Martijn Veltkamp, PhD, Senior Researcher at FrieslandCampina
Many people enjoy cycling, or at least watching races like the Tour de France. In my new book “the Hidden Motor: Psychology of Cycling” I focus on the psychology of cycling. And if you read between the lines, you will easily recognize similarities to your own professional life.
Here’s my personal Top-5 of lessons to learn from pro-cycling to start doing now in your professional career.
1. Work towards specific goals
Pro-cyclists work towards a very limited set of very S.M.A.R.T goals in a year. You can’t outperform others in every single race! Setting no more than around 3 ambitious, specific, measurable goals that are really key to you helps to focus and to say no to all those daily distractions. It will facilitate optimal performance.
2. Be prepared
Well, this sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Still, many people are suboptimally prepared for many meetings, presentations, you name it. Pro-cyclists prepare themselves into every single detail for important races. They visualize how they will be racing, how they ride to victory, up to every single detail that is needed to achieve that victory. They start doing so months in advance. This way, they are prepared for everything and, most importantly; it boosts their confidence! Self-confidence is really the key to performance. Try it yourself: visualize that important meeting; how you are getting that important deal, and visualize all the steps you are going to do that will lead to that success!
Pro-cyclists tell me again and again how important it is for them to keep passionate about cycling. If the pleasure of riding a bike and of continuously improving yourself (or of outperforming others) is fading, so is performance. Because all those efforts you have to put into achieving well, really only become sacrifices if you don’t like what you’re doing. Consequence: it’s harder to get up and get to work, to give that little bit extra. So always keep reflecting on what you do: what is it that you enjoy most in your work? Maybe write that all down. Keep it always top-of-mind; this is your drive, your hidden motor.
If you are a manager this lesson is also key: Make sure your employees keep working at what they are good at, what they like to do (especially to keep an eye on of course when job descriptions are changing). Coaching is an important tool here.
4. Small teams (3-8 people)
Many of us are working in multiple teams every single day. The size of the team often depends on the size of the project or organization. Now, if you look at pro-cycling, you often see that collaborations and performances are better in smaller teams. Large groups often fall apart and never make it in a winning position to the finish line. Yes, there’s a lesson to learn here, too! Research in organizational psychology showed that for optimal performance, teams should consist of 3-8 people. If you are working in larger teams, ask yourself if everyone should be there? Really? And if so, consider splitting the team into smaller working groups where each group has its own clear tasks and deliverables.
I’ve never seen a cycling race (or any sports event for that matter) where victory was not celebrated. Upon victory, the Champaign comes in and the cyclist celebrates that success with the team; a result following from months of hard work. And, do you? Celebrating successes is really important to release the tension, to reward yourself for what you’ve achieved, to give meaning to it. Take your team for a dinner, and celebrate your achievements once in a while!
The Hidden Motor: The Psychology of Cycling Paperback – September 5, 2016
by Martijn Veltkamp