The Taper: The Power of Backing Off

Ask any endurance athlete about the need to periodically back off the duration of their workouts, particularly prior to a race, and the concept and necessity for tapering will almost certainly come up. Ask most business people how often they step away from their endless pursuit of growth and excellence, and you’re more likely to hear that it’s been years, if ever.

When training for long distances events, such as the marathons, ultra-marathons, long distance triathlons, or long distance swims, tapering is fundamental to achieving peak performance.

A typical marathoner may structure her training as a series of one or more build-and-taper cycles, and she will almost certainly reduce her miles starting about two weeks prior to the race. The taper allows the body to heal and replenish itself, and it provides a mental break from the increasing long, sometimes monotonous training.

So why don’t organizations embrace the taper concept at the office? Rather than pushing for sales, service, and operational improvements without pause from the first quarter to the fourth, and from year to year, why don’t most companies push hard for a few months and then take a week or two to change up the routine? Perhaps they’ve simply never thought about it.

Here are 3 benefits from periodically tapering in the workplace.

1. Replenishes the team. Working hard is physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually demanding. Backing off every 90-180 days ensures the team is experiencing recovery and growth. During the few days of the year that the team tapers, consider adding some training, social outings, and fitness-related initiatives. Celebrate the successes and learnings from the previous quarter, and set the stage for the next push.

2. Builds morale. Running on empty or perpetually chasing financial results can erode morale. Backing away from the usual routine creates an opportunity for team members to get home a little earlier, get to work a little earlier, clear the to-do list, and bond as a team. All of these activities are likely to improve morale going into the next quarter.

3. Allows for strategic adjustments. Running all out, all the time, makes it very difficult for the organization to reflect, ponder, and try new ideas. An occasional taper, however, can create just the needed margin to evaluate what is working, what has changed, and what changes might help the organization stay ahead of competition.

Whether you taper every quarter or even just once or twice a year, making it a part of your culture and management practice will help you sustain the pursuit of excellence, bring your team closer together, and help ensure that your ladder is leaning against the right wall.

How do you know if your team is taking the taper concept to heart? Use the taper as an opportunity to completely change up their IRUNURUN dashboard of key actions, and then see to it that the new actions get done.

Neglect the taper and don’t be surprised when your athletes are tired and your non-athletes have either burnt out or checked out. How do you taper?