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Vive Le Tour

As the Tour de France grinds its way through the mountains in the second week we were considering it as a metaphor for life, for business life and for our careers. Watching these elite athletes perform at optimum levels through the toughest test in the cycling calendar is impressive to say the least. Clearly the sport has suffered its fair share of bad publicity over the years but nevertheless it is an impressive spectacle to behold.

So what do we mean by a metaphor for our business life and careers? Well firstly there is the distance – the teams are playing a long game. Sure people want to win stages but in the general classification it’s all about who stands on the podium in Paris on the last day. Our careers span years and so playing the long game is key.

To win at the long game requires a good strategy – it requires detailed planning and it requires effective execution. Thinking in this way, the parallels with our business lives come into focus.

The race terrain is ever changing – long flat sections where tedium is the biggest issue. Fast descents provide a thrill but requires technical ability, precision and bravery. And then there are the uphill sections – gentle climbs all the way up to grades which are hard enough to walk up let alone cycle up when you’ve already cycled in excess of 100 KMs already in the stage. Life and our careers can often be the same way – sometimes it is downhill and moving fast and other times it appears that we have been grinding uphill forever with the summit always just out of sight.

The hills require conditioning, stamina, lungs the size of a mini and mental fortitude. So do our lives – business and personal. If we are not prepared with the knowledge, skills and abilities and if our mental toughness is not there then we will find the journey a struggle.

But the hills also need the team and the crowd for support and encouragement. We are no different – we need a good support cast around us to pick us up when we falter and to encourage us to achieve our potential. It also requires a vision and clear purpose so that each rider can get themselves up and over the summit relatively unscathed. We too need to envisage a future state and we need to have clear purpose for our lives and careers. Why do we get up in the morning and what is it that we want to achieve?
There is the weight of expectation resting on the cyclist’s shoulders. Expectations of the team, the sponsors and in some cases a whole country… We too have expectations – of ourselves, of our partners, family, friends and the organization and leaders that we work with and for.

On the negative side there are also the few that line the roads to harangue previous champions and to wish them ill – they are desperate to see them fail and they make these feelings known in no uncertain terms. In life that sometimes exists for us too. The lifespan of a superstar is often short lived with others keen to see them brought low rather than sharing and encouraging their success.

Finally each team has a leader and like our desire to be great leaders, these cycle team leaders cannot achieve anything on their own. They need the team around them to support and execute alongside them. They need to inspire loyalty from those around them and ultimately they need to be the face of the team’s success but generous with their acknowledgement of others.

So as you watch the ongoing Tour take some time to reflect on your own journey and perhaps how you might get that next stage win……

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