The peloton doesn’t wait

‘There is no blueprint of a perfect transformation.’ Long time ago a colleague told me that after a turbulent reorganization. I agree with her. Obviously when you exclude some wonders of nature, in business I never witnessed a transformation that was executed as planned. It’s like life itself….

When the urgency increases and tension rises in company’s I am always fascinated how organizations and it’s people deal with changing circumstances. As you tend to think that everybody is aware of the issues, the challenges, and need to change, most of the times there is no shared vison and no excitement, but instead cynicism or indifference, while extra energy is really needed to change. Energy to help people in their roles, to facilitate, to change processes, to reorganize and so on. As everybody starts working very hard with the best intentions, leadership on the workfloor is needed more than ever to lead the change. Leaders need to be on the workfloor though…

I travel quite a bit recently and I like to travel. A few weeks ago I travelled from Brussels to Amsterdam. It was at the beginning of the Tour de France last july. An older man passed me in the coupé and after a short moment of eye-contact I sat down, looked outside and was thinking: “I know this man”. After a rewind of my memory it turned out, that this gentleman was Joop Zoetemelk. The best cyclist we ever had in the Netherlands, now 71 years old. As an embarrassed 12 year old kid I started to talk with him. “Hello mister Zoetemelk, so pleased to meet you”. “Call me Joop”, he said.

In business we often use metaphors with top sport. Top sport as an inspiration. Be ambitious, raise the bar, be inspired, set your goals and get it done! With Joop I also talked about the setbacks he experienced in achieving his goals. Things that happen to you and which you do not have a lot of influence on. We all recognize the budget cuts, changing markets, politics and so on. So I was curious. As being a great champion and even former world champion, Joop also dealt with a lot of bad luck, injuries and accidents. He looked at me, raised his shoulder and said: “When you fall down, you have no choice than to stand up and get on your bike again, because the peloton doesn’t wait”. The leader needs to be in the peloton…deal with it.

“Do you still ride?”, I asked. “Almost every day”, he said. Thanks Joop, have a great Tour de France.