FranklinCovey Consultant Blogs | Todd Wangsgard | September, 2009
Two weeks ago I flew half way across the country with my bicycle (an entirely painful experience I may share later) to join my brother, brother-in-law, and close friend on a 105-mile ride across three mountain passes. I thoroughly enjoy cycling. For years my favorite version of cycling was mountain biking on single-track trails over stumps, rocks, and roots. I enjoy the climb every bit as much as the descent. It’s only after having purchased a decent road bike two years ago and making a recent foray into the world of triathlon that my interest has expanded to include road cycling. This particular ride would bring my summer total to well over 700 miles.
While I’ve always been somewhat intrigued by world-stage cycling events and personalities, such as the Tour de France and cycling phenom Lance Armstrong, I’ve never followed the sport very closely. In my naiveté, I would often question the need for all that expensive gear and technology or secretly mock the brash colors and tight-fitting clothing. I certainly had my doubts that riding in a pack or “peloton” really had any benefit. Does “drafting,” or riding closely behind another cyclist, really make that big of a difference? After all, until September 12, 2009, I had always ridden alone.
I’m ashamed to admit, after teaching the principles behind The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People for the past 13 years that I would have been so skeptical about the power of synergy in such a simple and powerful application.
As a group, our collective experience with drafting was mixed. My brother-in-law is a seasoned “roadie” (the affectionate name for road cyclists). He drafts almost once a week with other cyclists in his neighborhood. My good friend had tried it a few times and was eager to draft on a longer ride. My brother and I were first-timers to the art of riding somebody’s back tire. As we began our first and flattest 10-mile segment of the roughly 6-hour tour, we each took turns leading the group, with the point person falling back about every 3 to 4 minutes. The rider in front, or “pole” rider, puts out the same effort required to ride alone. As for everyone else…
What a rush!
I can honestly say, I have been missing out on a lot of cycling synergy. The experience was so real and yet so simple! By my rough, unscientific estimate, each individual expends around 20% less effort to ride as a group than he would while riding alone. The “pull” that each trailing rider experiences in the draft is real and measurable. Sadly, I had even taught the example of geese in flight to illustrate synergy – the same application of aerodynamics – without having tried it myself (riding, rather than flying, of course).
I firmly resolved, at the end of our ride, to not only look for other riders I might join back in the Midwest, but to also look for more creative ways of “drafting” with co-workers, friends, neighbors, and family. What mental barriers or incorrect/incomplete paradigms may be preventing me from synergizing in ways that are natural and simple?
Have you noticed that during crises, many short-term-minded leaders give in to fear rather than focus? Even the CEOs who divulged their thoughts and feelings in response to both 2008 surveys from The Conference Board allowed the financial turmoil of the times to take their eye off of some very important, long-term success factors, such as leadership development and succession.
In “Predictable Results in Unpredictable Times,” communications maven Dr. Breck England, in partnership with Dr. Stephen R. Covey and FranklinCovey CEO Bob Whitman, outlines in the simplest of terms how organizations must respond today in order to stay at the top of their game. Likening business behavior to the annual Tour de France cycling contest, Mr. England recognizes that we are currently “in the mountain stages” of the race. He points out that, “the Tour is actually a team effort, and losing teams lack the disciplined execution of the winners.”
The book centers on four pressing hazards in the current marketplace and their solutions:
- Failure to execute
- Crisis of trust
- Loss of focus
- Pervasive fear
If you or your organization suffers from any one or more of these conditions, chances are the answer lies in the research and solutions offered in this timely work.
Each chapter is followed by some extremely provocative questions about the reader’s current state. They include:
- What generally makes the difference between the first and second place teams in any competitive situation?
- Why is complete transparency so important to building trust? What is the opposite of transparency?
- In uncertain times, everyone is challenged to do more with less. You say you’re doing more with less – but more of what?
- What are the costs to people and organizations of a “psychological recession?”
As a perennial reader of the Harvard Business Review, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the glowing endorsement offered by Clayton M. Christensen, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard, who said, “This book gave me more insight about how to get the right things done in an organization than any other management book I have ever read.”
My only critique is that the book is quite lean (making for an easy, refreshing read, of course) and leaves the reader wanting – no, needing more details in order to truly follow through on the authors’ advice. However, I understand several more books like this one from FranklinCovey Publishing are on the docket. Plus, there are e-tools and videos for each chapter of this book available online at no charge!
I’ll be embarking on yet another 100-mile bicycle ride next Saturday with a team of friends and family. With this book fresh in mind, you can be sure we’ll be clear about the goal, our need for trust and focus, and the debilitating effects of fear. I predict we’ll finish strong!