In a game of inches, a game of seconds, it’s easy for us to talk about the winning plays in any business or sporting team. There are mountains of ways that the sporting world and corporate world cross paths, each offering insights for each other to help coach their team to get over the line to success. But as both have similarities in success, they also have similarities in methods and programs that culture success.
Perhaps one of the most fundamental yet crucial outputs for the team leader in a Grand Tour Road Race is to position the right people at the right time for what’s to come. Shifting from serving the team with their nutrition to chief tactician, Hayman’s next role was to “lead from the front”.
Let’s get the cycling definition of this clear for you, “Leading from the front” is easier said than done in a bike race. Apart from gravity and perhaps an odd aggressive dog (or car driver!) here and there, air resistance is the leading issue cyclists face when travelling at speed — at least on a flat road, at low altitude, and with little wind. Even on a perfectly calm day, a cyclist can’t avoid the effects of aerodynamics — especially when travelling fast. So cyclists will also increase their aerodynamic drag when they double their speed. Cycling incorporates the drafting method to counter this phenomenon, where someone will “lead from the front” to buffer the rest of the team. Hayman would ensure he gets in front of the turbulence the team would face so that the specialists in the team would have the platform and energy to do their best.
Haymans sacrifice and efforts here mirror what good leadership is for the modern workplace. The team at Executive Central’s programs for Leadership tackle the very same issues that Hayman is beating the pavement with. Leadership in today’s complex, ambiguous and ever-changing context requires trust. Research tells us that the most influential leaders, authentic leaders, have a solid foundation of values and purpose that elicits this trust. These are leaders who know who they are and what they stand for. Executive Central’s highly interactive and thoughtful workshop helps participants consider themselves through a variety of lenses to hone their authentic and resilient leadership self. We examine pivotal turning points, how strengths were deployed at these points and what this means for each participant as a leader today; We explore self-regulation, managing our mind and our behaviour, so participants are well prepared to lead others with all the challenges of the current and future public sector environment. These skills are specifically crucial for strategic thinking and innovation.
Now more than ever, the current business environment is marked by new opportunities, emerging challenges, disruption, and uncertainty. This complexity requires a new leadership framework and leaders equipped with the tools and approaches necessary to grow others and support their development. It is paramount to fit the puzzle of your team’s talents into the right situation as it arises, as Hayman’s example of leadership and planning proves.
It’s not just that Hayman was older but that he had the experience to help foster growth. Hayman was perhaps one of the most experienced people on the team. In some cases, he had more than 3 x as many years as a professional under his belt as some of his “young guns”. However, he didn’t see this as an opportunity to take control, assert authority, put himself ahead of others, or think for a moment that because he had the most experience, he should be supported by everyone else. In fact, the ONLY time Hayman was successful was when his teammates were successful. And success for your team is the result that Executive Central wants its participants to achieve through our programs.
We see a growing trend for appointing executive coaches within organisations or leaders who demonstrate a coaching-based approach to their leadership. Internal coaching champions appreciate the need for proven tools and techniques and a high level of skill so that they can build confidence and credibility amongst their colleagues. We partner with you through our Coaching Skills for Leaders Program to ensure a successful internal leadership program, using a blend of online ready-made yet tailorable digital workbooks (e-zines), workshops, coaching and mentoring, tested models and processes, and an ongoing collegiate approach to the art of coaching. The Coaching Skills for Leaders Program provides the tools and benefits of Executive Central’s prior experience to help build your leaders and their individual effectiveness.
As chief in charge of morale and motivation, Hayman needed to watch each team member closely to ensure they were “in a good place” mentally. A good leader knows tactics are not enough, and the mental well-being of your fellow teammates and workmates must be addressed. Encouraging, being emotionally aware and cognisant of the team’s state was critical.
The impact of mental health issues on organisational productivity, performance and safety is well established, with a solid body of academic studies on the subject, as surveyed by Harvard University. The 2014 PWC creating a mentally healthy workplace: Return on investment analysis report demonstrated an ROI of 2.3, with benefits in increased productivity and performance, decreased absenteeism and reduced compensation claims.3 The PWC Report noted the prevalence of mental health issues in Australia (with 45% of Australians between the ages of 16 and 85 experiencing mental health issues at some point in their lives) and the impact on organisational performance. A broad spectrum of industries was affected by mental health conditions, from finance and insurance to IT, mining, construction, hospitality, media, professional technical and arts and recreation.4 Mental health and well-being concerns are intensified, given COVID-19. Given the high level of mental health issues and subsequent rising insurance claims, a gap in corporate risk management and leadership in this area is evident. The Australian Institute of Company Directors article confirms ‘Why leaders must talk to staff on mental health’ (2020). Appropriately managing mental health concerns may assist with understanding what could be impacting a team, team member and organisational performance.
Evidence-based research has identified well-being in the workplace as positively impacting the bottom line.6 Research has also identified occupations with a higher risk of common mental health concerns may be those with high job demands, particularly emotional demands and lack of job security.7 As a staggering $4.3 billion in lost productivity each year is due to undiagnosed depression, early intervention and adequate management of mental health concerns in the workplace are vital, more so now than ever before, given the impact of COVID-19 on mental health.
The mental SPEAK well-being program builds leader awareness of mental health concerns within the organisation. The SPEAK program provides leaders with training and individual support on initiating, engaging and managing critical conversations about mental health and wellbeing, whether amongst teams or with individual staff. The program helps with guidance on developing best practice mental well-being initiatives. The program fosters a psychologically healthy and safe workplace and individual capacity to manage workplace pressures, improving resilience and retention. Speaking about mental health concerns may assist with understanding what could be impacting someone’s behaviour or performance.
Authentic leadership ensures that the team specialist can step up to their role in peak condition so that everyone will win the net result. Hayman spent a lot of time caring for the team, and now Hayman’s off the front, making it as easy as he can for the team to get in the correct position for success. He was buffeting the turbulence of the wind in the relentless pursuit of enabling his team to use their unique skills to push on to the finish. Coming into the start of a sprint section or at the base of a climb would often require him to sacrifice his performance for the team’s sake – emptying his reserves to get his spearheads well- positioned. Just like Tzu once said, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we die it ourselves”.
Mathew Hayman’s story has inspired the Executive Central team. As a group, we have many more such stories we want to share with you and to hear yours as well. Get in touch with the team to learn more about how you can grow to lead from the front.