Whether positive or negative, moods are contagious. Our team has had a bit of a roller coaster ride this season, starting with a strong build of progressively better results through April, a devastating crash impacting the majority of the team in May, and then another breakthrough result this week at the Northstar Grandprix in MN. Through all this, I have found that my personal energy level feeds directly off that of the riders more that I would have thought. When they are motivated and getting results, I happily work 16 hour days with unlimited ambition to drive the program further. When they are going through the motions to ‘just get through the race’ I just as quickly feel like taking all my toys away and going home. This obviously works in both directions and can lead to viscous cycles – both the positive and negative.
As the leader of the team, I have to be very careful with how my mood is outwardly portrayed. Otherwise I may “leave a wake” and shake the riders’ confidence or motivation. Being a typical human, I freely admit that I am not always the best at this! To mitigate this as much as possible, I rely on an outside of network of mentors and friends not directly involved with the team. This allows me to vent frustrations and get an objective opinion without bringing the rest of the team into it. In my opinion, anyone who still says, “It’s lonely at the top” isn’t trying hard enough at this. (I should take a moment here to acknowledge my wife, Faith, who has been my #1 confidant for the last 9 years!)
I also spend time working with the more senior riders on the team at this. Whether they like it or not, the younger riders look up to them and cue off their response to difficult situations. If it is raining and the team leader for the day is super down and unmotivated we may lose the race before it even begins! Conversely, if that same rider is self-motivated and confident, the rest of the team will quickly rally around them. Likewise, our road captains, Chris and Fabio, can make my job a whole lot easier or harder. If they vocally disagree or question decisions I make, it will at best cause confusion and at worst undermine the other riders’ commitment to execute on a plan. To avoid this, I make an effort to meet with them in private before key events or stages to ensure we are on the same page before discussing the tactics in detail with the entire team. This gives us a chance to work out any disagreements behind closed doors and present a unified front to the whole team.
Good communication is a common theme through all of this. By openly talking through issues, we’ve been able to address the root cause of the bad days for both riders and staff alike. The good news is that success makes this all seem easy and we have had more than our fair share of it this season!