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Accountability and Growth: Leadership Lessons from The Boston Marathon

In the heart of Boston, the 84th Marathon, more than just a race; it’s a spectacle of human spirit and tenacity. Among the sea of eager faces is Victoria, a business consultant sidelined by an ankle injury but buzzing with the electric atmosphere. She is there for the love of the marathon, for the stories of perseverance it represents. Beside her is Tim, owner of an accounting firm and a friend, who chose to keep her company, bringing along his own tale of recent trials.




The air is thick with anticipation as the runners take their marks. Victoria, taking in the scene, remarks to Tim, "There's nothing quite like the start of the marathon, is there? The energy is just...contagious."


Tim, though distracted, nods, "Yeah, it's something else. Makes you forget your troubles for a bit."


 A Puzzling Participant




As the race begins, all senses are alight—the smell of anticipation, the sound of collective determination, the sight of focused athletes. Among the participants, Rosie's presence catches Victoria's eye. "Doesn't she look a bit out of place to you?" Victoria mused, watching Rosie navigate the crowd, sprinting forward with all the grace of a startled flamingo, her exaggerated panting drawing puzzled glances from nearby spectators.


Tim, squinting, replies, "A bit, yeah. But then, everyone's running their own race, aren't they?"


 A Dialogue on Leadership and Accountability




Their conversation drifts to Tim's recent challenges at work. "It's been rough," Tim confesses. "Some errors were made with client books. It's...messy."


Victoria, concerned, presses for details. "Do you know how it happened?"


Tim sighs, "The team didn't have the skills I assumed they had."


"Did you verify their skills when you brought them on?" Victoria asks, a hint of caution in her voice.


"I assumed they knew," Tim admitted. "I didn't check thoroughly."


Victoria shook her head, "Assuming makes an ass out of you and me, Tim. Especially as a leader, accountability starts with you."


Tim frowns, annoyed yet knowing she is right, "I get it. It's just hard to accept."


Victoria reassures Tim with a gentle hand on his shoulder, "Yes, it may be uncomfortable but embracing accountability now will spare you many headaches in the future. Accountability comes with the territory. Stepping up isn't always glamorous, but it's necessary if you want your team to see you as their leader beyond simply having the title.


Tim sighs deeply.


Victoria takes a beat before she speaks. “Don’t overthink it. I’ll help you.” The two continue to focus on the race.


~

"Hey Tim, can you see that strange runner I pointed out before?" Victoria asks.


Tim looks around and responds, "Hmm, I haven’t noticed her since the beginning of the race. Maybe she sped past us or is still behind catching her breath."


Clarity Amidst the Marathon Chaos




As Tim and Victoria continue to watch the race, Victoria can’t help but remark on the diverse range of runners. Some are decked out in professional gear, while others seem to have thrown on whatever was at hand. "It's fascinating," she observes, "how clarity and perspective—or the lack of it—can so visibly affect a runner's race."


Tim, following her gaze, nods. "True for running and business, I suppose."


“Exactly!” Victoria replies enthusiastically. “You know Tim, your business is in the perfect position to experience its Golden Age.”


Tim looks at her, cracking a smile. “What on earth are you talking about?”


Victoria responds, “The age of peak performance.” She continues, “Did you know that the average male marathon runner's peak is between the ages of 30 and 37? You, sir, are a runner, and your business is your marathon. All your life experiences have been preparing you for this moment."


Tim leans in, intrigued. "So, you're saying our business is poised for greatness?"


Victoria nods, her eyes alight with excitement. "Exactly! But to reach that peak, you need to ensure your clarity and perspective are sharp."


Tim ponders her words for a moment before replying, "You're right. It's like navigating a marathon course. You need a clear path ahead to make the best decisions."


Victoria smiles, pleased with his understanding. "Exactly! So, let's make sure you’re seeing the full scope of possibilities and challenges before you.”

 

Vision, Development, and the One Thing Goal


Reflecting on the marathon, Victoria shares, "Being here, not running, I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much.”


Tim remarks, “I know you were disappointed that your ankle didn’t heal in time.”


Victoria responds, “I was, but it's given me a different perspective. Like in business, focusing on that one thing that can really make a difference."


Intrigued, Tim leans in, "Go on."


“Did you ever read the book I recommended to you called ‘The One Thing’?” Victoria asks.


Tim scratches his right temple with one finger, looking at Victoria without giving a verbal response.


“Tim!!! I’m going to stop sharing suggestions with you,” Victoria exclaims.

Tim jumps in apologetically, “Putting out the fires at work has been taking everything out of me.”


Victoria gives Tim the side eye before proceeding to respond, “It’s about focusing on the most important task that will make everything else easier or unnecessary. The book highlights the importance of identifying your:

  • Values.

  • ‘Why’.

  • Mindset.

  • Limiting beliefs.


Understanding this serves as a launching pad for powerful and attainable goals. Having a clear vision and a focused approach can make all the difference for your business. I’m thinking about vision and development," Victoria explains. "You know how a professional runner's ‘One Thing’ is honing their technique with a clear goal in mind? What's your ‘One Thing’ for your business?"


