The success story behind the #RoxsoltLadies cycling program.
“We don’t want a team of champions, we want a champion team” – Sarah Roy, 2014 Australian National Criterium Champion.
Many organisations look to self-forming, collaborative teams for success; teams that are formed for a specific purpose, working together in a dynamic and agile way. In these situations traditional hierarchical control structures are discarded, and a self-managed model for performance is favoured. But even in this environment, a structured approach to collaboration and teamwork is a key foundation for success.
In the space of two summer race seasons, Roxsolt developed one of Australia’s highest performing women’s cycling teams. This team was made up of athletes that typically compete against each other throughout the other months of the year. Success was achieved by taking carefully considered steps toward a common goal.
Team members at the Santos Women's Tour Down Under (L:R - Lauren Kitchen - Hitec Products, Loren Rowney - Velocio-SRAM, Carlee Taylor - Lotto Soudal, Tiffany Crownwell - Velocio-SRAM & Lucy Martin - Matrix Fitness). Photo credit: Kirsty Baxter
Over the 2014-2015 summer race season, the #RoxsoltLadies roster included 12 riders, working in different combinations and capacities, over seven high-profile events. We achieved with three wins, nine additional podiums, and finished the season ranked as the number one women’s cycling team in Australia.
Teamwork not only allowed the #RoxsoltLadies to flourish, but they did so while drawing on minimal staff and resources, and maintaining a relaxed working environment. We built a team capable of winning against some of the best in the world.
So how did we work with such a varied roster to produce such a stable suite of results? Our methods reveal the five key attributes of any dynamic and successful team.
1. Establish a Common Purpose
Success flows from working toward a common purpose. For the #RoxsoltLadies the emphasis for the race season was not about winning or individual performance. We knew that if we focused on clear communication and having fun, a smoother, more enjoyable working method would lead to a stronger, more cohesive output.
While many cycling teams draw funding from multiple sources, the #RoxsoltLadies team drew from a single source. This meant the team did not have to worry about meeting conflicting requirements or feeling pressured to satisfy multiple purposes. This removed potential distractions and enabled the team to focus on the process rather than the outcomes.
“We always had fun and I think because we were friends off the bike it made working together on the bike easy. We all knew each other’s strengths and complemented each other well. It was a unique team as we all race on different professional teams usually yet, our experience as cyclists meant we knew how each other rode and how each member could contribute…” - Carlee Taylor, Australian World Championships representative 2013 and 2014.
2. Make Team Composition Personal and Be Involved
“…I think it is because when everyone comes together as part of the 'Roxsolt' team everyone wants to help, do their job and do their best, just as Roxsolt do supporting this team. So it is a case of giving back to Roxsolt and making sure each race is a success.”- Lucy Martin, British Olympian & World Championship representative.
The #RoxsoltLadies roster was established through recommendations from past team members as a first point of introduction. Working toward a common goal enabled us to build a group that drew on professionals with different skillsets and expertise. Forming the team around an ethos of collaboration and recommendation meant members were already invested in our committed, strategic approach prior to coming on board.
“For a team that was merged at the last minute, Roxsolt has done exceptionally well. To do well in a cycling team involves absolute commitment and an attitude of 'all for one'. I think that we achieved a lot of team goals this summer by winning certain races and getting jerseys in events.” - Kimberley Wells, Australian National Criterium Champion 2013 & 2015.
3. Think Ahead and Anticipate Needs
Maximising performance requires a manager to anticipate needs, solve problems and adapt ahead of time. Don’t distract the team by making them perform tasks that could be better performed by others. Likewise, when the team requires outside expertise, this needs to be accessed quickly.
Over the 2014-2015 summer race season, riders became sick or injured, one had her bike stolen and everyone had to deal with last minute changes to schedules and programs. When possible, removing external noise away from the team enabled the #RoxsoltLadies to focus on the task at hand, bringing emphasis back to process. To maximise team value, a team must be supported, rather than left alone to solve problems by themselves.
“#RoxsoltLadies is the first team I can truly say I was privileged to be a part of. The teamwork and dedication that went into achieving our goals over the summer was inspiring to be a part of and my cycling definitely lifted to another level. The staff were so organised and professional, it made achieving success so much easier!” - Joanne Hogan, overall winner Australian National Road Series 2010.
4. A Team is Made Up of Many Individuals
Individuals are typically selected for a team due to their unique value, attributes and the contribution they can bring. To maximise this contribution team members must be nurtured individually to facilitate their unique strengths and requirements. This may be as simple supplying food or drink that helps someone to get the job done, or as complicated as determining when an individual can best participate in the steps toward a team objective or event.
By cultivating an environment that ensures every team member’s requirements are met, this ensures that each member’s attributes can be integrated into the team effectively. Investment is maximised and conditions are created for increased success.
“The reason I believe the team was so successful, even with such a dynamic roster of riders and race programs, was the pride each member has to be a part of the team. A team that began as ‘the rest’ soon became one of Australian racing’s most recognised criterium teams, a clear force to the other major players of Orica-AIS and Wiggle Honda. Roxsolt gave the team so much of their time and energy meeting all our individual needs, how could we not perform well?!” - Lauren Kitchen, Australian Criterium Champion 2011, Oceania Road Race Champion 2015, Australian World Championships Representative.
5. Everyone has a Role to Play
“What Roxsolt have been able to do this summer has been amazing. The team composition I feel really worked, with riders from different pro teams bringing their own experience, values and tactics to the outfit.” -Loren Rowney, Australian World Championship Representative 2012 and 2014.
When bringing a team together for a specific, deadline-driven purpose, there is not always time available for developing a strong sense of cohesion. From the outset it is important that every member has a role to play. This role needs to be specific, clearly articulated and understood.
For each race the #RoxsoltLadies competed in there was always a captain and co-captain who were trusted with in-race decision-making. All team members were responsible for adapting and adjusting to in-race decisions and to perform a job if they were asked.
The role of the support staff and support teams that operate around a dynamic team is equally important. Roles, responsibilities and decision-making hierarchies must be clearly understood. Key to this is an understanding of when a certain number of voices can be too many, and restricting the team size to a workable structure as a result.
The summer racing season demonstrated that, for the #RoxsoltLadies, eight people was the maximum working size of a functional and successful team. Beyond this the team would lose focus and an ability to quickly respond. This meant that an effective team for a given race consisted of six riders and two support staff, who provided assistance and direction. It was when the roles and responsibilities were clearly understood that the team functioned at its best.
“We don't want a team of champions, we want a champion team - which so far has been a bunch of supportive riders and management who all understand the complications summer can bring to form and with no pressure to perform per se …. by giving everything they have for a team result. It's really the ideal team! “ - Sarah Roy, 2014 Australian Criterium Champion.