Recognising your domestique team members and looking at marginal gains

The summer months are now upon us and whilst many of us are thinking of relaxing by the sea and perhaps enjoying a cycle ride in the countryside, a group of 198 cyclists from 22 teams are underway on one of the most gruelling races on the planet – the 2016 Tour de France.

Day 1 of the 21 stage race started on 2nd July, ending in Paris on 24th July.  They will cover a total of 3,519 kms, with the longest stage being 237.5 km yesterday.   There will be 2 rest days over the 3 weeks.

The role of the Domestique

As armchair enthusiasts, we never fail to admire the balletic grace by which these teams work.  Atrocious weather conditions and horrendous injuries are just some of the things they contend with.

However, for us it is the selfless work of the domestiques in the team that are often the foundation for team success.  The term in French means “servant” and this probably most adequately sums up their role.  Providing nourishment and refreshment to their team members; acting as a wind-break for leaders in the pack who have fallen behind and need to catch up; sacrificing their own ride for the team leader – another quote has been as “Jeeves on a bike”.

The Guardian asked Chris Froome in 2012 about challenging Bradley Wiggins for the lead – his response – “I’ll follow orders at all costs. I’m part of a team and I have to do what the team asks me to do”.

Whilst this type of selfless team working would probably be rare to find in the business arena, it is important for those in team leadership roles to recognise the hard work, dedication and support from junior members of the team.

They may not be your strategic thinkers, high flyers or best sales people, but without your own team domestiques where would the team or business be?  A Consultant Surgeon once asked the newest member of a Clinical team if they could make tea.  “Yes , I can make tea” she replied rather uncertainly.  “You’ll fit in just fine then” he replied – “ when work is difficult, we all need to be able to stop and make the tea for one the team….never underestimate the importance of the tea monitor”!

Marginal gains in business

Part of the success of Team Sky both at the Tour and in the 2012 Olympics was the much hyped quotes from Sir David Brailsford about marginal gains.  The benefits of this can be relatively easy to relate to in a sport.  However how can it be applied to businesses, particularly when all members of a team would like recognition and not to be seen as the “servants” of the team?

Paul Mackenzie Ross wrote just after the 2012 Olympics, marginal gains is asking the question “What can we do better”?

By analysing each small part of a business and looking at how minor improvements can be made to each area, the overall development of the business can be huge. “I do one hundred things in my job every day and if I can make each of those hundred tasks just 1 minute quicker, then I save myself almost two hours in my working day.  Almost 100 minutes to each working day to dedicate to other tasks, sales, developing a new skill”.

At Athelbrae we have recently been reviewing some areas for marginal gains.  We get excellent feedback on our support package and working in partnership with clients tailoring interventions to be focused on the needs of the individual business.

However, we have been very conscious that our social media interaction has, until recent months, been somewhat on the metaphorical back burner.  Some time spent attending workshops with media experts, means we are making marginal gains in understanding the power of reaching new clients by broadening our reach to a new audience.

Regarding our trainers, we view ourselves as their Domestiques.  We need to make sure that they are supported, provided with all the information they need, and life is made as easy as possible for them to concentrate on the main job – delivering fantastic training and coaching to our clients.  Life as a trainer and coach can be quite lonely, particularly as the majority of Associates work as sole traders in their own businesses and it is essential for us to really “know” those who work in the business.  Taking the time to meet up, have a relaxed lunch and a “non work” catch up helps us to strengthen the bonds of the team.

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