Pragmatic advice for coaches, managers & leaders

Leadership from the Peleton

I’ve set myself a decent physical challenge for the first part of the year, which is to get strong enough on my bike, to be able to complete a 126 mile, one-day, ride at the end of June. I was out for a long cycle recently as part of the training plan to get fit enough to complete this ride, with a bike-buddy. During this ride I realised just how much experience had stayed with me from a year and a half or so previously,  when I had been a member of a cycling club.

Slow but Sure

I had joined the local cycling club, affectionately and in my experience appropriately named, “The Approachables”. My first ride with them saw me roll up on a bike that probably didn’t cost as much as many of the rail-thin saddles I saw on display, as riders seemed to pour in from all the roads around the area. I was allocated the beginners group – which initially dented my pride a bit, but turned out to be very much the right choice.

The team leader of the group of 8-10 riders was called JT, who welcomed me with the widest smile – a sight that was very welcome indeed over the next few weeks. But beyond the limitless emotional intelligence shown by the members, the thing that struck me on my recent ride was how much really useful information I had gained whilst a member and how much road-sense and confidence I had retained, despite it being more than eighteen months since I had ridden with the club. What I reflected on was how those results had been brought about and how had they stayed with me for so long?

You’re up!

There is no doubt that there was a great culture into which I was welcomed. But more than that, from the very first ride, I was expected to take the lead within the group – albeit for spells of just up to 5 minutes at a time. But all “newbies” were expected to

  • take their regular turn at the front of the group
  • to protect other riders from the wind, allowing them to benefit from “drafting”
  • push a manageable pace that everyone could achieve when at the front
  • keep the group safe through selecting a suitable route through traffic
  • learn a group of calls and signals that helped the group and other road users stay safe

The ability and awareness that was built, taking my turn at the helm, from that very first ride, cemented some very important lessons for me, including the fact that I wasn’t riding just for my own safety but for all those around me; I was trusted enough to protect the group; whilst I was resting and benefiting from being shielded behind others, they were helping me out and it would be my turn soon to return the favour!

Give Leadership Opportunitites … early!

In a work setting I have had the pleasure of seeing leaders and managers create opportunities to allow their colleagues to grow by thrusting leadership opportunities upon them early:

  1. Rotate a Chair for your team meetings: be clear about expectations and what needs to be covered and the rules of engagement but let each team member have a turn at leading your weekly meetings
  2. Substitute for meetings: where you can, and where it helps a member of your team grow in an area that is helpful, send others in your place, when it is time for meetings that you can’t or shouldn’t make. I don’t mean dump the boring meetings onto your team, that’s just poor management. I do mean select relevant meetings or committees that attending in your place would both help build the profile and the knowledge/experience of your team. Prepare well, as above.
  3. Delegate key roles within the team or places on key projects as early in the development of your team members as you can. Especially where it will need a real stretch for them to succeed. Again, I’m not talking about setting them up to fail, but I am suggesting that you use your knowledge of the areas of development that your team players have declared are of interest and see what opportunities you can exploit to make them leaders, early.

You can almost literally see people walking taller when given the opportunity to lead. What tips and methods can you share about such opportunities that you have created in your business?

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Glenn Wallis is an experienced Executive Coach and Coach Developer who will help you improve your own results and those of your organisation. When you are ready to  raise your performance to the next level, find out more here.