Race The World is a coast to coast cycling race from LA to Miami. Starting on 1st November 2015, two teams covered thousands of kilometres over 14 days and travelling through seven states. A journey unfolded which lay witness to the transformation of sixteen individuals into close-knit, high performing teams.
We asked Sophie Radcliffe, one of the two team captains and a K2 ambassador, to share her observations about what it was like to create and lead a team to deliver an exceptional performance in a unique and demanding race.
As humans, we’ve long been learning from nature. After all, we’re part of it – and in modern times, some of our best inventions have come from learning how things work in nature. Velcro, for example, was inspired from sticky burrs.
The latest BBC, David Attenborough wildlife programme The Hunt, is a wonderful and compelling insight into nature and the animal kingdom – and another opportunity to learn from nature. One striking thing that we learn early on in the series is that most hunts aren’t successful. For leopards, for example, 6 out of 7 hunts fail. So, in the face of such failure, how do leopards not only seem to stay motivated and focused, but learn to get better? Here’s our thoughts…
Leopards (and their other animal friends) are brilliant at watching, learning and applying their learning. Early success rates of young leopards are low, but through observing, practicing and applying their learning, they get better over time. At the other end of their lifespan when they’re no longer as physically capable, they apply all their learning so they still get results. They’re at their brilliant best the older they get.
John Wooden, the famous – and most successful ever – basketball coach once said:
“the true test of a person’s character is what they do when no one is watching.”
Having been watching the England Cricket team play their latest test series in front of very small crowds in the UAE, we started thinking about this… and we came to the conclusion that like lots of quotes like this, it’s both true and untrue!
Our reality, as performance experts, is that “the true test of a person’s character comes when they have to be their brilliant best, regardless of how many people are watching.”
Most businesses and endeavours need high performing teams but very few are serious about making that happen. Businesses often talk about team building more than team performance. And team building is often about raft building or getting drunk together, which is most useful if you’re stranded on a desert island with a cargo of beer.
Teams who want to achieve their goals and make the most of their collective talent take a different approach. Just like the Race the World teams (Team Garin and Team Deman) did in preparing for the first leg of the first ever round the world supported team cycling event that kicked off this week. They opted to spend time in getting some simple answers to some straightforward questions rather than building rockets or rafts.
The world is full of people doing extraordinary things. And there’s something that fascinates us about people who are taking on seemingly impossible challenges, pushing themselves to the limit or making brave life choices. We’re envious, we’re inspired or we’re simply transported to a different place in our imagination. And many of us, at one point or another, will have wished we were the “type of person” that might allow us to do what we dream of doing, but don’t.
Pushing the boundaries
On 1st November, 16 ordinary people will be embarking on an extraordinary and challenging journey. They’re taking part in the first ever supported round the world team cycling race, and over the next few weeks will be riding across the US on the first leg of the race. They’re amateur cyclists – folk like you and me, without any prior experience of doing hardcore endurance events.
So, in the third of our Road to Rio series, we’re talking about the importance of using and ignoring goals when you’re in the thick of performance. We write a lot about goals and the way they’re used and abused in different environments. This article though is focused fully on the reality of the role of goals for performance. Whether they’re formally agreed goals, must-do goals, personal goals, fleeting goals, long-standing goals or life-changing goals, they all have a role to play in bringing pressure, alleviating pressure and contributing to winning performances along the road to success.
If you’re returning to work after a summer break and see only a hard slog through long days and dark nights to Christmas, when you collapse and fall ill, before another long slog through January to Easter, then is that thinking helping? Perhaps instead you should think like an athlete at work?
Plan for what’s ahead
A sports team or individual will look at their schedule of competitions or events over a coming season (or four year cycle in the case of an Olympics) and then plan their training periods, their competition time and their rest & recovery time. All the top individuals and teams will do this or have someone doing it for them.
In just under a year’s time, our finest sports men and women will be entering the cauldron of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio. For most of them, this will be the biggest challenge of their careers, if not their lives. Many of them will be competing at their first Games. For some, it will be their only Games – their one and only chance to shine. In the words of Eminem, they have “one chance, one opportunity”. They not only have to deliver an exceptional performance when it matters most, but they have to deliver it in a unique and challenging environment which some have no experience of. One chance, one opportunity, challenging circumstances. No pressure there then.
In case you weren’t aware, on Saturday England regained cricket’s Ashes from the old enemy Australia. A widely held view is that they exploited one important element much better that their opposition.
The Ashes competition alternates between being played in Australia and England and this summer it is England’s turn to host. The two countries have different climates, different pitches and are different to play in.
England won, in part, through home advantage and a combination of knowing the conditions and, crucially, exploiting them.
In competitive environments learning to deal with winning and losing is part of the territory.
Last Wednesday morning, just before the start of the 3rd Ashes test, we posted a blog about what England would have been doing to be ready to bounce back from the Lords test debacle http://planetk2.com/blog/2015/07/always-on-the-brink/. We’re pleased to report that, purely to our recommendations England’s response was outstanding and they hammered Australia to take a 2-1 lead in the series. So how do we believe both teams might now get ready for their next game this coming Thursday? England after a win and Australia after a heavy loss.