I’m a huge pro cycling fan. Pro cycling is the only sport where races play out over many days or weeks and all the teams are on the same field at the same time. It is the most strategic sport I know. And that sounds similar to the competitive business environment the rest of us play in all the time.
So, as we are in the month between the Giro d’Italia and the Tour of California and Le Tour de France (and as the Tour de Suisse is running now), I have a few observations that if corporations would follow, would make for a happier, healthier, and more successful business environment.
- There are teams for a reason. You can’t win by yourself.
- There are no silos within teams; no great team has internal cliques. At some point, you’ll need your teammates to win.
- Everyone has specialties. And there are different types of races. This means that each team member has a chance to shine (win) at some point during the season.
- Training is very important. Train toward goals and don’t burn yourself out needlessly.
- “Leaders” change depending on the race. Lance, for example, played “super-domestique” for Levi Leipheimer again this year at the Tour of California; it was Levi’s race for leadership.
- Teammates sacrifice for their leaders. HTC Columbia’s Mark Cavendish is a sprinter whose record last year was simply awesome (six stage victories at the Tour de France alone). Mark has his lead-out men – a whole line of them – who get him into place to get what he calls a team victory. One by one these men sacrifice themselves at the front of the line, working until they can work no more, to ensure that victory. All of his lead-out men can win sprints on their own, but when it’s Mark’s turn, they sacrifice.
- Sometimes you need a mate to get you through a rough patch. A leader will often be paced up a tall mountain by someone who is feeling stronger at the moment; and a leader never gets left behind.
- Sometimes there are crashes. Get back up and keep riding.
- Sometimes the weather is really bad. Stay on the bike and keep riding.
- Sometimes there are small break-away groups – riders who go out in front of the Peloton (main group) hoping to stay away and win the stage/race. It rarely works, but sometimes it does. It gets you noticed and sometimes this break from the norm (AKA innovation) prevails. Risks bringing rewards.
- Instincts are important. Sense what’s going on around you and know where you need to be at any given moment. If you’re caught off-guard, your competitor can make a move and leave you in the dust.
- Team directors can often see a bigger, longer-term picture than the riders are able to. No matter how important you are, remain coachable. We all can and should continue to learn.
Are you on a winning team? Are you leading when you should lead, and actively supporting when that’s your job? Do you agree that these lessons from cycling really do apply to business?