Everyone knows a Dave! It's a great name, it's got gravitas, a sense of professionalism and an outright ease of use. Even the parents of famous people like it; the wonderful Mr Beckham, the perennially 'popular' Mr Cameron & the 'interesting' Mr Dickinson.
My Dave of today is Sir Dave of Brailsford. As Daves go he's an absolute cracker and as a Leadership Dave, you'll struggle to find a more successful one in recent times.
Up until not long ago Dave was head of UK Cycling and the professional road cycling Team Sky. Under his leadership their success on the track at the Athens, Beijing and London Olympics is unparalleled in British cycling history. Prior to that Team GB had won a handful of olympic track cycling medals. When he passed the leadership baton on after London 2012, the team had won 27 medals at 3 Olympics. What about the recent turbulence within the team and the fallout for all concerned? I guess we can all draw our own opinions on the impact of his departure.
Dave now presides solely over Team Sky and it's his approach with that team thats inspired me. The principle of 'Marginal Gains' is now very well documented and used. It's the less well know principle of the 'Outperforming Team' that's interested
According to Dave 'a team isn't a thing, it's a group of people all working together to become a team' . I've raised this concept with many people and had differing responses to it, mainly very positive. It fundamentally shifts the definition of 'team' from something we are, to a never ending pursuit of.
When you listen to him describe the principles of an Outperforming team: 'looking for improvements, personal excellence, motivation, being on the same page, having clear purpose, it's exciting, you're challenged, it's not easy, theres a bit of tension'. This are his teams DNA, what it smells, tastes and feels like to be that Outperforming Team.
But what does it take to create an Outperforming Team according to Dave?
Investing time in understanding what success looks like and what the outcome you want is. Managing our own expectations and driving the teams expectations and energy around that outcome, which creates the 'same page' for everyone. It's then just continuously developing everyones capability so the outcome can be achieved.
'Yeah, well that's easy when you've got a multi-million pound budget Dave'.
Like us, he could use more people, he could use more money. Those are universal wishes of every team and manager in the world. What really catches me is his approach to those universal wishes:
'Let's look at what we are doing now, with the resources that we have now, with the people that we have now and understand how can we improve?'
I wonder what opportunities I'd have take in life if I'd spent more time thinking about what outcomes I could achieve with what I already had, rather than not doing things because I didn't believe I had the resources to do it?
Johan Cruyff once said: 'Playing football is simple, but playing simple football is the hardest thing there is'
Confucius also said 'Life is very simple, but we insist on making it complicated'
Sadly simple isn't sexy, it fails to bathe our egos, it seems to lack credibility somehow...because if it was and it did, surely it's this simple to create an Outperforming Team:
- Know what you want to achieve
- Look at what you have at your disposal to achieve it
- Accepting the team you have will always be working towards becoming a team
- Develop a culture of looking for improvements
Though it can't be that simple, there must be much more to it?
I'll just double check with Dave...
Were Team GB the most successful track cycling team in the world under his leadership? Yes
Have they won the Tour de France with a clean British rider within 5 years? Yes, Twice.
Thanks Dave, that's brilliant!