Apr 26

Growing Yourself Is Like Riding a Motorbike

Stephan Polomski
Stephan Polomski is director human resources, coach and trainer

I know many managers who are doing motorsports. In my company, for example, a CEO, two department mangers and myself will go on tour into the Italian Dolomites in the beginning of July, rejoicing speed, focus, challenge, company, nature, and intensity which sum up, I´d say, to fun and joy.

In order to prepare myself for this event, two weeks ago, I attended professional safety training near Munich. The coach was a former professional racer. His name is Alois Rausch. His training method was – seemingly – quite simple, as he taught us, whenever there is an accident, ourselves involved, it is our mistake, as we underestimated our own skills to handle and perceive realistically a situation, which occurs in sudden.

This should sound familiar to any manager.

So, he challenged us – we were in five – with our own fear and panic still handling a situation and the machine. And he was merciless: Do or die or simply leave the training. Period.

Well, at that point, it came very soon very clear, that this training was not designed to make compliments, or pace, or honor, or show interest for the individual and its individual skills and potential to be positively and slowly developed.

“Forget positive leadership! Forget respect and honor! Welcome drill and pain!”

Forget positive leadership! Forget respect and honor! Welcome drill and pain! – Ironically…

It became clear to me after the first thirty minutes that to prevail and stand up the three days without failure or small steps forward was already a victory. And it was clear, that this training skipped everything familiar to me in terms of values and methods out of my own leadership trainings.

Alois Rausch did not make any effect to get a contact to his participants, and still he had full contact noticing every single mistake, every movement even with a finger. Hence, I had nothing to expect than a space to practice, train and optimize my – inferior – skills, and handle my emotional well-being alone.

Everything I learned about leadership and training – serving and pacing first of all, listening… – was fallen into ashes – and what remained was just me and the motorbike.

So, I reset myself into a bunch of fear and incapability.

And that was damn tough – just the thing and me.

I know assessment methods or leadership trainings which are working exactly with this method, creating overload and extreme stress to drive participants over their limits into the psychological patterns of their personal panic zone, because this is the point where real challenges are waiting for each of us. Every pilot in a flying simulator knows that. Soldiers may do so as well.

Only – that we in the training just had the real ground and our real bodies to fall or crash. At the same time, Alois Rausch and his instructors were taking care for our safety. According to the exercises they choose a special environment or used a special contruction.

So what made this training experience on the motorbike special for me as leader and trainer?

The purpose of this training promoted by Alois Rausch was to drive with sovereignty and simply having fun by doing so. His framing was absolutely positive, though the methods were tough.

In order to stay or arrive there it was necessary to overcome your fear and handle your existing capabilities and skills to drive the motorbike as well as to develop the space of potential which you did not use so far in order to drive your way of being sovereign and simply having your way of fun by doing so.

And interestingly one of his first sentences was: the motorbike does not need you in order to drive. You are basically nothing more than a load which is disturbing the bike´s balance and the centrifugal forces which are affecting the system of the bike (and yourself on top). So every single movement you are doing in order to drive, direct or lead has a tremendous effect on the system of the bike (together with yourself).

This should echo in many ears now.

Alois Rausch claimed: never ever put force on the handle bar! The upper half of your body has to be completely relaxed sitting on the bike like a pianist is sitting on his chair and then playing his instrument with finger hopefully hardly touching it. This happens when you are in the flow with yourself, your instrument and the situation around.

That deeply reminded me of Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi´s “FLOW – The Psychology of Optimal Experience. The Secret of Happiness” and what scholars of Neurolinguistic Programming developed as “Moment of Excellence” or “Peak Experience”.

What is it exactly, that we are in full command of our resources and abilities in either role: as leader or as person being lead? What do we have to do in order to overcome a stuck state and claim our full potential and proven strengths? How do we have to be in order to just do it?

How do we establish resonance in the system we are living and working (and of course riding a motorbike)?

For driving and handling the bar, Alois Rausch said to refrain from any pressure and to be in a playing mind which is light and balanced in order to have fun. Additionally you flow with the bike, your skills and talent, and you concentrate extremely focused on the situation. And you “just” spread self confidence and trust.

This, he said, will enable us to master challenges and dangerous situations during the voyage. His training was designed to give us a glimpse of how our psyche deals with fear and panic, and thus showing us our personal limits, the psychological ones and those referring to handling skills in such a frame.

This was his way of keeping it safe for us.

Basically, it is nothing more than the rules Czikszentmihalyi suggests in order to reach the flow:

  1. To set an objective with a set of challenges– e.g. learn new skills in order to reach the objective. That´s what we did: striving for sovereignty and fun while riding the motorbike.
  2. To delve into the activity – e.g. trust your own potential by focusing on the requirements of the environment and one´s own skills. That´s what we did as well: everybody was coping differently with the tasks according to his state of mind and his skills.
  3. To direct awareness on the actual events – e.g. concentrate on what you are doing in the very moment. That was what happened as well: Alois Rausch was harshly complaining when we did not go for the exercise taking the easy way. Or his coaching aimed at interrupting wrongly learned old automatisms and reinstalling new ones, e.g. when using the brake.
  4. To learn to be happy with the current experience – e.g. rejoice the little progress and little things in live and thus learning through feedback. Oh yeah: you would not believe how happy I was afterwards and how proud that I made it. And then back home experiencing the newly acquired skills with an open and aware mindset.

And by doing so, I am taking myself seriously, I care for myself because I am listening to my aspirations which – when they are attained because I attained a certain, individual mastery – are my source of happiness.

Should be much easier to be applied in a company than on a motorbike, shouldn´t it?

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This entry was posted on Monday, April 26th, 2010 at 06:42 and is filed under Human Resources, Leadership. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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  1. Stefan says:

    Yes, thats like business. Recognize obstacles – evade obstacles. Look further ahead.
    So drive and lead always with regard to the future!
    The next impact hole comes certainly.