Engaging Teams For A Win-Win

Team engagement–A win for all! As I have experienced racing as a competitive cyclist on a successful race team, I realized that my team tactics work well when applied in the business world also!

Being a part of a diverse race team, our director coached us on specific skills, drills, and how to work closely together. We each had certain talents in certain areas–hill climbing, road racing, criterium racing, and sprinting- to mention a few. We each knew who was best at a certain skill by observing and practicing over and over again.

And learning from our teammate was not a threat, but valued and cherished. They became our go to person.  For we knew each other so well, that it became an automatic focus in the midst of  an all out out, put it all down effort race. We also knew who was not as gifted in specific areas. This was not a judgment -but and area to grow in, learn from and encourage another. A clear reminder of  which talents to focus and how to move forward individually and as a team overall. In fact, we all worked hard on all of the skills, in order to improve–physically and mentally.

For me, not being the best hill climber, I travelled every spring to California to challenge, strengthen and grow my climbing muscles. I pushed myself on extreme altitudes day in and day out. I was tired and sore-but I knew that I would be able to transfer these growing tools to the summer races– with much  better outcomes.  This may show up in a race, in order to relieve my teammate, who is a stronger climber overall to take a break. I pulled for them, leaving more power and energy to get them to the finish line ahead of others and obtaining a win.

Each day-every morning, I woke early 6 days a week following my coaches plan that we created together. I was tired many days as I woke at 4:40 am, but I knew that doing the work at hand would pay off in the long run. I just has to put it all out there each day. Looking at the day at hand and what I had to do, instead of the end results, brought me to reach race day wins! My first year racing, at age 42, I was ranked 2nd out of 998 women nationally.

As for my passion in criterium racing, I just loved the feeling of wondering who will be at the start line-who can I meet for the first time?  How fast will they be and what are they good at? at the start line,  I welcomed new people, and greeted each racer as a friend. I knew that we all were anxious, but a smile and hello seemed to help others–as it did me. For we are all unique  people first. But when the bell went off, I knew it was time to push through the fear, breathing and focusing on the task right in front of me. As my heart felt as though it would burst, and my legs screamed at me, with no looking at the laps to go–I just focused on the very moment at hand. I kept pushing as hard as I could- with a natural smile. For this was my love.

When I had crazy thoughts of –“Why are you doing this? You are in pain. You are tired! Do you really like doing this, really”?  I quickly told myself -keep your head in the game! You have trained yourself for this. You are ready! Your coach said you are strong! Get going and put it down! And you really do love this! I had to decide where my focus my thoughts immediately and constantly. If I did not, I would fall off the lead pack. This has become my true source of power: What to dwell on and how quickly I can change my thinking to align with what I want.

As for my team, we discussed at the beginning of the day- how we were feeling (mentally and physically) and what role we felt most able to fulfill that day. We decided together, who we wanted to support getting on the podium, and how to make that happen. We observed other teams, and discussed possible tactics that they might employ and who to watch for. As we became experts in listening to what others were saying and how they felt, we knew how to go after a win as a team.

Big application: as a team, we kept in touch with each other all during the race. We looked for each other, we asked how they were feeling, and if they could hold to the original morning plan that we had already made. We made adjustments together and communicated, as we raced as fast as we could! The goal was to get a team member on the podium -a team win! Some days, I was the one on the podium, other days, I helped my teammate get there! We strived to be in sync with each other at all times. And we had joy! We said that the moment we are not enjoying this, it is time to leave. Life is for joy. Joy at work needs to be present for collaboration, creativity, productivity and a win to show up. Hard work with a sense of being, and purpose drives the mind to keep going and focus. The win will come!

Note: We could not change the other racers, or our own teammate. But we could do our best to be our best and help the other to be theirs. This is what made us a true team that was respected, followed and revered by others. And our director was always there, timing us, calling out where we were and growing us. He never yelled, as he was a calm man, who consistently was there for us. We had fun but worked hard. We kept striving to grow and connect-with ourself and our team. We celebrated successes, we had parties just because, and we cared for one another. In fact, racing teams became like family to me–even my biggest competitors. For I tried to love everyone as they as a valued creation. And I think they all sensed that. The value of putting people first is priceless.

As I now coach Leaders, CEOs, and Teams in the business world, I share these “tactics” with them. Sharing love, joy, understanding, collaboration, gratitude, communication, and putting forth your best each day brings the results for the team as well as the individual. We are really in this together –so let’s do this!