What Spartan Races taught me about inclusion in the workplace

I was starting to shiver as the wind came up. I‘d successfully made it through the dunk wall, an obstacle I’d always dreaded based on my fear of dark water. It was beginning to come a little more easily. I was learning how to trust that I would make it through to the other side, with eyes closed and mouth shut tight.

We had less than 2 km to go. The end was in sight but, up next, was the slip wall.

“Evil race director,” I thought, but also brilliantly planned. Cold and wet with no grip you have to haul yourself up and over a slippery incline. But I had a huge mental block after a complete wipe out at the last race.

I”d watched videos on technique  and felt a bit more prepared.  However, that little seed of doubt was already planted.

“Ok…bottom out, keep the legs braced. At the top, not too early, shift forwards to grip the wall.”

All good.

But at the top I froze. Mentally, I knew what to do. In theory, I understood the required movement. But, somehow,  I could not move.

“Tazukete!!! Help me!” I shouted to the other Spartans at the top of the wall.

From out of nowhere, a hand gripped my arm then around my waist. I was hoisted forwards and  could grab the top of the wall.

“Arigato! Thank you!”

I looked at the face of my Slip Wall Saviour.  It was Keisuke, my team mate.  In his first Spartan Race he embodied the inclusive spirit of Spartan that I hold so dear: always help others, give a boost – physical or verbal, look around and help others.

I hadn’t realized that Keisuke was still at the top of the wall. But I had known that when I asked for help, someone would be there. Having this total trust in the system, knowing that if I ask for help I will get it, is an essential element of inclusion at work.

Catalyst describes the Sense of Belonging as one of the key elements of Inclusion. In a Spartan Race, we see the output in a strong sense of Team Citizenship, “going beyond the call of duty to help others”. “No Spartan left behind” is a key mantra and I’ve lost count of the times I have seen people slow themselves down to help others, to offer support through advice, a pep talk, a joke to lighten the mood or, as in my case, a helping hand.

This is the exact opposite of the silos we see at the office. I’m so engrossed in my own targets. I don’t have bandwidth to look around for a second or respond to a call for help from outside that silo.

What would be possible for your business if you could foster an environment like the Spartan Race where Team Citizenship was a given, a key element of your culture?

 

What have Spartan Races taught me about inclusion?

When we feel included and have a sense of belonging, we are able to do amazing things. We can operate at a level well beyond what we thought we were capable of as an individual.

What can you do today to create a sense of belonging in your team?

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Post Script

I’m happy to say that at the dry and sunny Sendai stadium race in December 2018,  I made it over the slip wall without any help! Dragon slayed!

Not without drama though. I ripped my nail off (schoolboy error – always trim nails before race day!) and was forced to a pit stop at the medical tent for a plaster.

So now training begins for my next nemisis… the Bender….

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