In Pursuit of Performance

Reading about Geraint Thomas’s victory in the Tour de France reminded me of the 4 Ps of excellence: passion, perseverance, practice and positive conditions.  It also reminded me that what makes a high performing team is “the disciplined pursuit of performance” (Katzenbach and Smith, The Wisdom of Teams).

All of these are evident in Geraint Thomas’s journey from taking up cycling as a youngster, through to winning the Tour himself last weekend.  What can leaders and teams learn from his story?

Passion:  you need to have a vision of what you want to achieve and a real desire to achieve it.  Geraint Thomas talks about having had a lifelong ambition to win the Tour de France – “I got into cycling because of this race……I remember running home from school to be a part of it” – and this passion inspired his efforts over the years.

  • As a leader, do you have a vision of what you want to achieve and how do you communicate your passion to your team?

Perseverance: you need to have perseverance to overcome setbacks and keep going at times when success looks unlikely.  Geraint Thomas persevered despite numerous accidents and injuries and maintained a single-minded commitment to his goal.

  • As a leader, how do you deal with difficulties and setbacks and how do you help your team deal with them?

Practice: nobody gets good at anything without practice.  For Geraint Thomas, this means not only practice at cycling in different conditions and situations, but also the physical, mental and emotional training to deal with the enormous drains on his body and mind.  Physically, before the race, he got his weight down to the optimum 67kg.  Mentally, he kept a single-minded focus on each stage of the Tour as it happened and did not allow any distractions “I stayed off Twitter for most of the Tour”.  Emotionally, he found techniques to survive the abuse from the French fans.

  • As a leader, how do you take care of your own physical, mental and emotional energy and that of your team members?

Positive conditions: having support around you, whatever that might be, is important.  Geraint Thomas benefited from being part of Team Sky with their focus on “the disciplined pursuit of performance” – he could not have won the Tour without them.  And there is often a little bit of luck in success, provided the conditions are right – Thomas managed to avoid a couple of collisions, which could have destroyed his hopes of winning.

  • As a leader, what can you do to create the positive conditions that will enable you and your team achieve excellence?