Tour de Force – do you play the members of your team to their individual strengths?
Up until 10 years ago when I met my husband, I naively thought that the Tour de France was a game (and gruesomely hard at that) of winning a race – first past the post was a winner. So far, so good – Husband and I were in agreement, but that is where our agreement ended. Where I saw individual winners – my husband saw team efforts. Where I could not see the point in watching a whole day’s worth of wheels spinning through fields and villages and an endless number of bodies racing up and down hills, he saw each stage broken down into sections playing to different team members’ strengths; Kings of the Mountain, Young Riders, Sprinters, overall race contenders and individual time-trial heroes of speed. Where I thought the winner was the first to cross the finishing line in Champs-Elysees, it turns out the overall winner could cross as number 50 or later as long as he and his team has done the work in earlier stages. It was an eye-opener!
In a similar vein, it is easy for an employer to look at their workforce and focus blindly on team output, without looking at the individuals forming part of the team to explore if they all contribute to their full potential with the right set of tasks within their area of responsibility.
We could look at a number of sport analogies, Motorsport is the same – an F1 driver would not win any championships without a team behind him where each member had a clear task delegated to him, which he carried out to near perfection when required – but I will stay with the cycling analogy for now.
In cycling, you will have the team leader or ‘Captain’ who has the greatest chance of winning the overall Tour de France title. Some teams then have sub-leaders who specialise in picking up points as particularly good climbers with the potential of winning ‘King of the Mountain’. You may also have sprinters such as Cavendish who are aiming to win the title of best Sprinter of the Tour or ‘The Green Jersey’ as it is also called. To support those leaders, each team has a number of ‘Domestiques’ whose sole task is to take the blunt of the wind-force cycling in front of their Captain or leader allowing them to preserve energy before launching an attempt to win a stage or a point. They also play an important role keeping their leaders out of trouble, ensuring there is enough space for them to perform and drop back to the pack to collect drinks and energy-bars from the following cars. That is only the riders – to support them you have the manager who oversees the team’s commitments and general operation, the Directerus sportifs who dictate the racing strategy, Coaches who are in charge of training, Doctors, Therapists, Mechanics and Soigneurs – all looking after the riders in different but nonetheless important ways throughout a race such as the Tour de France.
All of these team members will have proven that they are particularly good at what they do before being trusted to carry out their individual task. It is equally important as an employer to work hard at identifying your workforce’s strengths and weaknesses and ensure that each employee works in the right team, with the right task contributing to the best possible combined success for your organisation.
There are a number of ways in which you can seek assistance from your L&D professionals to support you in making sure that this is the case. There is a wide variety of profiling tools available which can help you identify your employees’ particular strengths to understand what they could bring to their respective teams. In addition, you can make use of similar tools to help your employees understand their own preferred ways of working and those of their colleagues, which at times can be at such different ends of the spectrum that conflict and poor communication may be rife.
Once you have identified the right employee for the right role in the right team, you can start looking at how each individual can excel at what they do at an individual level and bring all the individual efforts together into a greater team effort.
To again dive into the world of cycling, you could start looking at the strategy which Sir Dave Brailsford put in place to create the highest performing cycling team the UK has ever seen – Team Sky – culminating in Bradley Wiggins winning Tour de France in 2012 and unparalleled success for the cycling Team GB at the London Olympics that same year. I found this video, currently available in the public domain, on the topic of his CORE Principle. In short an equation which reads that individual Commitment, Ownership and Responsibility leads to Excellence and Marginal Gains. Very inspiring and offering a lot of food for thought – if we could all improve our individual tasks and processes which form part of our team effort by as little as 1% we are likely to see a massively improved team performance. Mind boggling!
If you would like to talk to OnTrack International about how we could support your organisation with team dynamics, strengths, weaknesses and help your teams work more effectively together, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0)1279 652255.