Have you ever watched bicycle road racing? It’s an amazing sport to watch. I find it intriguing whether I’m watching it on the screen or in person. The whirring spokes, turning cranks and chains go by in a blur as cow bells frantically ring in the background. The riders, their eyes focused on the road ahead, breathing in a staccato cadence that’s similar to a steam train. They stand on the pedals to generate power on the uphills and sit low and sleek to be aerodynamic on the downhills.
Bicycle Racing is NOT like the bicycle riding of us mere mortals. Riders often belong to, and race with, a team. The team will train together as they race together. There’s a strategy and philosophy in their training, and each rider does better by racing with the team. The lead rider sets the pace and steers the path. The rest of the team is right behind them, “drafting” the lead rider. The lead rider is working far harder than the rest of the team behind them. The lead rider is breaking the headwind and focuses all of their attention to the road for obstacles, the best line to ride and the road’s grade ahead. The riders behind the leader have a far different experience. The riders behind the lead rider travel at the same speed as the lead but with far less effort, sweeping into the low pressure turbulence that’s created behind the lead rider. They only need focus on the rider ahead of them, trusting that the leader is watching road grade, conditions and path.
But the lead rider can only do this so long before becoming both physically and mentally exhausted. And this is why racing as a team has its advantages. When racing with a team the lead rider position will rotate to allow each of the riders to share the load. The team can rider far further, far faster employing this technique. Interestingly, when racing solo, competing riders will use the same strategy cooperatively, sharing the lead with one or a few riders. By sharing the lead and drafting each other, they are able to get ahead of the rest of the pack of riders.
And we face the same challenges in our businesses. We get so used to leading, making all the decisions, guiding the path. We keep our eyes on the road, looking for obstacles, anticipating the grade, setting the pace and working the hardest so our organization can draft behind us. And it’s exhausting, isolating and can seem like an endless uphill trudge. Empowering another member of your team to take some leadership responsibility has HUGE benefits both to the organization and the people you empower to lead. This can be true for small business through the use of virtual assistants and others.
It benefits the organization because you will be able to recharge your batteries, focussing your attention on other aspects of the business that cannot be delegated. It will benefit the people you empower to bring their particular leadership skills to the forefront and build that muscle. They are often flattered, excited and nervous to take the role. And incredibly appreciative. They will take away from a leadership experience more self-knowledge, appreciation for the work you do on a daily basis and perhaps a willingness to take on more roles within the organization.
The balance between being lead rider and drafting your team is an art not a science. When you are in the rhythm, the sound of whirring spokes is like music! Try it out today!