Here at adidas, we talk about our winning culture a lot. We ask our teams to set ambitious goals, raise the bar, push limits, leave comfort zones, go for moonshots, embrace failure, gain resilience and grow stronger as professionals and human beings along the way.

Why? Because of our mission. We want to be the best sports company in the world.

Ensuring each and every employee embraces this mindset is crucial to achieve our objectives.

Easier said than done, I hear you mumble? That’s why, at the beginning of this year, I thought about how I as a leader in our organization can help my colleagues live our winning culture and inspire them to embrace a winning mindset.

Choosing my moonshot

Working in a sports company where we believe that, through sport, we have the power to change lives, I picked a personal moonshot that all my colleagues can easily relate to. One that is making me feel uncomfortable every single day. I challenged myself to learn how to enjoy running – something I have never been able to master in my life.

A group of runners standing together for a group picture in front of a city skyline. winning culture, motivation, success, personal growth
Choosing a goal that other team members can relate to helped colleagues join me on my journey.

Here is what I have learned on this journey so far:

1. Be clear on your starting point

While I have always led an active lifestyle and enjoy biking, hiking, kayaking and cross-country skiing, I haven’t done any running since my days in fencing training camps as a teenager. Which means I am starting from scratch. And this means basing my weekly training plan on my current status, not on some dream scenario. This is important to remember in our business context as well:

2. Define a north star

I picked an easy-to-remember goal: 1,000km in 2019. I figure that I should be able to find enjoyment somewhere along the way. And it’s easy to break down: approx. 83km per month, 19km per week. Just like in our business context, where it‘s important to define what each of us wants to contribute every 90 Days to ensure we are the best sports company in the world.

3. Know your why and dream big

For me, it‘s not about 1,000km. It’s about learning how to enjoy running – because enjoyment is a big driver for me. I might be able to achieve this objective in 500km – but running 10km a week a week didn’t make me feel uncomfortable enough. That’s why I decided to go for a more aspirational objective. The same is true in our business: being the best means striving for great every single day and not settling for good.

4. Get all the support you can get

A group of runners standing together for a group picture and smiling. adidas Runners, winning culture, team, support
My adidas Runners buddies that keep me motivated.

I learned quickly that it is easier for me to get my kilometers in when others hold me accountable. So, I signed up for adidas runners Dubai, and take part in their weekly Women’s Run at the beach and make running part of business trips with my colleagues. Asking for help makes my ambition more manageable. It helps my environment understand what I need to succeed. Guess what? It turns out that my colleagues are very eager to be part of my journey and proactively offer support – because we all like winning together, don’t we?

5. Stay focused on the goal

Don’t let hurdles get in your way. A few weeks into my adventure, my body told me to take a break, which I found hard to accept. But soon I realized a short break would ensure I enjoyed the rest of the journey more – and have better chances of succeeding.

This also helps me in the business context: there will always be hurdles. Now I stress way less if one piece of the puzzle is missing as long as I am on track to achieve my overarching ambition.

6. Celebrate milestones

Going into my first 10k race after four weeks of training, I was nervous whether I could do it. I questioned my ambition. But I showed up. And I ran, one step at a time. Afterwards, I enjoyed celebrating with the team. Just like in my job, when we work hard we also need to take time to play and enjoy – or simply give our colleagues a high five for their progress sometimes.

Happy faces at the finish line! I still have many more finish lines to cross over the coming months as my leadership and running story continues.

In case you’re wondering: five months into my moonshot I haven’t learned how to enjoy running yet. I still struggle to get started each time and I question why I ever committed to this. But a year is long and so are 1,000km. I am convinced there’s personal enjoyment, satisfaction and pride waiting for me at the finish line.

How are you trying to lead by example and help yourself and others embrace a winning culture? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.


