5 Things Triathlon Taught Me About Leadership

Betsy Boehm Bland
6 min readJan 18, 2018

My name is Betsy and I’m addicted to triathlon. I’ve been racing for almost 10 years (through two pregnancies). I’ll never be a professional triathlete, so I’m forced to have a day job to pay for my hobby…my very expensive, time-consuming hobby. Thankfully, I have a job I enjoy that helps me pay the bills. Even better, I’ve found that my growth as a triathlete has also made me a better leader.

Here are five leadership lessons my addiction has taught me.

#1: Know where you’re going

In my early years as a triathlete, I really didn’t know how to plan out my race calendar. I would pick one or two races for the year, flip through some books to get some workout ideas, and hope for the best. I didn’t prioritize between races, which meant I trained and tapered equally for each one. I passed up the opportunity to use the fitness gains from one race to better my performance in another (more important) one. I certainly wasn’t considering how one year’s training could unlock accomplishments in the next. I was so caught up in muddling my way through the day-to-day that I never took a step back to define my long-term goals and what I should do to get there.

At work…

After some reflection, I realized this same approach would help align and rally my design team. I lead them through an exercise to define our north star, and we saw immediate improvement in our team’s work. We found it so effective, we repeated the exercise through multiple rounds of team restructuring.

#2: A coach will help you get there

After years of slogging through with mediocre performance and nagging injuries, I gave up and asked for help. Coach Ben Bartlett worked with me to define what I wanted from triathlon training and racing:

  • What were my stretch goals? What did I want to do in the next five years?
  • What was I hoping to accomplish in this year and the next?
  • What were some of my limitations?
  • How much time and energy could I truly commit?

We mapped out an annual plan that highlighted my highest to lowest priority races. He has asked me to take a hard look at how…

Betsy Boehm Bland

Product Experience Team Lead and Designer | Mission Driven, User-Focused