@ running tweet-up

Even those of you not familiar with social media, may indeed have heard of Twitter. Whenever I speak to people who actually live their lives in the physical world, I get one of two responses when someone brings up Twitter. The first includes rolling of the eyes, a head lean and the slight pursing of the lips as if to say, “Why would you waste your time with that ridiculous time suck?”. The second is an almost embarrassed look-away glance, a widening of the eyes accompanied by a pressing of the lips and an involuntary widening of the cheeks, usually associated with hearing something naughty and not quite wanting to admit it.

Twittering, after all, may have a completely different meaning in other social circles.

In reality, Twitter is definitely a time suck and, as my cousin says related to Facebook, can make the most organized and productive person feel completely wasteful and feckless. That said, I find that the most valuable moment of Twittering, or any other social network, is when the Twitter world meets the physical world in the form of a Tweet-up.

A Tweet-up is as it sounds an opportunity for Twitterers to meet in person without the need for hash tags (#hashtags) to follow along with the conversation, although at many Tweet-ups twitterers will physically be engaged in a live conversation while simultaneously texting what they are saying and hearing to online Twitterers who couldn’t be present. Yes, it’s one of the very bizarre features of microblogging that if you can’t attend a meeting or an event, there will undoubtedly be people there who will take and publish notes for you live that you can follow from the comfort of your house while watching the season finale of Dexter.

This past weekend, we had a running Tweet-up in Sleepy Hollow, NY about 30 miles north of Manhattan along the Hudson River. Now follow along with me. It was started by @jackievny who lives in the area letting us know she and her husband – a non-Twitter user – Drew (come on, can I please anoint you with @drew?) were planning on running 20 miles and asked if anyone wanted to keep them company for some or all of the run. @coachadam (that’ me) responded, “sure”, followed shortly by @jg_65, @philliplavoie, and lastly by @billrisch (who later flaked out because, well, because he’s @billrisch). We were after all, planning on running at Rockefeller Park (not to be confused with @rockefellerpark or @rockies) which is the absolute best place to run in the Metro New York area.

Now you might think that tweeting and running have nothing in common, with one being performed by introverted face-made-for-podcasting techno-geeks and the other by lean, athletic and health conscious folks who crave being outside and disconnected from THE MACHINE. @steverunner uses the term couch of doom, but I’m fairly confident that the machine of doom is a much more realistic threat to our health and waist size. Just ask @fitnessrocks.

Cycling and triathlon, on the other hand, are much more inclined to twitterers. Why? Because you have a stem onto which you can mount your crackberry and you can tweet or group tweet with a single hand during those long tedious multi-hour base building rides.

Still not convinced? Not ready to join the tweeting masses who daily and mindlessly provide answers to the question “What are you doing?” Well then perhaps there’s one person who can help you to change your mind. The next time you find yourself tickling the keys to your laptop in contemplation of being drawn to the dark side, pop on long enough to send a DM or an @tweet to @lancearmstrong. Seriously, even @texafornia‘s wife Emily is provided with 140 full characters there to profess her undying love.

But I digress…

An e-mail from my good friend Barry from Santa Monica, CA

I received this e-mail today from my good friend Barry who lives in the most perfect location in Los Angeles for running, the corner of 4th and San Vicente in Santa Monica. He’s a block away from the legendary Santa Monica stairs (although I’ve never been able to get him to use them for training), and 4 blocks away from Ocean Ave and the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean with the Santa Monica pier to his left and Malibu to his right.

It’s where I grew up running and aside from the Bay and Coastal trail routes in San Francisco, there’s no place better.

Hi Adam,

I hope you and Cindy had a nice trip to Ohio; I was in Denver Thursday and Friday, got to see a little bit of snow. I’m following the Hal Higdon Intermediate I training routine for my February 1st Surf City Marathon in Huntington Beach. So far, “knock on wood” I have been able to do the Saturday/Sunday back to back runs that have always eluded me in the past; and so far it’s been smooth and fairly easy. I’m trying oh so hard not to hurt my left hamstring again, so far, so good!

This morning I ran down San Vicente to Ocean; to the Pier, down the ramp to the bike path, north up to Topanga State beach, back past the pier again by about ¾ mile, and back up the ramp, and up Ocean to Georgia and 4th. Exactly 17 J Next week they have the schedule with the same 8 mile Saturday run, and then 18 on Sunday. In two weeks he lowers the distance to 13, and I would like to find a half marathon somewhere to run, that would be fun to be in a real race.

Talk to you soon.

Barry

Barry has forgotten more about running than most runners will ever learn. Now ordinarily that phrase is used to compliment how knowledgeable a person is, but in Barry’s case, it’s a testament to how little he actually remembers. You’d think after 25 years of hanging around me, he’d be a walking endurance thesaurus, spouting off lactate threshold, gastric emptying and functional steady state as part of his everyday vernacular. Instead, he’ll frequently e-mail or call me and say things like, hey, I just met Bill Rogers who says if I do speed intervals once a week, I’ll get faster, to which I usually roll my eyes, because we’ve obviously had this discussion multiple times. While Barry is older in years than me, I’ve become the running dad to which it is almost understood he will immediately tune out. Even when I was coaching a thousand runner each weekend in Los Angeles, to Barry, I was just plain old Adam, the guy who would call him up to go for a run around UCLA or a quick bite of dinner at Kay & Daves in Pacific Palisades.

