Teamwork OFF the Clock

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The majority of time, I do my outdoorsy stuff alone because I can be a bit self-centered: I want to go when I want to go, stay as long as I want, change course midstream without notice and all that. This weekend, I decided to bike with OutdoorAfro because I was excited about their route from Delaware City, DE, to Chesapeake City, MD. The ride turned out to be a great reminder about the value of teams.

First, the leader/organizer of the trip went out of her way to provide as much as information as possible so that participants could decide whether they had the physical stamina for the 30-mile ride. Second, she addressed potential fears about bathrooms and food. Trust me, the last thing you want is to be 30 miles out with no bathroom plan. Third, if she didn’t get your emergency contact person’s info, you couldn’t ride with the group. Then, she texted all of our information to someone who wasn’t going on the ride just in case she went down.

Here’s where the teamwork parallel got even better: 10 miles in, I broke the chain on my bike! If you shift gears improperly while going up a hill, “chain suck” can happen…and it did. Initially, I didn’t realize that the chain was broken. I told the group to keep going, and that I’d catch up. By the time I realized that there would be no catching up, they’d come back because I took too long to catch up. They were concerned about their teammate! Once they understood my situation, they immediately started thinking through the best way to get back to the car. Meanwhile, nobody berated me for breaking the chain or the fact that I didn’t have spare parts and tools. Although I carry a flat tire kit, it never occurred to me that I needed anything for the chain (Shaming teammates NEVER improves performance and robs your team and organization of teachable moments). Since I do half-marathons, I knew I could make the walk and told them to go ahead. They weren’t having it because, in their words, “This is the purpose of not riding alone. We start and finish together and watch one another’s back.” By this time, the cycling community came to the rescue!  A cyclist who just happened to be a volunteer bike mechanic with UrbanBikeProjectWilmington saw us, AND HE JUST HAPPENED TO HAVE SPARE PARTS AND TOOLS. What if we built our organizations as a communities that were concerned about the well-being of the whole group instead of only rewarding their individual performance? This guy’s bike was an 18-speed, while mine is a 10-speed. He had “just in case” stuff that he didn’t specifically need. Moreover, he interrupted his pace and schedule to help us. He had my bike ready to go in 10 minutes! Then, he explained the limitations of the repair (he removed the broken link, which made the chain shorter; thus, I couldn’t use a few gears) and shared online resources, Parktool.com, where I could learn more about bike repairs to reduce my chances of being stranded in the future. What if we built “contributing to community and strengthening brand” into our culture (I’ve told everybody about the great guy from UrbanBikeProject)? After parting ways with our new bike mechanic friend, other members of the group shared that they didn’t have chain repair tools either (now, the entire team has learned something). We were so in the moment that we didn’t think to take a group pic! Finally, when our ride ended, I went straight to REI to pick up a few tools…maybe I can help someone next time. I want to contribute to the cycling community, too.

Sidebar: all of this was possible because each of us chose to be where we were doing what we were doing. How are you building your organization so that your team members want to be there?

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