Sports Leadership: Dave Brailsford – The Marginal Gains

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Cycling PsychologyIn a week that has blown the lid off the murky goings on inside the world of Lance Armstrong, one man has emerged as the undisputed leader in the sports post-Armstong future.

Dave Brailsford took a principled stand against drug cheats some time ago, and it has informed his leadership. He recognised that drugs gave a rider and team a 15% advantage. And thus to make good this shortfall, he set about creating a leadership strategy called Marginal Gains.

Marginal Gains is all about the 1%. The tiny things which on their own make little difference. But when added together, can make up the shortfall of 15%, and thus allow his team be on a equal footing with the drug cheats.

Marginal Gains do not get you the instant results. But they allow you to build a rock-solid foundation that success can sit upon.

It’s in the small details that make up the bigger picture. The quality of sleep the riders have is considered so important to Brailsford, that a special team are employed to take the riders mattresses from hotel to hotel, ensuring that they capture the same quality of sleep night after night. This is a marginal gain.

This strategy aims for Brailsford’s riders to sleep consistently better than the opposition. And thus have vital energy in store when it is most needed come the business end of the race. The accumulation of the 15% have led to Tour De France and Olympic champions being created.

What Marginal Gains could you find in your business that would add another 15% of possibility to your outcomes. Where could you look for them?

How about these twenty 1%:

1: The way your staff answer the phone (Are Your Core Values Obvious From The Moment The Phone Is Answered?)…

2: The energy and buzz created at team meetings (Or Is Death By Powerpoint The Norm?)…

3: How staff work together on solving problems and resolving issues (Or Do Egos And Self-Interest Hold Sway?)…

4: How quickly decisions are made and procrastination / delay avoided (Is It A Focused Environment?)…

5: How success is celebrated (That Means Regularly Not Once a Year!)…

6: How effective the training and learning programmes are (And How Do You Measure It?)…

7: The power and energy of the staff induction programme (Do New Recruits Feel Part Of Something Special?)…

8: How strong the sense of family/community/togetherness is in the company (Are These Human Values Consciously Championed And Measured?)…

9: How failures are learnt from (Or Does A Blame Culture Hold Sway?)…

10: The internal and external communications systems and their effectiveness (How Brightly And Imaginatively Information/Ideas Are Transfered)…

11: How The Cause is seen in the behaviours of staff at all levels of the organisation (Is There A Definate Sense Of People On A Mission?)…

12: How the atmosphere around the building affects performance (Is The Culture A Home For Malicious Gossip, Politics And Back-Biting?)…

13: The sense the staff have of doing meaningful and purposeful work (Does This Feel A Motivated Work-Force?)…

14: The energy levels in the building and the factors that affect them positively and negatively (Does The Place Buzz With Ideas And Energy?)…

15: How staff at all levels are listened to in respect of their ideas as to how the business can be improved (Is There A Process That Allows The Cleaners/ Supervisors/ Juniors To Have Input?)…

16: How staff are given responsibility to make decisions from what they feel is right v following orders all the time (In Other Words Are Your People Trusted?)…

17: Does the people at the top walk the floor and develop rapport with staff at all levels? (Or Is The Leadership Aloof And Dis-connected From The People?)

18: How the next generation of leaders is identified and nurtured (Or Are Managers Fearful Of Losing Their Jobs, If The People Coming Through Are Too Bright?)…

19: How customers are thought of and included in the organizations family/community (How Do Your Staff Go The Extra Mile For Your Customers?)…

20: How the culture/ leadership encourages staff to try new ideas without fear of failure (Or Does Fear Prevent People Trying New Stuff?)…

Brailsford is a pioneer. A man who changes the way his industry behaves. Not only has he created a highly principled leadership stance. He has achieved massive success in doing so. And so, the rest of the sport will be following his lead. He has done it though a clear cause and a very effective plan.

Finding the many 1% in which you can improve the way you do things is not difficult. But it takes a hunger to want to improve and not settle for being ordinary or mediocre. It’s not for everyone. But for those prepared to look, changing those 1% can fundamentally liberate the way you do business.