When I was asked to be the crew chief for RAAM 2016 (the Race Across America, aka the toughest bike race in the world. It is brutal, trust me) I thought Franco (solo RAAMer) was kidding. I could not see the reason why he would trust someone with zero RAAM, ultra-cyclist and this kind of stuff experience. RAAM is damn serious…and so is the business I run.
What’s the difference between leading a team to reach a company goal and a team to reach a bike race goal? A team is a team composed of human beings and a goal is a goal and you want to achieve it in the best possible way, within a specific time frame. Hence, you have a team, you have a goal, an investor and all the tools to make the project successful… As a matter of facts, if the racer gets to the finish line, it is a team effort and success, on the other hand, the racer fails, it is the crew chief’s responsibility for not leading the team the way it was supposed to. Picking the right people for your team is very important and the right crew chief is crucial because she/he will make those people a team. This is a lesson for RAAM and for corporations.
RAAM is a project so, as always, you should start with a concept. In my case, Franco asked for an experience with less tension among the team and for himself. I remember reading on some shirts “RAAM is not a vacation”; no shit!, was my comment. Having some fun does not mean you cannot be productive and efficient and, if you need to remind your team, then it is not the right team.
Usually, when watching RAAM videos, people keep on saying “This is not normal. No human beings can do that.” Hence, if not a human being then must be someone who manifests a super-ability or superpower like a super hero! Yes, of course, this is why we went for Team Super Heroes concept.
The choice of the theme was also strategic. I believe in visualization and identification to make people comfortable with their choices. In general as humans, we follow the lead of similar others and this makes us feel safe of our choice; this is the so-called law of Social Proof. If other people similar to me are doing it, this is the right thing to do. If we could identify with super-heroes et similia, imagine what we could achieve.
The team found the theme pretty amusing and everyone went for their favorite super hero. To me, that was the first sign of cohesiveness, I liked it. We had Superman, Capitan America, and Hulk, to name a few. Franco, the rider, was Spiderman. We made sure his character didn’t have any cape to deal with. As for me, the team picked my character: Cat woman, both a super-hero and super-villain. At the beginning of her career she was a thief and enemy to Batman, she later turned to crime-fighting and became part of the Batman Family. Despite her villainous nature, she works hard to protect the East End of Gotham City… Could this be a clue of the perception the team had of my person?
My personal goal was to have the RAAM team work like my team at GUNA. The team goal was to make sure Franco got to the finish line, period! Franco’s only worry had to be riding the bike, the team had to support him from the beginning to the end, my job was to support the team to make sure they committed and stayed motivated from the beginning to the end.
We had this huge sword of Damocles on our heads, the failure of RAAM 2015, when there was the first attempt to finish the race. Well, it was a curse and a blessing. We couldn’t fail and we could certainly learn from the past mistakes. Our job was to learn from the past and take everything to the next level. So we did.
While Franco was training his body for the immense challenge, I worked with my life coach to learn how to release physical and mental tension. Before having the team trust me, I had to learn how to trust myself. I wanted Franco and the team to know and believe that when we are tired, actually exhausted, we are only at 40% of our possibilities. 40%!! I wanted Franco and the team learn how to quickly refocus by attending to our inner strengths and create the most beneficial outcomes to succeed. Here and now, forget the past, it cannot be changed and don’t think of the future, the future does not exist.
RAAM 2016 was a success, however, at RAAM, you don’t really win or lose, you can only learn. RAAM will try to break you, RAAM will find the way to destroy your plans hence, attitude is everything. I learned to have everything in place, then forget about it and problem solve. I also learned to respect any challenge in front of me and don’t fear it, no matter how brutal it is. Little by little, step by step, problem after problem, you get to the end, you do and remember, attitude is everything.