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learning from Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer

I was watching the Tour of California this morning in the company of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin, the best cycling commentators in the world.  They mentioned that Lance Armstrong analyzes his time-trial performances and makes changes to his training regime to ensure that he meets his season goals.  This got me thinking about the parallels between world-class competitive cycling and business.  The stage was the time-trial  to Solvang and was won by Levi in style with him crossing the line with three fingers extended, indicating his pursuit of his third win.  Go Levi!!  Here are my thoughts:

  • focus on the goals – set the goal(s) and stay focused on achieving the goal(s).  Successful sportsmen are great examples of this behavior and I find that this is a challenge for people in business.  Set the goal and evaluate your efforts to ensure that they are contributing to the goal.  Do not forget that it also takes sacrifices and it is not only what you do but also what you do not do.  For us in the business world, it mainly manifests itself with spending too much time on tasks that do not contribute to achieving the goals.  A good example is the water cooler talk.
  • preparation – During the post stage interview, Levi spoke about his experience of riding the stage in training and knowing how his body responds at the various points of the stage.  This is no different to us in the business because we also need to come to the table prepared.  For us it might mean doing our research, gathering data or something like socializing an idea to gather feedback from our colleagues.
  • confidence in your own abilities – you just have to believe in yourself!  Belief in yourself is key and it is contagious because everyone likes winners.  Just be careful of coming across as arrogant!
  • learning from feedback - top sportsmen are used to getting feedback from their coaches and management.  In the business world, I have seen this improve over the years with feedback from managers and peers now becoming more and more prevalent.  The key for us in the business world is to adjust our behavior based on that feedback.
  • self awareness – The ability to evaluate your behavior and performance objectively is key.  No matter what your chosen profession is, this step is required to get to the top.  It takes regular introspection and self evaluation, which for me is a less than pleasant experience.  A trick here is to do postmortems as part of the process, thereby depersonalizing the experience and making it less of an attack on our egos.
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