Bicycle Leadership


Three Truths of Cycling: A Leader’s Insight

A few summers ago I had the opportunity to ride one of the most pleasant bicycle routes in Ontario. My daughter invited me down to join her on a ride through Wolfe Island which is a ten minute ferry ride south of Kingston. Now Wolfe Island is no Tour de France but it is a great location for some easy rolling. It also has spectacular views of the Kingston waterfront, the lake boat shipping channels, and summer sailboat races. Not to mention that the locals on the Island have a completely different perspective on how life should proceed.

During part of that ride my daughter was not her usual talkative self and we filled the gaps in the conversation with the spectacular views and thinking about where we were. It was during one of those lulls in conversation that I made an important connection between leadership coaching and the truth about bicycling. First I formulated in my mind the

Three Truths of Cycling:

  1. The probability of missing any object lying on the road is inversely proportional to the effort you make to avoid it,
  2. Regardless of which direction you are traveling in, the wind will always be in your face, and
  3. In any given route there will be significantly more uphill climbing than downhill coasting.

So what’s the connection to coaching? To begin with, these rules form a strong parallel to the challenges in a coaching situation.

Missing the Boulder on The Road

When an individual has a set of tough objectives to achieve and is focused on doing a good job there is often a tendency to avoid unpleasant outcomes by forcefully driving around them. This can often be problem since it frequently leads to hitting “unintended consequences” dead center.

I often coach leaders to be taking in the big picture as they are working through their objectives and strategies. One of the most powerful tools a leader can have is a keen sense of observation and an ability to assimilate those observations into an action plan which will achieve their desired outcomes. Being able to see the obstructions as they lie in the path and giving yourself enough time to develop a route forward is one of the traits of a successful leader.

Avoiding the obstruction is not always the best choice. As an avid mountain biker I’ve learned (painfully) that sometimes the brute force hurdling over an object is the best course. What is important is that you are prepared for the action you believe is required to overcome the obstacle.

The Wind in My Face

In the world of objectives the wind in your face is the unseen and unpredictable resistance to achievement. No matter what project you will undertake there is a high likelihood that you will encounter resistance in some form or other. In most instances avoiding or eliminating the predominant onslaught of opposing forces will only clear the path to the next. In the case of challenging objectives this opposing force can be internal to the business, external, and in some instances within the person themselves (procrastination, commitment or interest). In any case, action must be taken to overcome these.

As a leader if you are coaching someone trying to achieve these tough objectives you will need to┬ádedicate time to reinforce and support them during these periods of ‘windy’ days. In most instance they will need to be reassured about the importance of the objective, their ability to achieve it, and the resources available to them to deal with the challenge. All objectives will run into significant resistance–successfully concluded objectives will have an owner that is constantly willing and able to push them through whatever resistance arises.

Uphill–Downhill

I hate rule three. It contravenes everything I know about logic and physics, but it sure feels real when you’re on the bike. I’ve been fooled many a time by looking at a topography map and choosing a route only to be surprised by the stuff that is not shown between the contour lines. In business the uphills and downhills are the stuff between the ‘contour lines’ of the world.

Any important objective worth doing well, in any company, will require a lot of energy to get you over the hills and dales of business. In some instances you will be expending more energy than you thought you could just to keep it moving. There will be moments where it seems you’ve gained the high ground and you can coast along for a rest period. Don’t be fooled by this temporary relief. If you have not completed the objective by this time its a good thing to look at the terrain map and go at the climbing one more time.

With the unpredictable nature of today’s business it is important to remember that objectives can be accomplished by hard work and constant effort to ensure you can cruise effortlessly over the finish line.

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