Times are changing fast and jobs, roles and personnel are changing with them. That makes a step into an old role far scarier than it might at first appear.
Lance Armstrong made a surprising return to cycling after four years, having retired at the top of his game. A finish on the podium of the Tour de France was quite an achievement but not the win he’d aimed at. Finding that although his manager believed he was capable of winning and was willing to make sure he did, not all his team mates were working to ensure his success, a situation he wasn’t used to. Alberto Contador won the race, from within the same team, without the level of support he felt he deserved.
Michael Schumacher looks set to return to Formula One, a decision driven by events rather than purely by ambition. He’ll be coming back into a sport which has again changed, and he’ll be coming back without the opportunity to win the Championship. He’ll also be coming back to a car that simply isn’t as competitive as he’s used to.
Armstrong cycled well, putting in an astounding physical performance, but his comments about team mates both during and after the race were less than graceful, and the team looks set to implode, aided by a financial crisis. It will be interesting to see how Schumacher reacts to his changed status and the challenge of less than ideal equipment.
Outstanding performers can be as much a product of perfected processes and high performing teams as they are a product of natural talent. In sports the great unanswerable questions are of whether stars of old would be even better with today’s training regimes and equipment, or whether today’s top performers would have made the grade in the past.
The question for modern business is – are your top performers doing better because of favourable circumstances rather than real competence and effort, and can your organisation do more to release the talent of others who are not getting support they could capitalise upon?