Leadership Lessons from the Tour de France

I have been setting my alarm at 6:00 a.m. everyday since June 2nd to watch the Tour de France stage before I have to get going.  There are always leadership lessons if you pay careful attention.

barrier down
1 K barrier collapsed due to fan interference; photo Telegraph.co.uk

Sometimes the lessons are learned from others’ mistakes. The race organization ASO has much egg on its face for a series of logistical catastrophes. On Stage 7, the inflatable red 1 kilometer marker collapsed and caused a crash. When the race entered the Pyrenees it was clear that the ASO was not investing enough in safety as many spectators interfered in the race. Then on Mont Ventoux, the ASO moved the race short of the mountaintop because of severe winds but didn’t move the fan barriers. At 1 kilometer to the new finish the crowd closed in resulting in an accident, a broken bike and Chris Froome, the race leader (yellow jersey), dashing up the road.

Could this have been avoided? Absolutely. The ASO decided to move the finish line the day before, so they had time to move the barriers. The ASO excuses just grated on everyone’s nerves. It might have caused more angst, but the tragedy in Nice shifted the focus.

Teamwork really matters in cycling. When the race announcers Matt Keenan and Robbie McEwan talked about the Kiwi cyclist George Bennett, they listed “10 Requirements Besides Talent to be Successful.” I sat up and paid attention. They are: 1) be on time, 2) work ethic, 3) body language, 4) effort, 5) energy, 6) attitude, 7) passion, 8) doing a little extra, 9) be prepared, 10) coachable. This is a good list to use for choosing members of any kind of team.

Robbie McEwan added a 11th requirement: stay upright. He was referring to George Bennett’s run in with a spectator on Stage 9. For some crazy reason a spectator decided to cross the road as the cyclists came roaring around the corner. Bennett put out his arm and she fell backward out of the road. Asked about it later and the New Zealander said he “Sonny Billed” her. (Sonny Bill is a fantastic rugby player for the All Blacks.)

daily mail Sonny Bill
All Black Sonny Bill Williams; photo Irish Times

Preparedness brings luck. This has been illustrated again and again by Peter Sagan, Chris Froome, Tom Dumoulin, and Mark Cavendish. Their preparedness has enabled them to take chances and advantage of situations resulting in stage wins and more.

Almost every year I am reminded of this lesson: Never give up! This year on Stage 4, the race commissioners had to review a photo finish before deciding that Marcel Kittel edged out Bryan Coquard by mere millimeters.

Irish times photo finish
Stage 4 Photo Finish; photo Daily Mail

Begin Again, Again

The last post I wrote was so hopeful. I really thought I would be able to jump start some better habits with a blitz and a better understanding of my own story around habits. I went for a bike ride and I felt great, so I went for a slightly longer one two days later. Later that same day I felt like I had the flu–my body ached in my joints and lower back. My fuzzy thinking also came back with a vengeance. I felt betrayed by my body.

slack_imgs.com_670Then the world went nuts: two police shootings and a sniper killing police. I knew my resilience was low when I over reacted while watching the Stage 12 of the Tour de France. The ASO (Tour de France organizer) did not move the barriers lower on the slopes of Mt Ventoux when they shortened the race and, not surprisingly, spectators interfered in the race and caused a crash. I stewed about it all day. Then tragedy struck Nice and I really had something to be upset about.

All these days I continued to experience pain, long after my more vigorous bike ride. I continued to ride my cruiser bike around town. But now even long walks or a lot of standing leaves my back so stiff I cannot sleep comfortably. I finally broke down and make a doctor’s appointment. I had low expectations though, for sometime now every symptom I have is attributed to menopause, followed by “there’s no treatment”.

I had two days before my doctor’s appointment and no pain relief. I began imagining all kinds of crazy, life threatening circumstances. Fortunately my Kaiser doctor had reviewed my chart before our appointment and when I told her what I was experiencing, she said “menopause can reactivate your fibromyalgia.” And just making sense of what was going on made all the difference. She gave me some ideas of things I could do to manage the pain, continue to exercise and be able to manage the symptoms.

Today I begin again, again. With less pressure and with renewed energy. With all the crazy stuff happening in the USA and the world, I want to use this space to emanate light in the darkness.