Build Your Team the Tour de France Way

Shay Dalton / October 14, 2015

Build your team the tour de france way

One of the biggest sporting events of the summer, Le Tour features multi-national teams drawn together especially for one purpose. Each team member will have a specific job to do and even if the eventual plaudits go to the team leader, any victory wouldn’t be possible without the right mix of skill. Building a highly effective team for the workplace requires exactly the same approach.

Set your Recruitment Objectives

Although it’s tempting to go for a team full of leaders, in fact this can be a recipe for disaster as the business gets bombarded with different ideas and directions of travel. The first thing that the management decides is what they are targeting, Some go for the outright win, some for the ‘King of the mountains’ prize, others aim for the green jersey for the points winner. The important message from a business point of view is that there is a clear objective, it is well communicated and everyone understands it.

The management then sets about recruiting the best people they can get for each task. One single star is supported by a series of riders who do jobs like ‘Domestique’ and ‘Super Domestique’ all working together to achieve the team objective. They won’t get the overall win, but a Domestique will protect the leader from crashes, fetch food and water and ride in front to provide a windbreak meaning that the leader has to work less during the long days.

In the same way, a project team for example should only have one leader who will need to be supported by colleagues tasked with jobs such as project finance, project communication, data migration etc. Similarly in a finance team you could expect to see a Financial Director supported by a Financial Controller (or Super Domestique) and a team comprised of accounts assistants and management accountants.

Balance is Key

Recruiting a good, balanced mix is vital for a healthy and vibrant team and this is a key skill of leadership. An excellent manager will identify gaps in skill levels, experience and qualifications and seek to plug these by either recruiting in or developing team members to take on a new role.

Over recruiting is a risk in teams, just as it is in The Tour. A couple of years ago the Sky team had both Bradley Wiggins going for an overall win and Mark Cavendish chasing a points jersey. Although Wiggins won The Tour, eventually Cavendish left the team as it was clear they wouldn’t be able to help him achieve his personal aim. Having two team leaders meant that the team was unbalanced.

There’s simply no point in recruiting someone who has run international projects and confining them to a job organising communication. Bringing in a team member who’s ability outstrips the role they are given is likely to fail.

Focus on Development Potential

One final area of resemblance between a Tour team and the workplace is in the area of development. A typical Tour team will include a mixture of riders with varying experience. Domestiques will include young riders destined to be stars in the future and who will be using the ride as a way of building their experience level for the future.

In the same way a good team will include a mixture of people who have great experience and younger employees building their grounding in the business. This gives the business a more vibrant, forward looking feel but also bakes in succession planning as the team will have a group of young and hopefully ambitious employees ready to step up when the time comes.

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