Tim ponders, "I haven't thought about that.”


“Because you don’t read the material I share with you,” Victoria teases.


An Unlikely Win


As the sun begins its descent, casting long shadows over the bustling streets of Boston, the marathon nears its conclusion. The tension in the air is palpable, crackling with anticipation as spectators line the sidewalks, their eager eyes fixed on the approaching finish line. Among them, Victoria and Tim stand, their gazes darting back and forth as they search for a familiar face. "There she is!" Victoria points out Rosie.


"Who?" Tim responds confused.


"The runner I was asking you about!" Victoria retorts.


"It looks like she’s about to win. Are you sure that’s her!?" Tim exclaims.


The crowd erupts into a frenzy of speculation as Rosie, the enigmatic figure Victoria had been watching, emerges from the sea of runners. Clad in sweat-soaked attire, Rosie pushes forward with a determination that seems to defy all logic, her presence igniting a surge of excitement among the spectators.


As Rosie accelerates, her pace quickening with each stride, the crowd's anticipation reaches a fever pitch. They watch in awe as she charges toward the finish line, her determination carving a path through the chaos of the race.


Rosie crosses the finish line.


"Did you see that!?” Victoria exclaims.


 “How did she come out of nowhere!?" A nearby spectator remarks.


Amidst the uncertainty, one truth remains undeniable—Rosie Ruiz emerges as the unexpected champion, her astonishing feat leaving spectators both mesmerized and perplexed.


~


Righting Wrongs


Eight days after the marathon, Victoria and Tim meet. The two reflect on the Boston Marathon scandal involving Rosie Ruiz's fraudulent victory. Rosie had apparently left the racetrack and boarded the subway only to join the race once again towards the end.


“I told you something was off about her.” Victoria insists.


“You were spot on,” Tim responds laughing.


“Watching her interviews was surreal. She was completely oblivious to the marathon route.” Victoria continues, surprised.


“Because she wasn't there! She was busy being 'Casper' the friendly ghost, moving around without a trace.” Tim mocks.

Switching gears, Tim and Victoria delve into improving Tim's business and the lessons drawn from both the race and their business journeys. "Recognizing achievements, correcting mistakes—it's all about balance," Victoria notes. "And about setting the right example."


Tim nods. "I've got a lot to do."


"Fortunately, you've got a solid team already. That's half the battle," Victoria reassures him.

"I need to prioritize the refresher training," Tim acknowledges.


"And consider hiring an independent accountant," Victoria suggests.


Tim agrees, "We can't keep handling our accounting in-house."


"Especially if you want to invest more time in nurturing your team," Victoria stresses.



Celebrating Victories


Following Rosie Ruiz's disqualification for failing to complete the full racecourse, Jacqueline Gareau was officially recognized as the winner of the women's division of the 1980 Boston Marathon. Her official time of 2:34:28 was the fastest recorded for a woman in the event's history at the time.


“Can you imagine putting in all that work and not being recognized for it?” Victoria retorts.

“Jacqueline must have been livid when she heard the rumors about Rosie and the subway,” Tim adds.


Victoria continues, “Now, imagine how your team must feel when they deliver and receive zero recognition.”


“You just had to call me out like that,” Tim responds.


Victoria laughs, “I’m not calling you out. I’m just trying to put things in perspective.”


“Things with the firm are moving fast right now. I’m not sure we will be able to find the time to consistently ‘recognize’ accomplishments.” Tim explains.


“It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. Here, let me show you an example.” Victoria takes out her phone and shows Tim a LinkedIn post: The Unexpected 2-Week Journey to 9% Growth - Overcoming Doubts with Proven Success!


Tim goes through the post intently. “That’s great! Short and sweet.”


“Exactly,” Victoria affirms, “K.I.S.S, Keep It Short and Sweet. That’s how you make things impactful. Remember,” she continues, “it’s just as important to celebrate wins with your team as it is to right wrongs.”


In the days that followed, Tim implemented the changes Victoria suggested. He prioritized refresher training for his team, hired an independent accountant, and took steps to ensure that accomplishments, big and small, were recognized. These actions not only improved the operational efficiency of his firm but also boosted morale and fostered a culture of growth and appreciation.


~


Now it’s time to hand things over to you. Are you ready to drive your finance and accounting success to new heights? Take action today by reflecting on the principles of accountability, clarity, vision, and celebration discussed in Tim and Victoria’s Boston Marathon experience. Set aside some time to:

  • Identify one area where you can increase accountability in your role or team.

  • Clarify your vision for personal or professional growth and outline actionable steps to achieve it.

  • Embrace the 'One Thing' approach by pinpointing the most impactful goal to focus on.

  • Take a moment to celebrate achievements, no matter how small.



Share your insights, experiences, or goals with us! Whether it's a success story, a lesson learned, or a goal you're striving towards, we'd love to hear from you. Together, let's inspire and support each other in the marathon of finance and accounting excellence.


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