Leadership Strategy

Just about a month ago, after watching the LA Kings win the Stanley Cup, I wrote a piece on lessons to be learned about teamwork from the world of sports. This week, after being glued to my TV for 8 days watching the Tour de France, it’s time to go that route again. By the way, whether you’re a bicycle enthusiast or not, watching the Tour is truly an exciting experience.

The race consists of 22 teams of 9 riders who race over 2000 miles divided into 21 stages. The race started in Belgium, went into France, Sunday they spent some time in Switzerland, and now the rest of the race will be back in France. There are flat stages, horrific mountain stages in the Alps and Pyrenees and individual time trails where each rider races against the clock.

Here’s the point I want to make. After a week of racing, 20 riders have already had to drop out of the race because of serious injuries. There have been many crashes, many broken bones, and several riders ended up in the hospital. It’s really a very dangerous event. Riders are traveling at over 25 miles an hour and when you crash and hit the ground at that speed, you’re lucky if you aren’t seriously injured and in fact, many are.

Why does this happen? Because every one of the 198 riders is there to win or assist a teammate in winning. The Tour is the biggest bicycle race in the world and winning is everything. But if you’re a rider, it’s not enough that you want to win or your team to win. Every other rider has the same intention and after 21 stages, there’s only going to be one winner, and one stage winner each day. So each rider knows that he must take risks. This is not a race for the faint of heart. You have to get on your bike each day, ride full out, do everything in your power to win, and take the risks associated with that.

Can you already see the analogy to business? If you have a company, you too want to win. And you’re clear, or should be, that there are others playing the same game that you are and they too want to win. Sometimes, one winning means others losing. I have many clients that bid on projects against many others and only one bidder gets the job. Often, the game of business is not for the faint of heart. Those that win, and win consistently, are often the ones that approach the game the same way a rider in the Tour de France approaches each day on the bike. Meaning, …

They play full out, all the time, every day. They don’t hold anything back. They don’t allow fear to influence their decisions. They don’t try and cut corners and get away with shortcuts. And the biggie: they’re willing to take risks.

If you haven’t yet figured this out, here are some basic facts of life and business. Life doesn’t come with any guarantees. Life isn’t fair. Good guys do finish last. Bad things do happen to good people. That’s just the way it is. So if you’re complaining about any of those realities, it’s time to stop. It will get you nowhere and just have you feel like a victim. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Often you have little control of that. But what you do have control over is how you play the game. So spend some time watching the Tour and learn a lesson from those amazing athletes. You’ll see what it takes to be a winner.