Mid-July is like Christmas for me. It is a period I look forward to with giddy excitement.
It is a time where I spend a lot of time sat, fascinated, in front of my TV watching the Tour de France unfold. And I would suggest that business leaders should do the same as Le Tour has a lot of the ingredients required to be a success in business.
Only cyclists with the strongest teams win
Professional road cyclist compete in teams and, although the garlands and accolades go to the individual cyclist when they win, they get there because of the self-less devotion of their team. His/her teammates will chase down attackers, fetch food and drink, take the brunt of the wind at the front of the race and even give up their bike if their leaders’ is broken.
Behind the scenes are soigneurs and helpers who stand on the roadside handing out drinks bottles, prepare food, massage tired legs. There are mechanics who cleans and check the bikes every evening working deep into the night in some circumstances.
Only the best cyclists, such as Chris Froome, will be paid well, many of the others earn quite modest sums and the backroom star earn even less. So a successful cyclist will need a team that is fully behind them and the team will have to be led by a skilled and adept leader.
The best laid plans
Within the Tour, you can see strategies, objectives, tactics all in action in front of you.
Teams have their objectives for the season and those will be based on their vision. When Team Sky started, their objective was to win the Tour de France with an English rider, riding clean*. They saw that professional cycling had a lot of out-dated practices and they went about identifying marginal gains and by focussing their efforts on creating the right environment for the cyclist. They then focus their activities to ensure that their key riders are in perfect condition for the Tour. Dimension Data’s objective is to promote cycling in Africa and they have a number of initiatives in place to help do that. They have riders from South Africa, Ethiopia and Eritrea amongst their ranks.
Le Tour lasts 3 weeks and it has its own set of strategies and tactics. There are 22 teams, each with 8 riders, but only 3 or 4 will have a realistic chance of winning the overall race. So others may have a strategy of winning a stage, or of being in as many breakaways as possible to gain their sponsor a lot of TV coverage. And you can then see the tactics they use to achieve those goals, by how they ride, where in the peloton they sit during the day, when they attack etc.
It is an incredible indulgence to sit for hours watching a bike race, but it entertains and informs me immensely. For someone who specialises in developing leadership it has dozens of elements that I can relate to.
Maybe I should see about finding a cycling team as a client, that would be amazing!
* Let’s not get into the subject of clean cycling and ethics … I wrote about it enough during my Masters