“We rise by lifting others.” —Robert Ingersoll
July is always my favorite time of year. In my opinion, the world’s greatest sporting event takes place, the Tour De France. For those of you unfamiliar or uninterested in cycling, let me share a few headlines with you: 1) The race has 21 stages over a 3 week period (2 rest days). 2) In total, the riders will cover approximately 2,100 miles. 3) Daily stages take 3.5 - 6 hours to complete. 4) Each world-class team has 9 riders. 5) 198 riders total. 6) The rider with the lowest time across all stages combined wins the overall race!
The most exciting part of the race is that only 1-2 riders on each team actually have a chance to win. Everyone else is expected to be a domestique. What does that mean? Well, domestiques have two main responsibilities: 1) Ride on the front of the group, which shields the leader from the brutal winds that can occur in the French countryside. 2) Drop to the back of the pack to meet the team car and pick up provisions such as water and food.
I will contend that you will find no other demonstration in any other sport of teammates that put it all on the line without any expectation of winning a stage or the overall race.
Communication and clarity has to be at its finest; no one can act selfishly and; everyone must be moving at the same pace.
All of these facts quickly cause me to think about Patrick Lencioni. He has authored books like The Advantage, Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and Death by Meeting. I believe he is an important thought leader of our generation who reminds us that to be successful, companies have to be SMART and HEALTHY. SMART includes finance, marketing, strategy, IT, etc. HEALTHY includes minimal politics, minimal confusion, high morale, high productivity and low turnover. In all his years as a corporate executive and strategist, as well as his management consulting work, he’s stated that companies rarely fail because they aren’t SMART enough. Therefore, Pat has dedicated his life mission to helping organizations build healthy, cohesive teams.
I think the same is true of Change Leadership. For technology change to be successful, it has to be SMART and HEALTHY. SMART includes disciplines like comprehensive solution selection or design, strong project management, solid quality assurance, and consistent IT operations and support. HEALTHY is all the people-related groundwork that needs to be done to ensure end-users are prepared, nurtured, and supported during a major technology change. In all my experiences, the epic failures didn’t come from projects that weren’t SMART enough.
If you work in IT, it is likely that you support and push more change than most anyone else in the organization. Many times, you do that for an Executive Sponsor, who you don’t even report to. However, like the great sport of cycling, you work as a domestique, and you block the winds of change for a team that is greatly impacted by new technology. And just like cycling, communication and clarity has to be at its finest; no one can act selfishly; and everyone must be moving at the same pace. All of these things, you impact.
The beginning of each week is a good time to take a deep breath, remember the job at hand, and lean in to a current set of goals. As you start this week, are you thinking about your tasks as a domestique? Are you gritting your teeth and sacrificing your own glory to help elevate your teammates? Are you willing to slow or pick-up the pace based on the needs of others?