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Sunday, 22 July 2012

Building a Team? Take the Lead from Team Sky and Bradley Wiggins!

In their great book, The Puritan Gift, Kenneth and Will Hopper list the four basic criteria by which the early settlers in America organised their lives and their future.

They were (and I paraphrase) to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, to use, exploit and value technology, to organise and harness resources in all senses to maximise effectiveness and to suborn the needs of the individual to those of the group.

These highly moral maxims were taken up by the leaders of what have been called the Great Engines of Growth, those companies in America during the 19th and early 20th century which led the way on the management of great businesses.  Perhaps we can substitute The American Dream for the first of those statements.

It all came to mid over the past three weeks during which I have been glued to the TV and iPad watching the highlights of the Tour de France and wondering at the astonishing athleticism shown by the bike riders.

Somme four years ago, the guru of British cycling, David Brailsford with others decided that it was time for a British rider to win the Tour, a feat never accomplished in the 99 years of its existence.

Accordingly he obtained sponsorship from Sky TV and sated categorically that it was the intention to win the Tour in five years time.  The doubters, gloom mongers and naysyers had a field day,

Undeterred, he assembled a team (note the word, team) of highly accomplished riders including three from the UK. Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and the road race World Champion, Mark Cavendish.

They put together a technological back-up group covering every possible aspect of the needs of the team from nutrition to aerodynamics and started pout on the quest.  Nothing was left to chance.

The team make up was predicated on supporting Bradley Wiggins to win and everything they did was directed to that end.  The objective and the dream had been established, the best possible players brought into the team, the supporting technology was there and all resources were marshalled to drive the maximum benefit.

In 20101 Bradley Wiggins came fourth in the Tour and that encouraged the team to the realisation that the great dream was a reality.  In 2011 he crashed out in the early stages with a broken collar bone.
Undeterred, Team Sky went for it this year and at the time of writing, it is likely that Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome will come first and second this afternoon in the Champs Elysee and it is equally feasible that Mark Cavendish will win the stage.
This amazing result is unquestionably due to the total dedication of the whole team, riders and back-up alike, to the four criteria of the Puritans, again with the possible substitution of the dream and objective of success in the most gruelling race on the planet.
To see how the team members rallied round Wiggins at crucial times, helping and encouraging him, even though they were suborning their own glory and abilities to the greater good, has been an object lesson.
In the press conferences, Wiggins, modestly,  has always emphasised the team rather than his own strengths and has paid fulsome tribute to their dedication and commitment.
It is, of course, a great metaphor for business. To have the vision and the dream, to assemble a team of great performers, to exploit the use of technology and to marshal resources for maximum effectiveness, is the function of all leaders.
Get the right people on the bus?  Perhaps t should be on their bikes.

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