3 Team Lessons from Biking

Teresa Kowal
5 min readJul 25, 2019

I like to bicycle. I enjoy riding either my mountain bike or road bike. Since I recently bought a new road bike, I’ve been riding it as much as I can — and as fast as I can!

But I have a few pet peeves about cycling that have analogies in the work world. Specifically, I observe that what bugs me when I’m cycling are traits and characteristics that drive people away from effective teamwork. Read on or watch the 20-second video version.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwuA69jqObU

Use Your Indicator

A lot of people driving cars fail to use their indicators. This is bad enough when you’re in another car, but it can truly be dangerous when you’re on a bicycle. It takes a little longer for a cyclist to accelerate, so we use a car’s turn signal (or lack of) to help us judge when to enter or cross traffic.

On teams, you also need to use your indicator. Other team members might know you well and hold expectations about your part of the project, but they can’t read your mind. On top of that, each of us has a preferred work style and we project certain images and personalities to others. One way to ensure proper communication on a team is to raise your self-awareness of your own behaviors and of your teammates’ behaviors.

In Step 1 of Building Effective Cross-Functional Teams, we will describe how the DiSC® work style assessment helps to raise self-awareness. Once you understand your own preferred working style and those of your teammates, you can change work patterns and vocabularies to improve intra-team communications.

Keep Your Dog Leashed

I’m not afraid of dogs generally, but the other day, two large dogs chased me on my bike for two or three blocks. I knew I could win on endurance (and probably speed), yet it still raised my blood pressure to have loud barking dogs pursuing me. And just yesterday, a small dog ran into the road, dragging his leash behind him as his owner made no attempt to control him. In both situations, the dogs and I could have been hurt badly. Their humans were not managing them.

Teams need management and leadership. For successful innovation, team leaders need to integrate different functional viewpoints as well as different work styles. Marketing uses one jargon and R&D another set of terms. Teams must overcome these biases to work together effectively. Instead of using different perspectives as constraints, innovation succeeds when using varied viewpoints as strengths.

In our complimentary webinar on 31 July, you’ll learn Step 2 — team management — of Building an Effective Cross-Functional Team. Team management starts with trust and healthy conflict. When teams assemble tools and strategies for trust and conflict, they can commit to actions and hold each other mutually accountable for project goals. This yields results. Effective cross-functional teams understand and appreciate different work styles, different functional perspectives, and different approaches. Ultimately, these teams outperform in innovation by producing more creative and customer-focused products and services.

Kamikaze Squirrels

When I was growing up, my dad constantly complained about the squirrels in our yard. They stole the walnuts off the giant tree in our backyard and buried them in the grass, the garden, and the flower beds. At the time, I didn’t care because I didn’t much care for my after-school chores of picking up and cleaning the walnuts anyway.

But, as a cyclist, I join my dad in disliking squirrels. The little devils run right in front of your path, dance around, and turn back to cross your path again. It seems like they have a death wish, and I have nearly wrecked my bike more than a few times trying to avoid these kamikaze squirrels.

Some teams have kamikaze team members. They will never be happy and often refuse to do their assigned work. The reasons vary. They don’t agree with the approach, their idea is better, they are stubborn, and so on. Effective teams, just like cyclists must watch out for these people who have self-destructive behaviors that can contaminate the team culture.

In Step 3 of Building Effective, Cross-Functional Teams, we learn processes for working through the life cycle of a project. The Team Dimensions Profile helps team members and leaders to understand strengths of different work styles during different phases of a project. Creatives, for example, are great at generating ideas during the initiation phase of a project, and executors are needed to efficiently conduct the work of the project. An individual who has a work style tendency to plan and schedule detailed tasks may identify the creatives as kamikazes trying to interrupt the workflow.

However, just as the kamikaze squirrels are trying to get back to their “home” tree, different team personalities are focusing on their “home” strengths. We move from identifying team processes in Step 3 of Building Effective, Cross-Functional Teams to Step 4 which involves setting up team processes, like the team charter. Finally, in Step 5, we address how to work with dispersed or virtual teams. You will learn Steps 3 through 5 in Part 2 of our complimentary webinar and will be automatically registered for Part 2 (28 August) when you register for Part 1 (31 July) covering Steps 1 and 2.

Team Lessons from Cycling

Effective innovation teams need guidance and guardrails, just like we do on the road as cyclists. Riding a bike means you must watch out for cars without indicators, dogs without leashes, and squirrels without direction. Effective teams use indicators starting with work style preferences, managing their team relationships, and are wary of kamikaze behaviors.

You can learn more about building and managing successful team behaviors at our complimentary, one-hour webinar on Wednesday, 31 July 2019 at noon CDT. Everyone who attends Building Effective Cross-Functional Teams will receive a free work style assessment ($75 value) and you’ll be automatically registered for Part 2 on Wednesday, 28 August 2019 at noon CDT. Space is limited! Register now!

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This was first published on the blog at www.Simple-PDH.com.

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Teresa Kowal

I tackle life with an infusion of rigor, zeal, and faith. My passion is innovation and helping others improve their new product development ecosystems.