I never really understood the mentality of professional cycle racing until I watched a film called Chasing Legends a few years ago. The film charted the campaign of a team in the Tour de France. This team had Mark Cavendish as its “leader” and everything was geared around him winning. Team mates would exhaust themselves just to ensure that the victory came to Cavendish, allowing him to slipstream and save energy until the last possible moment. The team owners knew that they wouldn’t win the overall victory but to have Cavendish win lots of stages would be great publicity (it was) and would hopefully keep the team funded (it didn’t). In the end, the team broke up and Cavendish moved to be with Sky.
There was a lot of debate whether joining a team which was not solely geared around him would be a success for him or indeed Sky. It seems incredible bearing in mind Cavendish’s status (current World Champion) that he would choose to move to a team where he would be second fiddle to Bradley Wiggins and the aim of getting an overall victory. People scoffed that Cavendish’s ego would be too big for that. It was only at the Giro d’Italia that people started to wonder if it could work. This picture told it’s own story. Here was the World Champion prepared to act as a “domestique” and shuttle water and food up to other team riders.
Fast forward to the Tour de France. Cavendish won the Sprinters Jersey last year but has publicly avowed that he couldn’t retain it with his desire to win Olympic Gold as his season’s priority. The Sky team is set up to ensure the best chance of Wiggin’s overall victory – to win the iconic Maillot Jaune (Yellow Jersey). So why even take Cavendish along? He won’t be able to ride in support of Wiggins in the mountain stages and the team can’t help Cavendish win stages. Except yesterday this happened….
It’s interesting to note that the riders either side of Cavendish are both ex-team mates who left his old team to join a team geared around them. They both benefited from being shielded by their new colleagues whereas Cavendish told his Sky colleagues to keep themselves safe in the last few km and he would go it alone. He knew that the team objective (Wiggins) was more important in the grand scheme than his win.
I know this seems a curious subject for a coaching / HR blog post but lets look at it again.
- World beating employee joins new organisation and doesn’t expect it to revolve solely around him.
- Management find a way to accommodate multiple excellent team members with competing priorities.
- New employee works for good of other members in the team in order to win trust and respect
- New employee finds a way to achieve his objective whilst not harming rest of organisation and its aims.
Could your organisation absorb someone so obviously gifted and get them to put ego aside and join the team effort?
More prosaically, is your team vision compelling enough to allow individuals to flourish and display their skills amongst the main effort? You might already have someone ready to step up………….