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Putting Time in the Leadership Saddle

by Jesse Lahey on July 25, 2014

Jesse Lahey, about half-way through the 2013 Black Bear Century Race. Putting Time in the Leadership Saddle (EngagingLeader.com).This past week, a buddy and I were completing our final training ride (60 miles) in preparation for my longest race scheduled for the year, a 100-mile “century” cycling race this coming week.

Since our last ride together, we both had acquired new gear. Sam had bought his first cycling shoes and clipless pedals. I had my first padded cycling shorts. Early in our ride, we commented on the difference the gear made. For example, Sam noted how nice it was to now have his shoes attached to the pedals; he had never noticed before how much mental energy he had been spending to keep his feet in the right position on the pedals.

Buying some new stuff each year … and talking about gear with fellow triathletes … helps keeps the sport fun for me over the long term.

“However,” Sam said, “you can buy all the gear you want, but nothing makes as big a difference on improving performance as putting time in the saddle.” Neither of us had been riding as often, or as many miles, as we had last summer, and we were both a bit nervous about our ability to finish this year’s race (and we yet we were still holding out hope that we’d beat our race times from last year).

It’s the same with leadership impact and business performance.

As a leader, It’s tempting to focus on the latest technology … process … trend … acquisition … or whatever. It’s tempting to spend the majority of our time on analysis, decisions, and planning. Even relationship-building with strategic allies can distract us too much from providing the workforce leadership that would take performance to the next level.

The first priority of a leader is to lead. That requires putting time, energy, and heart into teaching, modeling, listening, telling stories, restating the vision and key messages, asking questions, and reflecting so that you can learn and lead better.

Are you putting time in the leadership saddle, truly leading the way for others? Or are you mostly just geeked about gear?

Communicate. Reflect. Repeat.

What do you think are the most critical activities for leaders?



This episode is the first in a two-part series about leading a health behavioral change. Episode 13 focuses on leading a fairly straightforward change, such as influencing employees to get a biometric health screening or to take a financial wellness assessment. Episode 14 will address leading a more complex change effort, such as influencing employees to take the recommended actions that will improve their physical or financial health.


For many years, the Four Engagement Levels (also known as the Action-to-Awareness model) has been a helpful model for planning communication tactics. This model recognizes that when implementing a new change effort, leaders need to plan multiple communication tactics that will help people progress through the four stages of engagement:

  • Awareness
  • Understanding
  • Commitment
  • Action.

In practice, engagement and behavior change does not always happen in such a clear-cut, linear fashion. In addition, several tactics such as social media are used at multiple levels – not just the awareness stage. An actual communication plan should be custom-developed based on the organization’s goals and circumstances. This model helps with identifying the communication tactics that can lead people to take action.

In this episode, we explain how the four levels of engagement apply to workforce health, discuss how to plan communication outcomes for each level, and provide examples of communication tactics that could be used to lead employees to each level.

Joining Jesse on the show once again is Terry Sherwood, his colleague from Aspendale Communications. Terry has over 25 years of experience helping companies communicate effectively with their employees. Her diverse background in human resources, corporate communications, and marketing provides a blend of creativity and practicality that delivers results. Terry has held senior consulting positions with several large consulting firms, including PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Towers Watson.

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WHE12: Beyond “Biggest Loser” Contests: Creating a True Culture of Health | with Mary Pitman from Norfolk Southern

June 26, 2014

The popular weight-loss reality TV show “The Biggest Loser” has inspired many companies to hold weight loss contests for their employees. People love the idea of experiencing fast weight loss, and the idea of a friendly competition seems fun. But while “The Biggest Loser” makes for great reality TV, does it make for a great […]

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090: How to Bridge the Workplace Generation Gap | with David Maxfield

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GC27: Gamify New Hire Onboarding | with Mohit Garg from MindTickle

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089: The Power of Brevity | with Bill Holston

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WHE11: Workplace Clinics: How to Implement & Promote Them to Increase Health Engagement & Reduce Costs | with Joe Ellis from CBIZ

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088: Happy @ Work: Top Habits That Keep People Engaged and Successful | with Jim Donovan

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