Six Leadership Lessons From Being Left On the Road
It was probably dumb but on Sunday night, before a Monday holiday, I committed to going on a bike ride with my neighbor…58 miles. I knew I could make the mileage, but I was concerned that I couldn’t keep up with the speed of the group.
When the first three riders arrived, I thought, I could keep up. But when another ten showed up at I knew I was in trouble. I was right. After 15 miles it was obvious 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 discovered 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 breaks.
Before I bring a person on to my team, I need to lay out expectations of the position and clearly define goals. I also need to make sure that they possess the right skills for the position where he or she is being placed.
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.
My observations are that most organizations do a great job, through the interview process, of finding the right person for the job. Where we fail is putting them to work and leaving them alone. The orientation, onboarding process is just as important or more so than the interview.
4. If you want the new team member to succeed you might need to slow down. It is hard to jump on board a fast-moving train.
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. We might need to slow down for a short time.
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. However, I couldn't keep up.
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, the existing team needs to go 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 with team members. As leaders, we need to personally engage the new team member.
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 had been 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. When the investment to keep them up to speed becomes a negative influence on the team and slows down progress its okay to 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. Riding in the middle of the group uses less energy and I will learn more about the team.