Can Your Team Ride With Their Heads Down?

July 18th, 2014 | Posted in Leadership | Comments Off on Can Your Team Ride With Their Heads Down?


It’s hard to believe, but in 2014 we have already experienced the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, the World Cup, and Wimbledon.  And now we’re in the middle of the Tour de France.  Life doesn’t get much better.  As a leadership coach, I find that these events provide great opportunities for mining best practices about achieving and sustaining peak performance.

Today I was watching Stage 13 of the Tour de France, and the commentators said that the Giant Shimano team communicates best when their heads are down.  I have to admit that, at first, that seemed counter-intuitive.  How can the team communicate well when they’re riding so intently that they’re not communicating at all?

But on further reflection, it makes great sense.  When the team is effectively executing strategy, they don’t need to talk to one another – or to their coach.  They know what to do, and they’re doing it.  It’s when the team starts talking that you know there’s disorganization and problems in the ranks.

Outstanding leaders and coaches know that execution is only possible if they regularly:

  1. Set clear expectations.
  2. Provide necessary resources, information, and training.
  3. Assess progress and identify opportunities for improvement.
  4. Take appropriate coaching action.
  5. Follow up and evaluate. (You have to inspect what you expect, because you can only expect what you actually inspect.)

If you make these actions a daily discipline, then during the race, when performance is critical, you can feel comfortable encouraging your team to ride with their heads down.  You don’t need to be yelling into their ears, riding along side them, telling them what to do and when.  If you have led with these five steps then your voice is already in their heads.

When leaders get out of the way, team members find their own pace and rhythm, are engaged, innovative, and committed to doing what they need to do to win.

What are you doing to enable your team to ride with their heads down?

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