I love my job. One advantage of running a large business with a big external sales force is that you are always looking for inspiring people to tell their story as a way to motivate others. As someone with a big passion for cycling, I'm always intrigued by what motivates top-flight sportspeople who have made the top flight and what lessons can be learned for business.
Last week, we heard from Scottish cycling legend Graeme Obree at a customer event about overcoming adversity, breaking rules and achieving the impossible (see blogpost here). I thought that was an inspiring story to fit in with a new campaign we're running which talks about ambition and giving 141%.
Today, I invited former British Champion track racer - Denise Hampson - to address my sales team about transferable lessons from sport to business. She drew some great parallels between her experience as a top flight cyclist who rode for team GB. I've added my comments to these in bold.
- "It's easy when the coach is there, real commitment is the things that you do when no-one is watching" <--This is about self-motivation to get on with the job.
- "Assumptions are deadly". <--Great point, always check.
- "You don't learn if you get beaten or win all of the time". <--Agree, this isn't the ideal way to learn.
- "You don't have to have every skill to be successful". <--A strong team counts.
- "Constant positive feedback is not helpful as you cannot clearly identify the bad days" <--So true, feedback must be constructive.
- "If you have success, celebrate it" <--In a busy world, important to stop for a moment.
- "Belief is important, but not everything". <--Ability also counts.
With a warm, human delivery, Denise won our bunch over really quickly. It takes a lot to impress a sales force, however there is so much to be learnt from people who have pushed themselves beyond the limits that many of us dare to.
From a cycling perspective, Denise was able to share some of the highs and lows of her career, which were fascinating to hear. I've bulleted these for quick consumption, in no particular order:-
- She got into cycling after seeing a picture in a shop window which said "Do you want to be the next Chris Boardman?", clearly she did!
- Her first bike cost £150 which she paid £5 per week for.
- She started in a club, but quickly progressed to the Velodrome.
- She had joined team GB within six months of getting into track cycling.
- She won the British Championship in 2001.
- She was only 25 when she retired after she lost the will to race. A key contributor was the politics in the sport.
- She did around 2,500 hours of training for a race that would last for less than 60 seconds (that's pressure).
- She went to Australia for part of her career and trained with the Australian track team, where she said she really benefittted from a much more informal training regime.
- Her main motivations were to "achieve something that money couldn't buy" and to "prove people wrong" who said she'd never make it.
Denise now runs a successful business which you can read more about here. She has re-invented herself and is on her fifth career at a sprightly 32 years old, by her own choice. That in itself is pretty awesome and speaks volumes about her ability to set and pursue goals.