Scott’s Thoughts: The Human Stuff

“There are a handful of things that don’t change. You have to be able to climb, power to weight is important, time trialling, aerodynamics for time trials, performing in heat and altitude. It’s great to look for details and marginal gains but not at the expense of core things. All the human stuff has climbed up my priority list. The older and more experienced I get the more I appreciate that the getting the best out of people is what makes a difference.”

-Tim Kerrison, Professional British cycling coach

Cycling team.Anyone who knows me knows I love professional cycling. Within the sport of cycling I believe you can find the keys to most of life’s challenges. It’s a sport rich with metaphors for what it takes to compete, succeed, and confront life honestly. Cycling contains complex and at times contradictory demands. There is enormous pressure on personal performance, but there are just as often times where total self-effacement for the team’s victory is essential.

Cycling is also a sport where the smallest tweaks and yield tremendous aggregate results. (James Clear tells a compelling story about this in his article about all of the tiny hacks the British cycling team employed to win races.) And while dialing in equipment and optimizing training can create impressive victories, I find Tim Kerrison’s focus on “the human stuff” the most compelling.

In business, like in cycling, certain fundamentals don’t change. You have to work tirelessly on these fundamentals for a team to succeed. But in my experience, it’s not knowledge of the fundamentals which hold teams back. I’ve come to believe that almost all problems in business begin and end with people. If you don’t take a close look at who your people are at their core, and what you’re asking them to do, you will consistently miss the mark.

Here are some questions you can use to analyze individuals your team:

  1. Is this person motivated by what motivates me? (If not, what motivates them?)
  2. Is this person in the right role?
  3. Am I helping this person play to their strengths, rather than forcing them to compensate for their weaknesses?
  4. Is this person aligned with our team goals?
  5. Even if this person performs well, is there somewhere else they could perform above and beyond?
  6. What additional support could I offer this team member?
  7. Have I provided the sort of training this team member needs?
  8. Do I have leaders in leadership roles?
  9. Have I asked my team about my own blindspots?

A team must believe they have the ability to succeed. Don’t forget to spend the time required to get “the human stuff” right.

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