Roadwork for Enduring Success

I developed this talk for the initial meeting of executive coaching groups to prepare them for the slow, sometimes difficult aspects of their work. I have used it many times to great effect when launching teams into other long-term projects. Some of my coaching clients have even adapted it for their own presentations.

Click below for the video with illustrations and a musical soundtrack or scroll down for an audio-only version. Enjoy!








An audio-only podcast version, perfect for your iPhone or iPod, can be downloaded by subscribing to Tony’s podcast on iTunes here. If you use an Android or other non-Apple device for podcasts click this link.



See also Beautiful Barriers on this blog



 Notes for my video script, more for the search engines than for people to read.


First session of an executive coaching process that will last months, perhaps years, if you are satisfied with your experience and the results you are producing.
We’ve talked about the results you want and they are inspiring
Hard work to be done, some internal much with other people.
Some of the activity will be fun but much of it may seem like drudgery. That seems to be the nature of anything worth doing.
3rd forecast in as many months. Selling is so much fun…
I want to take a few minutes now, early in the program, to prepare you for those less appealing aspects of our work together by putting it into context.
A useful analogy  occurred to me a few years ago when I was watching a PBS program.
Secrets of the Ancient Engineers
More than 500 years ago the Inca in Peru built amazing cities and temples high in the Andes. You may have heard of the Temple of the Sun at Machu Picchu
The huge stones of its walls were so well fitted that they have survived centuries of weather, war, and earthquakes. They not only stand but the joints a still so tight you could not slide a piece of paper between the stones. They did this without steel tools or mortar. But that’s not the most amazing part.
This temple is not made of stone cut from the eight thousand foot mountain on which it stands. The stone is from quarries thousands of feet below and miles away, across a river and through a dense jungle. Each stone is the size of a car and weighs thousands of pounds. How did they do this without the use of the wheel and axle or strong draft animals?
This was a mystery ever since the western science rediscovered the temple of the sun in 1911. The producers of this program set-up to solve the mystery. They did it in a novel manner. They asked the local masons, direct descendants of the Incas, how they would do it.
See these cobble stone roads we have everywhere? Large blocks slide quite easily, especially if you put some leaves or fat down to grease the path. Simple solution, right?
One problem: estimates are that the stone roads took 15-20 years to build.  …
Consider yourself in this situation. You are the leader of a successful Inca city and you assemble the citizens for an important announcement.
I am pleased and honored to stand before you all today. I congratulate you on another record harvest. We have more grain stored than ever before. You have exceeded your stretch goal for this fiscal year. I also want to recognize the raiding parties for subduing our more troublesome neighbors.
The time has come to celebrate our success with an enduring display. [Sweeping his hind grandly] behold the sacred mountain top. I say we build a magnificent temple to the sun on that mountain! [Sounds of cheering]  That’s inspiring! Let’s do it. Ok, great. One thing first, we need to build a road. Our streets and highway department has a budget estimating about one to 1.5 generations of busting rocks, carrying rubble, and clearing jungle. Oh, and we need to twist a few hundred miles of rope for the bridges and tow cables. Your children will build the actual temple and a few of you might live long enough to see it. Who’s with me?
Daunting, isn’t it? How do you get a city, a team, or even yourself to persist through long periods of difficult labor without reward or even the guarantee of a reward?
Not something to shortcut, evade, or even to endure. Instead connect these tasks with your vision.
Visitor to the National Cathedral. “What do you do?” 
Architect: I make sure the structure is stable and sound…”
Stone Carver: I chip away stone and polish it until it matches this drawing.
Man with broom, least skilled, largest smile: I am building a monument to eternity for all humanity. It will inspire my grandchildren’s grandchildren.
Who had the best job?
Remember, please, at every stage of this program and in every moment of your life: “What am I up to? For the sake of what do I labor?” Make sure it is worth using your life and the lives of others for. Are you living or merely not dead?  Each moment you know yourself to be at work creating a compelling future you have the privilege of experiencing that future now.
Whatever you do, you will spend a lot of time busting rocks and building roads. Make sure the road leads somewhere worthwhile. If it does, you are not just building a temple, you are worshiping  with every hammer swing.