That’s why I particularly love that he is finally embracing back to back running days on the weekend during his training. And although I’m not sure he’s embraced the purpose for each of these runs yet, just the mere fact that he is running back to back like this is incredibly encouraging as we know it will yield tremendous results come marathon day when he allows himself a full taper.

If you run into Barry on the streets or along the bike path in Santa Monica give him a wave, will ya? He’s probably wearing  a visor, those original v-split short running shorts and a blue Nike technical t-shirt, but you won’t need those to know who he is. He’ll be the guy explaining all of the nuances of running or of the running location that he is currently in. There has never been a more big-hearted and good natured person who truly epitomizes the warmth of the running community. Since he is my oldest running friend and one of my best friends to boot, I’d consider it a personal favor if you gave him a wave and a smile as you run by.

When your own people don't want to buy your products, you really have a problem.

The two most important things I can do as a consultant are to listen and to ask questions. As I do in other facets of my life, I try to take a Zen approach to my consulting. What that means is that I acknowledge that the clients with whom I work know their business far better than I ever will and my primary purpose is helping them to surface solutions that they in most cases already know but for a variety of reasons have either not accepted or have buried beneath layers of bureaucracy, political power struggles or corporate noise – the naysayers, and the “it’s always been done this way” mantra that is so pervasive in corporate America today.

Never was this made more apparent than during the conversations that I had this Thanksgiving weekend in the heartland of the automotive crisis with family and friends who have worked for GM directly (some for more than thirty years), third party suppliers and even a local steel mill where the hinges are made for their car and truck doors.

I love going back there because it provides a healthy dose of reality and diversity from the Los Angeles and Manhattan experience that has become my daily life. It’s always eye opening when you speak to intelligent people who live and breathe what I only read about or see through the lens of the national media. Now, I did grow up in a union friendly town, but the Screen Actors Guild, the DGA and the WGA never really seemed like real unions to me, you know the kinds with supposed mafia ties and bent nosed organizers. I mean seriously, my classmate Melissa Gilbert was the president of SAG, and I hardly can see little Laura Ingalls in the same light as Jimmy Hoffa. In truth I actually was a union member myself at one point when I worked at a local grocery store during college. Again, I didn’t have a full appreciation for the impact of that union; all I remember is that they called taxes dues and the triple time I got for working on Christmas and New Years never seemed to offset the regular hits to my meager bi-weekly paycheck.

Ohio in contrast is the real deal. People bleed for the unions out there. These are down to earth, uncomplicated steel workers, auto workers, and food workers. You name it and there’s a union to support it out there. It took me a good many years to shed the stereotyped image that I had been brought up with of these types of union workers – entitled, inflexible, overpaid and lazy.

Given the current financial climate, I couldn’t have picked a better time to be held in the bosom of the UAW. The first thing I noticed was that these members aren’t at all like those stereotypes, they aren’t digging in their heels about what they’re entitled to and they do in fact have a terrific handle on the current realities of the automotive crisis. Two evenings spent with them provided me with more relevant and valuable insight than all of the recent Face the Nation and WSJ reports.

Again as a consultant, our clients want us to bring relevant experience across multiple dimensions and different circumstances facing their industry. The people whom I spoke with this weekend have all of that and more, as these folks have lived lives not exclusively based on the current climate or even the recent past. They saw Chrysler go into and out of bankruptcy and they saw how and why it was successful. They lived through the 1979 union concessions as well as the negotiations and deals with GM management where promises were made but never delivered. Now I’m not naïve enough to think that any of our current auto industry problems are because of a single constituency but I have to tell you that the issues they identified and the solutions they suggested made a whole lot of sense to me and I’ll add that nothing that they talked about included unilateral actions without a shared responsibility by all parties. They really do understand that they are all in this together, management, unions, shareholders, suppliers and car owners. Not once did I ever see them point fingers except to say that none of what they were saying seemed to be heard. This is where a consultant can come in real handy because often an out of town expert with the briefcase is able to communicate the same message in a slightly different way to have it more readily heard and acted upon. That said, what I’m suggesting is that if this group is representative of the quality of GM workers and stakeholders, you already have an army of intelligent and insightful consultants to choose from.

Change is an interesting animal in that most everyone agrees to it in concept, but history, biases, motives and a lack of trust can create incredible resistance to doing anything meaningful to improve performance. Denial and hubris can be incredibly powerful forces and extremely difficult to overcome. Such is the case with GM. Why else would you fly to Congress to ask them for financial support without a plan and on a corporate jet. Who was advising these folks? Having had experience positioning our own firm’s leadership for prior Congressional hearings facing our industry, I can tell you that there is nothing more offensive than the non verbal cues associated with denial and hubris. True change begins with the willingness to have an honest dialogue with those who matter most, your customers and your people. I wonder if GM will ever take this incredibly important step. If they did, I bet that they’d find that their own people have all of the answers they need to address the two paramount objectives for this industry, increasing consumer demand for their cars, and sustainable cost reduction.

As one worker told me so eloquently, “when your own people don’t want to buy your products, you really have a problem”.