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I love exploring the lessons that can be taken from the world of elite sport and applied to business. I’ve spent my entire life studying elite performers in different arenas and experimenting on myself and my business, to see what works and what doesn’t.
The benefit for my clients is that I learn the lessons, so they don’t have to. They get to immediately apply the stuff that’s going to move the dial for them and avoid the stuff that’s merely a fad.
Having just ridden all 3,400km of the 2019 Tour de France route, in the same number of days as the professionals, I now have a stack of fresh insights and performance hacks in my toolkit.
One of the key things riding the Tour de France taught me is how to destroy the performance of your team. And just how easily it can be done.
If you’re not a cyclist, let me give you a little background.
When you’re riding a bike, you can reduce the effort you expend by 25-50% by simply tucking in behind another rider, a technique known as drafting. So, to conserve energy when riding in a group, cyclists will ride in a line and each spends a few minutes at the front. Once their turn is done, they peel off and join the back of the line where they get a ‘rest’ before it’s their turn on the front again.
Picture the scene…
It was the third day of the Tour de France and I was riding with a group of five or six other blokes who I’d only known for a few days. We were head down, riding into the wind and taking turns on the front.
Gradually the pace at which we were riding started to creep up. I quickly realised that if we maintained this pace I’d struggle to get through the day, let alone the next 20 days.
I knew with absolute certainty that continuing in this way would destroy my long-term performance.
But I didn’t say anything to the group.
I didn’t speak up because my ego got in the way. I didn’t want to be seen as the “weak one” who said:
“Hang on guys, can we ease off just a little bit as I don’t think we can sustain this pace all day.”
So, we cracked on for another 20 minutes and the pace crept up a touch more.
During that period, I was having an intense internal dialogue. My ego said:
“Keep quiet Ben, don’t let yourself be seen as the weak link”, whilst the rational part of my brain and the performance coach inside me knew that I had to say something.
Eventually, the power of logic and vulnerability won the day. Because vulnerability truly is the antidote to the ego as well as being a powerful performance enabler.
But the truly remarkable thing was that as soon as I said: “Hang on guys, does anyone mind if we slow down by just 1 or 2km/h”, three other people immediately said: “Thank God for that…I was really struggling.”
But nobody called it.
Because nobody wanted to be vulnerable. Because their ego got in the way.
So, you see, the ego is the number one performance killer.
But what about you and your team?
How often do the ego and a fear of appearing vulnerable impede the performance of your team and organisation?
How often do people in your team go along with a decision that they know is wrong, damaging or even immoral because they don’t want to be the one to speak up?
I suspect it’s more often than you’d like to admit.
If you’d like to find out about how I can work with you and your team to take your performance to the next level, I’d love to hear from you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s start the conversation.