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by Frank 15.05.2019
Hi Katja, thanks for sharing your story with a lot of honesty and clarity. I can relate to all your points but sometimes need to put more effort into #4. One thing that I would add: I feel like it is pretty important to know what your role is but to also understand the context and the roles of others around you well enough. This will not only reduce friction but will allow you to serve teammates with killer assists and to anticipate the right spot on the field in order to score yourself (#Self-Awareness #Empathy #Context). Cheers,
by Katja Frank 21.05.2019
Hi Frank,
Thanks of for your comment. Fully agree with your additional thoughts.
See you somewhere on the next couple of hundred k´s :-)
by Silvia Raccagni 15.05.2019
This is amazing, well done on your journey and looking forward to running together when we meet again :)
by Katja Silvia Raccagni 21.05.2019
Sounds like a plan, Silvia!
by Liz Stewart 20.05.2019
Katja - I love this! It's a bit of a leap of faith to commit to something as significant as running 1000km, but as you said, it's manageable when you break it down, and it's not all about the distance. It's also much more achievable - and enjoyable - when you expand your social circle to get stronger together and hold one another accountable. Thanks for setting an example by pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, and congrats on your miles - er, km - thus far! We'll be cheering you on from Boston! :)
by Katja Liz Stewart 21.05.2019
Thanks for cheering for me, Liz! Much appreciated.
Even better, you can run with me when I am in Boston this summer... every mile counts :-)
by Billy 20.05.2019
Hey Katja,
put a Panama trip on your agenda and Jenilee and I will help you tick off a few of those km during a tropic sunrise at the ocean ;)
Keep going strong and thanks for the inspiration!
by Katja Billy 21.05.2019
That would be amazing, Billy!
We could do a virtual run via Runtastic together one of these days... maybe while we Run for the Oceans?
by Mariana 21.05.2019
Hi Katja,
I loved this post and can relate to many things on your journey!
Have your colleagues embraced the challenge as well?

Good luck for the km to go!
by Katja Mariana 24.05.2019
Hi Mariana,

I guess the following post from Milena answers your question: We have a lot of people in the organization who find ways to connect with our core belief, take accountability and inspire others to get active. I am super excited whenever one of my colleagues tells me that they have started to work out or are getting into running because it really shows that through sport, we have the power to change lives.

Have a nice day
by Milena Fernandes 24.05.2019
Absolutely inspiring story, Katja!

I can definitely relate to it... as I joined adidas , one of the points from my first touch base with my line manager in December 2018, was to develop myself in living the core belief because I was so out of shape, not feeling as well as I wanted to and had never ran in my entire life (Aside from when I was a kid). Lol

That’s when he suggested I worked closely with the UAE CREATORS SQUAD in driving it and working on different activities.

So I took the challenge because I knew that if I didn’t commit to something and had some sort of accountability, I would never take the step to improve myself. Therefore, I made it part of my 90-day plan!

When I started interacting with the Creators Squad, I found that the weekly retail runs were not so consistent in terms of the number of attendees (very few and a lot of people felt it was a struggle to run).

That’s when it clicked to implement other activities that don’t necessarily involve running, but if people did start running, it would improve their performance in other areas.

Making a long story short, 5 months down the road, we have consistent weekly Retail runs across all Emirates, a successful Beach Boot Camp happening 2x a month and HIIT & Zumba sessions for the Retail teams.

This is only due to taking accountability, working closely with other team members who also buy into the cause, are willing to help and want to achieve together, which now turns out to be part of most of the team’s 90-day plans!!

In summary, not only it has helped me achieve what I wanted to achieve, but it’s also helping others achieve it.


This is just the start... The best is yet to come! ;)
by Katja Milena Fernandes 24.05.2019
Hi Milena,

Thanks for sharing your story! I love your energy, enthusiasm and passion in driving our core belief across the entire Retail team. You have certainly created a movement and can be very proud of it, well done!

I look forward to running for the oceans with you and the rest of the retail team soon :-)

by Gemina 30.07.2019
Great post Katja! I, too, am trying to enjoy running again. When I feel like giving up, I tell myself “Don’t decrease your goal...increase your drive.” Keep going!
by Klaus Schreiber 13.09.2019
Keep running, Katja. It's a fantastic was to stay fit.
Lots of love, Klaus