Learning from the best

Lessons from the UK’s finest coach

Dave Brailsford, General Manager of Team Sky

I suspect not many of you will have heard of Dave Brailsford. You should have though. And if you haven’t, you need to look him up. For years he headed up British Cycling, turning British cycling from being a joke to being the best track cycling team in the world, dominating recent Olympics.

In 2009 though he decided to set up a top level road cycling team with the goal of winning the Tour de France with a British rider within five years. (No British rider had ever won the Tour de France.) The team was called Team Sky and they won their first Tour de France with Bradley Wiggins in 2012 – two years ahead of target. Since then another British rider, Chris Froome, has won the Tour de France in 2013 and 2015.

Team Sky had no history in the sport and yet in just a few short years it’s become the dominant team at the Tour. How has Brailsford managed to pull this off?

The cynic would say it’s because of how well funded Team Sky are. And they are well funded. But that’s not the story. The truth is that Brailsford has a coaching philosophy, focussed on marginal gains, that has transformed professional cycling forever.

Brailsford and Team Sky are ruthless in finding every potential area for tiny improvements knowing that, if they have enough of these, the improvement will be dramatic.

Most of us are always looking for the big idea that will change everything. Brailsford doesn’t believe waiting for big ideas is enough of a guarantee of progress and development though. It’s too haphazard. So he focuses on all the areas that, no matter how small, he can consistently keep improving.

The result is that he’s now pulled off the impossible twice. First with British Cycling and now with Team Sky. He is in my view the finest coach in the UK at the moment, and quite possibly the world.

If you have an interest in personal development, team progress, organisational success, and human potential, then spending time understand the work of Dave Brailsford and Team Sky is a must.

I’m not going to duplicate the content of numerous articles that are readily available elsewhere. This is simply a nudge to remind us all that if we want to keep developing as people, we need to keep learning from those who are ahead of us. And I think we’d all benefit from studying the work of Dave Brailsford. So go on, get Googling!

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