Edit ModuleShow Tags

Tune out the noise


Published:

I’ve been obsessed with the Tour de France for years. Thanks to recording devices, I’ve only missed a couple of televised stages since Greg LeMond’s dramatic victory on the Champs-Élysées in 1989 on the final stage.

While driving across Utah once with my wife and kids on vacation, I had a friend call me every 15 minutes with updates of a critical stage (my wife wasn’t pleased). After Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis were disqualified as Tour winners for doping, Greg LeMond is once again the only American to win the Tour, which he did three times.

Stage 1 of this year’s Tour had more than its share of usual crashes, but it also had something I’d never seen before. One of the team buses, which are sent up the course long ahead of the riders, arrived late to the finish area. The organizers had already lowered the finish banner — a large metal structure including cameras to capture the finish — and it ripped into the top of the bus with 200 riders screaming along at 35 miles per hour only a few minutes away!

While the driver hung his head, there was a mad scramble to look for a solution before 25,000 pounds of human muscle raced toward 50,000 pounds of metal. The organizers decided to call the 3-kilometer mark the finish line and radioed the team managers, who would then radio the riders who wear small radios with earbuds.

The 3-kilometer mark, however, was a death trap because it was right around a corner. A sprint at this point would’ve resulted in carnage. Luckily, they were able to deflate the bus tires and drive it slowly off the course. The organizers then quickly rescinded their move of the finish line, sending a message that it would remain in its original location.

Here’s the problem. Some riders drop their earbuds before the finish so they can stay inside their heads without management’s invasive direction and screaming, “Faster, faster, faster!” Those who’d heard the message about the moving line (there’s certainly a metaphor we could make about the problems associated with moving the finish line!) got all amped up, and the frantic behavior caused a crash that took out all the likely stage winners.

A talented but lesser-known sprinter won the stage. He hadn’t heard the messages about the moving finish line, and he remained focused on crossing the correct line.

As managers move up the ranks in organizations, they’re subjected to lots of communication, some critical and some noise. To keep their teams focused, they must get good at figuring out what’s truly important information and what’s just noise. Sometimes you have to turn off the radio and ignore messages, even those from your boss!

As I coach executives, I often ask them to stop and reflect on what they’re hearing — from their organization, their board, their investors, their competitors, the market — and identify critical messages from merely noise. Guess right, and you cross the finish line in the lead. Guess wrong – and you crash.

Edit Module
Todd Ordal

Todd Ordal is President of Applied Strategy LLC. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He speaks, writes, consults and advises on issues of strategy and leadership. Todd is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Follow Todd on Twitter here. You can also find Todd at http://www.appliedstrategy.info,  303-527-0417 or todd@appliedstrategy.info

Get more of our current issue | Subscribe to the magazine | Get our Free e-newsletter

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Articles

From side business to powerhouse: The Emerald Isle story

Bill and Sandy Lamberton founded Emerald Isle Landscaping the same year – 1977 – their son Rory was born. In the intervening years, Rory grew up, took over the family business and turned it into a statewide landscaping dynamo with 140 full-time employees.

Coloradans talk "innovation nation" at the White House

Colorado leaders in business, policy, technology and education met with federal policy experts Tuesday to brainstorm ways for Colorado to take the lead in the successful formation of an “innovation nation.”

The CTA brings tech-savvy Colorado to Washington

The Colorado Technology Association plans to meet with leaders in technology and innovation during a three-day trip to Washington, D.C. that will spotlight actionable business goals, initiatives and insights.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Thanks for contributing to our community-- please keep your comments in good taste and appropriate for our business professional readers.

Add your comment: