The Tour de France, Relationships and Success

Interpersonal competence is one of the keys to personal and professional success that I discuss in Straight Talk for Success and 42 Rules to Jumpstart Your Professional Success.  If you want to become interpersonally competent, you need to do three things.  First, get to know yourself.  Use this self knowledge to better understand others.  Second, build strong, lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with the people in your life.  Third, resolve conflict positively and with little disruption to your relationships.

It’s July, that means it’s Tour de France time.  For me, the Tour is more interesting this year, because Lance Armstrong is back in the saddle. 

I’m always amazed at the complexity of bike racing.  It’s a sport that requires amazing levels of fitness, the latest technology and high levels of teamwork.

If you’ve ever watched a bike race, you’ve seen teamwork and cooperation in action – even among competitors.  I think there is a lesson about building relationships here.

In bike racing, the person who is in the lead has to work the hardest.  He or she has to deal with all of the resistance caused by the wind.   The people behind the leader have it a bit easier as they have less wind resistance.  They stay just behind the leader and one another.  This principle is called “drafting.” 

If you watch a race, oftentimes you’ll see a lead group of several riders.  These riders will take turns moving to the front.  In this way, they help one another go faster.  They will keep this up until they are ready for the final sprint to the finish line – in which case it becomes every man or woman for himself or herself.

Yesterday, one rider, David Millar made a lone breakaway with 29 kilometers to go.  For a while, it appeared as if he was going to win the stage.  However, by working together, the peleton (the large group of riders) was able to catch him and deny him is stage win.  David won the Prix Brandt de la Combativitie prize, a testament to his warrior mentality – but he didn’t win the stage, Thor Hushovd did. 

The report I read on line said…

The end was swift and painful to watch as Millar was devoured and spat out with just under 2km to go. “To be honest I was suffering and didn’t feel in control of the effort all day although I did start to feel good towards the end, although that was the adrenalin and emotion,” said Millar afterwards. “What prompted the break? Stupidity, it wasn’t my smartest move. I know that coast road so well from training that I thought I might have some fun. With 10km to go I thought I had a chance but then saw the huge boulevards on the run and knew the bunch would get organized. The moment you look around and see them, it’s like somebody unplugs the power and you just die.”

David Millar’s game effort but ultimate disappointment – he didn’t even finish in the top 10 in the stage – shows the value of cooperation and sharing the lead and the work.  This is true in relationships too.  In solid, lasting mutually beneficial relationships, all parties help one another. 

I’m a bicyclist.  I’ve just returned from a ride as I’m writing this.  I’m not a fast rider.  I’m not a slow rider.  I’m a half fast rider.  (Read the last three sentences aloud if you didn’t get the joke.)  However, I have experienced the power of teamwork even on a recreational ride.  It always helps to have someone in front, doing the hard work and shielding me from the wind.  However, I realize that I need to go to the front on occasion and do the same for my riding partners. It depends on the trail too, for this kind of trail, I highly endorse this one technique that has already been mentioned.

The common sense point here is simple.  Successful people are interpersonally competent.  Interpersonally competent people build and maintain solid relationships with the people in their lives.  Just like in bicycle racing, cooperation, sharing the lead and the work are key to creating strong, mutually beneficial relationships.  If you get a chance, tune into the Tour de France one day this month.  You’ll see cooperation in action, even among competitors.  For quite a while now, I’ve been in the lead on this blog.  I’d like some help.  I’d appreciate it if you would go to the front of the pack and leave a thoughtful comment on – or ask a question about — what I’ve been writing on career and life success.  That’s the way good relationships work.  I want to strengthen my relationship will all of you.

That’s my take on the bicycle racing, cooperation, sharing the lead and building strong relationships.  What’s yours?  Please leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  As always, thanks for reading.


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