The 2014 Tour de France kicked off this morning. Since it’s one of my favorite sporting events of the year, I wanted to offer a few key lessons that we can apply to the workplace from this epic three-week race.
It’s About the Collective Goal
Each team of riders in the Tour de France has a designated “leader” – the rider that the rest of the team is suppose to rally around and support for the win. That means that it’s not a race in the truest sense – most of the riders in the event are expected to put their own individual interests aside to support the good of the team. Sometimes that means leaving the most talented individuals out – this year, the 2012 Tour champion Bradley Wiggins was left off his team because the management was afraid that he wouldn’t work to support the team leader, defending champion Chris Froome, for the win.
The Lesson: Sometimes you need to put aside your personal goals and do what’s best for the company.That means you may have to do things outside of your job description, work with people you don’t like, or give up the fight for resources that might help your team but isn’t the team investment to meet the company goal. When you succeed as a company, everyone wins.
Current Performance Rules the Day
Just because you’ve been successful in the past does not guarantee your place at the top. Former champion Andy Schleck had several years of podium finishes at the Tour de France, but after a few years of lackluster performance he’s riding this year in a support position on his team, charged with helping his team leader, and brother, Frank Schleck.
The Lesson: Don’t rest on the laurels of your past successes. If you do have a period of less than stellar performance, don’t use your prior successes as a reason to stand in the way of others. Instead, be a great support player and you’ll have people supporting you if you end up back on top in the future.
Collaboration Trumps Individual Interest…and Team Sillos
In cycling, the more people you have working with you, the faster you are able to go. Most often, the people you work with will be your teammates. But sometimes, the people you need to work with are on different teams. Most days of the Tour, there will be a handful of cyclists from different teams who break away from the larger group and gain an advantage. The only hope they have of keeping that advantage is to work together – if they ride as individuals they most certainly will be caught.
The Lesson: Sometimes you’ll get the best results when you collaborate with those that are not on your direct team. Be open minded and look for people with the skillsets you need, and goals that align with yours, throughout the organization. Team up with them to gain a higher degree of success.
Patience is a Virtue
The Tour de France is a three-week race and very rarely will you see the ultimate winner jump out at the start and hold the lead the entire way. Instead, they sit back, take their time, converse their energy to when it really matters. Then, they make their move and capture the yellow jersey. In 2011, Tour champion Cadel Evans waited until the very last day before Paris to take the yellow jersey away from runner-up Andy Schleck because he knew his biggest opportunity would be in the stage 20 individual time trial.
The Lesson: You don’t have to get your way all of the time to ultimately achieve your goal. Don’t fight all of the fights. Pick out the ones that really matter and fight those.
More Than One Way To Win
Yes, everyone knows about the yellow jersey and that may be the most prestigious prize of the Tour but there are many other competitions within the race:
- The sprinters are competing for the green jersey
- The climbers are competing for the polka dot “King of the Mountains” jersey
- The young riders are competing for the white jersey
- Everyone is competing daily for stage wins and for the award of “most aggressive rider”.
So, there are multiple ways to achieve success and many opportunities for bragging rights. While sometimes riders do win more than one competition, it is more often different people…and sometimes the riders who are successful in one category will never be competitive in another. For example, the sprinters that are competitive in the green jersey competition will likely never be competitive for the yellow jersey because they are not strong in the mountain stages, and that’s ok.
The Lesson: Winning can take many forms. Don’t try to compete at everything. Instead, focus on where you are the strongest and run with it. That’s how you’ll achieve success.
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