Six Leadership Lessons From Being Left On the Road

It was probably dumb but on Sunday night before Memorial Day I committed to going on a bike ride with my neighbor…58 miles. I thought I could make the mileage, but I was concerned that I couldn’t keep up with the speed of the group. When there was going to be only three riders I thought I could keep up. But when ten showed up at the starting point I knew I was in trouble, and I was right. After 15 miles it was obvious that the group was traveling about three mph faster than I could sustain; therefore I was dropped. I did go on to do another 30 miles by myself and during those miles I was reminded a few things about leading a team and bringing on a new team member.

1. Finding people who want to be on your team is the easy part.
I wanted to ride with these guys.
There are always people that want the job but…
2. Evaluating the team member’s skills against the pace and goal of the team is crucial.
I should have asked before the ride what speed the team was going to travel.
I should have asked if there were going to be stops.
Before I bring a team member on to my team, I need to lay out expectations of the position and clearly define goals. I also need to make sure that the person possesses the right skills for the position he or she is being placed into.
3. Orienting a new team member to the processes is imperative
If I had been given a few instructions about the ride before it began, I might have had a better chance of keeping up.
I often believe that organizations do a great job through the interview process of finding what they believe is the right person for the job. Where we fail often is putting them in the job and leaving them alone. I believe it is imperative that an orientation process is set in motion that is very intense for three months and continues for at least one year on a more scaled-back schedule.
4. If you want the new team member to succeed you might need to slow down for a brief period so that everyone can realize success. It is hard to jump on board a moving train.
I believe that if the group of riders had started out at a pace I was comfortable with, I could have become accustomed to the process and even kept up with them as they increased speed.
If I believe in the person I have invited to be a part of my team then I want them to succeed. As a leader I
5. Don’t let the new team member observe from the outside but put them in the middle of the action.
I was stuck at the back of the group, the peloton. I don’t believe that it was intentional on the part of the group, but for me it seemed safe. A place where I could observe without truly engaging the team.
As a leader I need to make sure that a new team member has every chance to be a part of the team from the moment he arrives and begins his responsibilities. Therefore I need to make sure that the whole team goes out of their way to engage the new member. Some simple things to ensure they are in the middle of things are: encourage team members to engage in conversations with the new member, see to it that the new member is invited to lunch as the team heads out. As a leader you need to stop by the new member’s desk often to see how they are doing.
6. When you lay out the plan and slow down to get the team member on board but they still can’t keep up, then it is okay to cut them loose for the sake of the team.
I really don’t know if the group of riders had done all the things I suggested if I would have still been able to keep up. If that was the case then they did the right thing by moving on down the road without me.
If you bring a new team member onto your team and you work hard at the interview and orientation process but still find the new team member struggling to keep up, then it is probably okay to let them go. If the investment to keep them up to speed with the group becomes a negative influence on the whole team and slows down progress for the sake of the team, let them go.

Being left out on the road was my choice. If they will let me I am going to try another ride with this group of guys. The next time however I will not be caught at the back of the peloton because riding in the middle of the group expends less energy and I will learn more about the team.