So I recently shared a text exchange to my wife. It was between me and some of my riders, celebrating the fact our team received a last minute invite to one of the bigger Pro races on the national racing calendar. We were both surprised by the high we got by reading all the virtual high-fives.
I have attended plenty of management training in my career and have always been encouraged to make an effort to find and celebrate the ‘victories’ in business. However, the culture in most of corporate America makes this come across as forced in my experience. We keep our emotion in check at the risk of not being ‘professional’ and are told to push for more instead of accepting the status quo. The result being that I have had exceptionally talented peers confide that they didn’t know if their boss was satisfied with their work.
One of things that makes sport beautiful to me is that success is far more black and white, and the feedback is instantaneous. In business, if I report a 25% EBITDA to my board for a quarter, they will almost invariably tell me to target 30% next time. If I win a race, then I am the best that day – period. (I have yet to have a team manager tell me I could do better than first place, but perhaps that is because I haven’t met a team manager with an MBA yet.) On a well-run sports team, that instantaneous feedback makes for a much more open culture of communication.
On Horizon Organic/Einstein Bros, we meet before each race to discuss tactics and the plan for the day. We then meet again that evening to go over what went well, and where we could do better. Hugs and high-fives are given when we win, and constructive criticism is given when mistakes are made. That isn’t limited to the riders, as I have made it clear it needs to extend to management as well. If I do something well (like pull a bunch of strings to get us in a big race) then they all make an effort to tell me I did well. If I were to run out of water bottles in the team car, then I am sure I would get feedback to not let that happen again!
At the level we compete at, everyone is super talented and well-prepared. Mental confidence often makes the difference between winning and losing, and part of my job is to give my riders that confidence to ride at the front and make the race. The fact they give it back to me, makes it all the more fun and our team that much stronger. Whether you are managing a sports team, a small business, or a public company, we could all strive to do better with this.
And to the riders and staff of Horizon Organic/Einstein Bros, “Great job guys!”