What road cyclist's teach us about teamwork
Many of you will know that I have a keen passion for road cycling. And I often think that a group of road cyclists (called a peloton) has many valuable lessons of what works, as well as what doesn’t, in teams.
At our best, someone, often one of the senior riders, has stepped into a leadership role and made a decision about the direction we are going to take. Sometimes this decision is made together. But mostly, we know the direction we take on particular days and take turns sharing leadership of the peloton.
And although we all share a love of road cycling, we come with different abilities – some were professional cyclists in another life, some still compete at a high level, and there are others, like myself, who ride more for the mateship and the coffee.
When things are working well, the ride may be slowed to wait for someone who is struggling at the back. And support is often given – I have been grateful on a number of occasions when I have been pushed up a hill by a stronger cyclist. When someone gets a flat, we all stop and assistance is given.
Consideration of other cyclists, road users and pedestrians is also important. When your front wheel is very close to the back wheel of the person in front and you have someone riding beside you, it is very important that you hold your line and behave in predictable ways
So, there are some shared ground rules that all riders are encouraged to respect – people at the front signal turns, you endeavor not to stop suddenly and instead roll up the side of the rider in front, and you ‘hold your line’ out of consideration for riders around you.
Communication is important – glass on the road is pointed to or called out. Or a ‘car back’ warning is called out if a car is about to overtake the group in a tight situation.
There are also ‘robust’ comments when someone is not behaving the way others think he or she should. Or there is a discussion over coffee about the perceived rights or wrongs that occurred. At our best, people are open to feedback and some understanding is reached for the future.
Of course, there are times when the peloton does not work well – the group fragments, individuals become frustrated with others, and accidents take place. I often think we are all human and have heard most cyclists complained about over the years.
But, most of the time, we get over these challenges, look for the lessons, and are united by our common passion.
So, I wonder if your team is already applying some of the lessons of what works in the peloton?
- Is there a clear direction?
- Is leadership shared, at times?
- Do team members have positive and supportive relationships?
- Is everyone considerate of the impact of their performance on others?
- Is there a common understanding and practice of shared norms of behaviour?
- Is there clear, two-way communication?
- Can robust conversations be held when needed?
- Is everyone open to feedback, adjusting their behaviour when needed?
- Are you reaching your agreed destination?