Ted Maulucci, CIO at the Tridel Group, a Toronto-based condominium developer, runs for his life, metaphorically speaking.
The energetic Maulucci runs every single workday during his lunch hour, and runs 10 kilometres on weekends. “I do love running,” he said. “But I work 10-12 hours every day and I need time with my kids when I go home. So I use my lunchtime. The only way I can achieve the full roundedness of my life is if I exercise at work.”
Maulucci’s singular achievement is not only in maintaining this relentless schedule, but also inspiring his 22 IT staff members to run with him, thereby shattering the image of IT guys as reclusive, Twinkie-eating couch potatoes.
It all started about eight years ago when Maulucci started inviting his staff to run with him in the park across the street from Tridel’s headquarters. He later persuaded senior management to install showers, and they instantly agreed, having seen the benefits in the IT department. It snowballed from there to other groups across the company.
Today, various groups run or walk during their lunch hours along with IT staff.
“It’s a big stress reliever,” said Maulucci. “It increases my productivity 25 per cent. Research shows problems don’t get solved sitting in meetings. Inspiration comes when you’re driving or running or doing something else. We weren’t designed to sit at desks all day.”
So what magic wand does Maulucci wave to persuade his people to stick to the program? “I guess because I’m the leader of the group and I do it, everybody does it. I don’t know if they do it to please the boss, but it does get infectious.”
Perhaps it’s a bit paternalistic, he said, but he wants his people to experience the benefits of running. And it works, he said; it helps boost self-esteem and productivity for everyone in his group.
He pointed out that many people join gyms but soon quit. Clearly, they want the benefits but need motivation. “I think everyone has it hidden in them. They just don’t have that person to lead them and bring them along. I’m always doing it and people see it. Everyone wants to have that discipline but they just need a push.”
Maulucci said a high percentage of the IT department’s problems are solved in the park across the street “I’ll send my people out running when they look burnt. I tell them: ‘You’re not getting anywhere, don’t beat your head against the wall.’ And you know, it always works.”
Even if he were to suddenly have more time in the evenings, he said, he would still run with his people. “There are so many positive effects for this team — more productivity and less sick days.”
He pointed out there are important team-building benefits in addition to health benefits. “There are some people who won’t leave Tridel because we go running every day. We talk about personal issues, life and where we want to go. I know people very well because you develop camaraderie when you do this daily.”
Maulucci tried to explain why running helps him and his people improve their ability to solve problems. Again, switching off one side of the brain to allow the other to take over figures prominently.
“There’s that untapped right side of your brain that’s imaginative and you unleash it. It doesn’t help you solve problems by seeing them in front of you. It solves them with imagery. When you’re running, you’re getting oxygen flow and brain activity, and there are no interruptions. It allows that side of your brain to bring the pictures you need to solve the problem.”