The coach as leader….

David Brailsford

David Brailsford

The BBC gave their 2012 ‘Coach of the Year’ award to David Brailsford, the coach behind the successes of Team Sky in the Tour de France and the Team GB Cycling Squad in the Olympics. But of course, to achieve the results he has, Brailsford does more than just coach – he clearly leads. Core to this are two important ingredients:

First, has has a simple and easily understandable strategy for winning. Like Jan Carlzon before him, he espouses the philosophy that you cannot improve one thing by 1000% but you can improve 1000 things by 1%. In combination, they will provide the edge. The power here is that people know what they are doing and how they can contribute to improved performance. In essence, he has created direction for his team.

The second, however, is far less widely published and was only reluctantly drawn out of him by, of all people, Gary Linaker. When asked during a television interview what his secrets were (and could they apply to the England football squad) he replied by say that they first sought to understand what would enable the cyclists to perform at their best at a particular point in time in the future. Simple then. But having made his statement, he could see the bemusement in Gary’s eyes and lent forward intently, and holding Gay’s gaze, he said “and I mean really understand”.

And that is the secret that few management teams or leaders follow:

Putting sufficient time into ‘really understanding’ whatever it is that is needed to bring success.

Which poses the questions, what do you need to understand for your organisation to be successful – and how well do you actually understand it?

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