Finding your gear!

To day I am going to do something rare.  Today I am going to try to combine Fitness Advice and Leadership Advice.  Let me know if I fall flat on my face.  Let me know if my meaning does not get through to you.  Ok, today’s topic is “Finding your gear!”

Finding your gear, today I am fresh off the exercise bike and had a pretty good workout this morning.  Today I am inspired to tell you how I find my gear and hopefully how you can find your gear.  Not everyone likes to exercise, some of us do it because we like to, some of us do it because we need to, and some of us do it because we have to; exercise can help save or lengthen your life.  Now I like to ride bicycles, and I like to ride exercise bikes.  I like to put on my headphones, listen to music, have a bottle of water and pedal until I run out of energy or run out of time.

With any exercise program you should take it easy when you get started.  The same thing goes with any leadership program.  You should take it easy from the start.  In exercise your body needs to get used to a new routine.  In leadership your team needs to get used to your routine.  So take it easy when you start.  If you over work your muscles when you exercise you will get sore and maybe even give up.  In leadership, if you over work your team, they make get sore with you and some may even give up.  Be careful in the beginning.  Settle into your new routine.

Bicycles have gears, some are made so you can move fast on flat land, some are made so you can still pedal when climbing hills or riding into the wind.  You have to use the easy gears to tackle the big hills or ride against the wind.  Leaders should also use easy gears when they have to tackle big hills.  You have to push people, but you can not push them until they break.  Sometimes it is better to ease off and encourage.  Everyone is different and will use different gears based on their skill level.

You will have to find your gear.  Exercise bikes have different programs and different levels to help you simulate the feel of a real bicycle.  Don’t be fooled, it is not the same.  This is also true for leadership; you can not simulate leadership and fool people who have experience.  Leaders must know when to do team building exercises and training exercises before trying to lead people into the heat of battle.  This takes practice, and I will attempt to explain to you how I find my gear when on an exercise bike.  I will also try to let you know how I think it applies to leadership.

Finding your endurance gear:  The first thing you have to do is find the correct frame of mind.  On an endurance ride, you must be in it for the long haul.  You can not go crazy riding fast and expending all your energy and then run out of gas half way through your ride.  You must learn to pace yourself.  This means start slowly in a low gear that is easy to pedal.  One an exercise bike this may mean starting at level zero or level one.  Do not pedal fast, pedal at a nice steady pace where you are never short of breath.  For a leader, this means teaching your team something easy, something fun.  You must build a good solid foundation.  It may even seem boring at first, but it will become a challenge, see how long you can ride, see how far you can go without trying to play beat the clock.

Finding your speed gear:  Again, you have to find the correct frame of mind!  Start out in the easy gear or the lowest level program on your exercise bike.  Now pedal at a nice steady pace.  Every 60 seconds go up one level or one gear.  Pedal for another 60 seconds and go up another level.  Do not try to pedal super fast in the low gears, keep a steady pace at each level.  It will take more strength and more energy as you move up each level.  This is not a long haul exercise; it will become a challenge very quickly.  At the lower levels you will feel strong, as you move up through the levels it will start to challenge you.  You will find a level where even though you give it all you have in you, you can not keep a steady pace.  You will find a gear that will break you, then back down one level; back down one level and see if you can still ride strong and steady.  The gear that is one below your break point is your speed gear, this not the gear you ride in for a long time, this is when you need to go fast.  This is a leadership lesson; you can not be in your speed gear for a long time.  You may not break, but you will break your team.

Now remember two things, when you are riding for endurance stay in the lower gears, and see how long you can go.  When you are riding for speed, find the gear where you can ride strong and steady but not break down.  You will get stronger over time, one ride at a time, but you can not do it all in one day.  Pick one or the other, one day ride for endurance, another day ride for speed, and some days you will need to just rest.  This is also true as a leader.  When you are doing team building exercises; long exercises should be easy and fun, intense exercises need to be kept short.  Let people know what they are in for before hand and schedule breaks to let people recover.

Finding your grind gear:  This is the gear you will need on long flat rides!  This is when you want to cover the most ground in the quickest time.  Before you attempt this, you should be comfortable riding for endurance and riding for speed.  Your grind gear is usually one or two gears lower than your speed gear.  This is the gear where it takes an effort to maintain your pace, but you can ride at this pace for a long time.  This is not a comfort ride; you are riding for your best time.  The real trick to this gear is you will need a day to rest when you are done.  You will push yourself to your limit without breaking.  You can not know what gear this is until you know your limits, your speed gear and your endurance gear and how far you are able to ride.  The same goes for a team leader.  You have to test people at different levels before you can put them in a grind it out situation.  This is why some sports teams practice twice a day to get ready for an upcoming season.  You must know your limits before you put your team in grind it out mode.  And as a leader, you have to tell them what they are in for and set the best example you can.  If your team trusts you, they will follow you.  If they don’t you will look around and your team will be gone.

Finding your climbing gear:  This is the gear you need to get over a big hill!  This is a tricky gear to find.  The best riders are tested on hills.  You have to be able to pedal in an easy gear for a long time and a strong and steady pace.  This is not a sprint or race gear; but because you are climbing a hill, it will feel like more of a challenge than flat-out race.  The best riders in the world are made and broken on big mountain climbs.  The best leaders are made or broken in the field of battle.  A leader needs a strong team.  A leader needs to set a good pace without losing their team.  This is why it is so important to build trust and endurance early.  People will not follow you into a fire fight unless they can trust that you actually care about them not just yourself.

So what does bike riding have to do with leadership?  Well, at the highest professional levels, bike riders work as a team.  They put their leader in a position to win, and the leader shares the prize money with their team mates.  The team leader may not be the fastest rider or the best climber on the team, but they will have the best combination of skills to handle whatever is required for that given race or series of races.  The world’s greatest bike races can take over two weeks to complete.  The strongest team is the team that puts together the best series of races without breaking.  The leader of the team can not break, and they also can not break their team.  It takes a combination of skills to win and the teams that can best balance strength with speed and endurance are usually in a position to win in the end.  Same goes for leaders.  The leaders who can balance their team’s speed, strength and endurance without breaking them apart are usually in a position to win in the end.  When you win, share the wealth with your team.  Be leery about taking all the credit and all the wealth for yourself.

So how do you find your gear on your bike?  You practice, you train, you push yourself at a steady pace working through the different gears.  You find that gear that is comfortable and you go past it.  You find that gear you feel strong in and you go past it.  You find that gear that breaks you and hang on as long as you can.  You then back down and build up your endurance.  After you have built more endurance you push your self to your limits again.  In practice in controlled settings, you get your self ready for battle.

So how do you find your gear as a leader?  You practice, you train, you push yourself to set a great example for your team and you encourage your team along the way without breaking them.  You let them know what they are in for so they will trust you when it is time for battle.  Win as a team, and lose as a team; but first and foremost, let your team know your really care about them.  They will be the ones who put you in place to win.

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