Coaching & Development, Human Performance | Aug 27, 2014
Sky’s the Limit

Sir David Brailsford, Team Principal of Team Sky and formerly Performance Director of British Cycling, on complacency, bringing in experts and getting the best out of people.

The more successful you are, the greater the risk of complacency. We talk about marginal gains, incremental gains, you know small steps – it’s not this big dramatic overnight thing. They are things that you might not even notice over time but actually take you quite a long way. I think complacency is the same; little things just get dropped and you stop doing everything, stop paying attention to every last detail and slowly but surely complacency creeps in. The trick is to recognize those periods where you are likely to get exposed to complacency.

Post-success is a big danger zone. Everybody’s got new contracts, you are in a relatively comfortable situation. That non-threatening, non-challenging scenario should mean flashing red lights in terms of complacency creeping in. Then you sit down and talk about it and recognise you’ve got to set very high standards. From a management point of view you’ve got to recognise what is the minimum standard, which is a very high level of work and excellence. And you’ve got to speak to everybody and understand how they are feeling and see the world through their eyes because what might not be creeping into your world might well be creeping into theirs.

You’ve got to see if you can remove complacency. For example, you may introduce a younger rider, who’s challenging for a position and get the senior, established rider looking over his shoulder and thinking they’ve got someone snapping at their heels. That removes complacency for sure.

My role is to help other people be the best that they can be. Unless I’m willing to invest into understanding a bit about myself and the impact I have on others and how I can support them, then I shouldn’t really be in this position.

The more experienced and older I’ve got, the more I’ve realised I’m just a minion and the people who really perform are the cyclists, the athletes, and it’s all about them and ultimately that’s what counts.

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