CMCE Showcase 8 Feb:  Ethics and Consultancy
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Imagine cycling with 27,000 others ... a third of the capacity of Wembley Stadium...

When the going got tough and weary I gained energy and strength from the thought that the money raised would save the lives and broken hearts of many families....

Many have cycled in a small group but imagine cycling with 27,000, a third of the capacity of Wembley Stadium - more than the 02 arena.  This summer I participated in the Prudential Ride London Cycle Event - London’s biggest cycle charity raising event  – the cycling equivalent of the London Marathon – the 100 mile challenge follows the 2012 Olympic route starting at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, climbing up into the Surrey Hills and finishing in the Mall.   

My main purpose was to raise money for Water Aid’s Burkina Faso Project to improve sanitation for a community that has none and where water-borne diseases kill 4,975 children under 5 every year - a project that is close to my heart after seeing the devastating effect of water-borne diseases some years ago when I worked in a hospital in North Africa.

Sprinting down The Mall....

One of those very hot days, climbing Box Hill with all its hairpin bends,  Martin
[wearing red & black helmet, to the left of the Heart Foundation rider] cycles to
raise money for Water Aid's Burkina Faso Project, to improve sanitation where
water-borne diseases kill 4,975 children under 5 every year. 

Cycling through empty London streets, then towns packed with people cheering, kids pressing up against the barriers to do high 5’s with the cyclists, finishing with a fast sprint down The Mall is an experience I will never forget.  Box Hill was like cycling in the Alps with its hairpin bends - rewarded by a fine view and ladies serving bacon butties and cakes at the top - what could be better! The biggest challenge was the number of cyclists cycling slowly in close formation on the hills, which had become a bottleneck after an accident. I was quite pleased with my finishing time of 7 hours 9 minutes, considering we were delayed for an hour.

A few reflections on lessons learned – from sports to business  

A caveat – the context of performance is critical - a fraction of a second can make the critical difference in the Olympic velodrome but not in business so I have tried to draw lessons learned that are relevant to the different context of business.

Before the start...

1. Self-limiting assumptions can hold us back. If anyone had invited me to do a 100-mile ride 10 years ago I would have not thought it possible and I was 10 years younger.  It is the same in work.  Self limiting assumptions often hold us back, so best to check assumptions and the evidence upon which they are based.  It is amazing what we can achieve – most things are possible.

2. Performance and Competence is often built up over time and not achieved in one big hairy audacious goal (BHAG).  BHAG’s have their place and can appeal to the macho in us but can easily become Big Hairy Unrealistic Goals (BHUG’s). In my case progressively creating stretch goals to increase mileage and then completing five 70/80 mile events 6 months before the London 100 ride prepared me for the bigger challenge ahead.

At the start...

3. Paying attention to your engine pays off in performance

In a cycling event hydrating with right mix of electrolytes, right type of food before and during the event and sleep is as important as getting bike and fitness in good shape. As an Executive Coach I notice the pressures facing many Executives in the fast track resulting in an unbalanced focus on work goals at the expense of goals to maintaining work life balance (including food, fitness, sleep) and this effects performance.

4. Don’t hold an emotional role on your own

The start is often a place of anxiety – sharing anxieties helps to dispel the negative energy they consume.  Both in sports and business holding an emotional role (e.g. anxiety) on your own is not only a lonely place to be but gathers energy like a snowball as we dream up hills to become mountains in the small hours of the night!

After the start

5. A compelling purpose makes the difference to motivation and performance when the going gets tough
When the going got tough and weary I gained energy and strength from the thought that I was raising money for a community that has limited resources and where improved sanitation would save the lives and broken hearts of many families. 

In the same way a compelling purpose in business (beyond making money or creating shareholder value - the cycling equivalent of "just here to grind the pedals") inspires people to go the extra mile.

6. Communication keeps everyone on track

One of the main learnings in cycling in a peloton of 27,000 compared to cycling on your own is the importance of communication in pointing out potholes, gravel and hazards along the way as well as indicating if you are changing your track in the road. Lack of communication can have a disastrous effect and create a big pile up.

In business communication plays a key role in building awareness, alignment, understanding and commitment when you are working with large numbers and not just on your own.  Both in cycling and in business some do not make the adjustment and then end up picking up the pieces.

At the end

7. Celebrating success and capturing the learnings makes the effort worthwhile and equips you for the next challenge

The finish in the Mall with the crowds cheering, radio and TV capturing the moment was the biggest celebration event I have attended and reflections on the learnings gained has not only built my confidence that I can do it but also provided me with a wide range of tips for the next challenge.  In the same way in business, celebrating success and capturing the learnings gained equips people for greater success.

My reflections on my learnings.

As I reflect on my learning many of these seem common sense but in my coaching conversations with hundreds of Executives over the last 10 years what may appear as common sense is not always commonly applied.

If you would like to make a donation to the Burkina Faso sanitation project my sponsorship website is:






Martin Down – September 2016

Liveryman & Freeman of the City of London.  Worshipful Company of Management Consultants, Founder The Executive Coaching Partnership Ltd, Coach/Tutor London Business School.             Email:   Tel 01420 550334