlete and the author of Pacing for Growth: Why Intelligent Restraint Drives Long-Term Success.
We asked her about her athletic training and some of the key endurance leadership principles that she discusses in her book.
Why do you exercise and why is it important to you?
I don’t exercise. I train for races that I enjoy competing in. I love to feel fit and it helps me clear my mind and keep my focus on what matters.
How does your training routine look like and how do you manage to fit exercise in to your busy daily schedule?
It depends on the race. Right now, I’m training for an IM 70.3 in Phuket.
My schedule is: Monday gym (upper body); Tues & Thurs – masters swim & short run; Wed = ride at Athlete Lab + run home (6-10k); Fri run or cycle or gym; Sat – ride 3-5 hours with short run after (3-6k), Sun – run about 2hours
What are your goals in sports and how do you work to achieve those goals?
I am now in the oldest age group for women in the races I compete in. I won my last 2 triathlons in my age category and hope to be on the podium in Phuket. I’m not fast relative to the top athletes, but I always strive to get stronger and faster – or at least not slow down!
The only way to achieve this is with good training. I work with a sports coach and this helps a huge amount.
Do you think your endurance training helps you to also thrive in business?
My experience as an endurance athlete has influenced my business in a number of ways. Today we have a global coaching practice for leaders that was shaped by what I learned from sports coaching, plus the deep leadership development expertise of our COO. We started this service nearly a decade ago, and now we have 70 coaches around the world using this methodology.
Last year I wrote a book called, Pacing for Growth: How Intelligent Restraint Drives Long-term Success. The core ideas came from endurance training but it’s a business book for leaders and it combines my 30 years of experience in organisation design and transformation along with extensive academic research. This book is creating all kinds of new and exciting conversations with clients and innovation in the services we provide.
Any training methods that you also consciously apply to business?
The concept of “maximum capacity” is one we use in the work we do. Leaders often want to improve but don’t define what good looks like. We help them do this. It then becomes a benchmark against which they can perform and improve. It’s powerful.
This links to the overall concept of “intelligent restraint”, the key concept in your book Pace for Growth. Can you tell us a little bit more about the key principles of intelligent restraint?
Intelligent Restraint is about pushing yourself as far and as fast as you can go but not further until you have built the capabilities you will need.
Can you give us any examples of applying intelligent restraint both in athletic training and in business?
For an athlete applying intelligent restraint is about pushing yourself to train fairly close to maximum capacity – but not for too long. You also have to do this in conditions that mimic race conditions. If you train too far from maximum capacity, it’s comfortable but you don’t improve. But it you are in this zone too often or go beyond it, you risk injury.
All business leader have goals – but we seldom stop to understand and measure the highest level of performance our business can deliver in the short or medium term. That’s the equivalent of maximum capacity. Once we know or estimate this, we can create a rhythm that helps us push performance to a higher level without going too far. We have to work with our teams to understand when we’re performing close to maximum capacity and when we’re simply busy trying to do everything faster. The former helps us execute as we also build capabilities. The later simply burns us out.
Do you encourage your team to look after their physical fitness too and how do you do that?
I do but I’m also careful not to impose this too much. As a leader, you need to encourage people to be fit and not compete with them over who is fittest! As a company, we do a number of things to encourage physical and emotional fitness. For example, we renovated our office in Singapore to create a variety of workspaces to help our employees manage their energy and focus. We also have a practice of reimbursing race entry fees to employees. We also have participated in corporate races as a form of team building. Personally, I enjoy having walking meetings and try to do this whenever it’s possible with my employees and clients.
As CEO, it’s my #1 priority to shape the culture of my organisation. One of our values is “care for our clients’ success” and when I demonstrate care or concern for the health and fitness of my staff, I help them do the same to one another and to those we serve.
What advice would you give to people with demanding professional careers struggling to fit exercise in their daily schedule?
We’re all busy. Do what matters most to you and not someone else. Just do it in bits and don’t try to be perfect. Be more forgiving of yourself and pace yourself for the long-term.