Leadership Lessons from Route 66 (Pt 2)

October 4th, 2013 by Martin Smith Leave a reply »

Management & Leadership Development in SussexThis second of two blog entries about some leadership lessons that I drew from a trip across America via Route 66 earlier this year.

If you missed the first instalment you can catch-up with it here.


We we’re lucky enough to travel the whole Route from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California. It had been an ambition for a while and we wanted to do it the proper way, on a Harley Davidson motorcycle. We made the trip as part of a group in an organised tour run by Eaglerider in the USA.


So how did I draw Leadership lessons out of this experience you may well ask? Well, being a management trainer and coach I try to look for learning in everything that I do and everywhere that I go. Our Route 66 experience was literally ‘littered’ with them, from the people that have helped the Route to survive and prosper, and the people who fought and in some cases continue to fight to have their town, city or attraction listed as a Route 66 Historic monument. However it is our guides and support teams on our journey that I want to focus on today for they were truly inspirational. So what did I learn?

Here is the second set of Leadership lessons that I recognised from our travels


6. Have support systems and Management & Leadership Development in Sussexplans in place for the team


As I previously mentioned, on our road trip we had back-up and support systems in place, such as having a follow-up driver/van to carry our luggage, a spare bike for each group, and a toolkit for any running repairs. They also carried a stock of cold drinks and ice for the hotter parts of our journey.

Thinking ahead can save you pain or discomfort later when things don’t go as planned. What support or back-up measures do you have in-place for your business? What if things go wrong for you? Do you have contingency plans in place? Is there support within your team if people are struggling or overloaded with work?


7. Know what’s going on in your team Management & Leadership Development in Sussex


On our journey there were some great examples of good communication. Both the support vehicle and the guide were in constant radio contact via a headset attached to the guides helmet. Both the guides could also contact each other throughout the day via mobile phones again via the headset.


Good, regular, clear communication was the key here, exactly as it is in business. Everything needs to work together (Marketing, Planning, Customer Service, Finance) if you are going to achieve your objective.


It was this connection between the guide and the support driver that stood out for me. How easy is it to miss what’s happening in your organisation or team because you can’t see what’s happening “at the back”? The support driver effectively became the “eyes” in the back of the guides head. He had an overview of where each member of the group was and how they were riding and could communicate this to the guide to tell him or her to slow down or speed up etc.


Sometimes teams can be spread out and become disconnected, either within an office or particularly over different locations. Try to keep in touch with everyone and know what is happening, as much as possible in your team or organisation. If your organisation is too big, keep in regular contact with your management team, or key relationships and insist that they keep in touch with their teams.


Management & Leadership Development in Sussex8. Watch out for “curve balls” – have contingencies


Sometimes things simply don’t go as you planned them, or something comes along that ‘blows’ you off course. In our case this was a tornado that chose the 20th May to touchdown in the suburbs of Oklahoma City as we were riding towards it (about 60 miles away). In our morning briefing that day we were warned that we could run into some tornados and that the guides and support drivers would monitor the situation throughout the day and try to ‘skirt’ around them where possible. The photo attached here is of our two riding groups sitting in a Civil Defence Shelter with the residents of a small town called Stroud. We took shelter there as the Tornado sirens were going off. Luckily after spending about 45 minutes down there we got the all clear and found we had not been touched, but Moore, Oklahoma was not so lucky.

Things will go wrong in life and business, but good planning, communication, preparation and clear action taken at the right time will help to minimise any impact. Make sure you are “watching” and “listening” to your business and the environment that it operates in.


9. When you achieve your goal make sure you celebrate together Management & Leadership Development in Sussex


How many times in your working career have you got to the end of a project or major task and had a celebration? How often do you celebrate your own successes whether it is completion of a task that you don’t particularly enjoy or something that you weren’t sure of how to do?


As I mentioned in a previous point we had a celebration each day on our trip when we reached our hotel every night. Recognising our achievements each day and what we had seen and talking about how we were going to recover, ready for the next day! But boy, when we reached our end goal on Santa Monica Pier did we have a party!


Don’t forget to celebrate successes with your team – it builds trust, creates a better more enjoyable environment and it gives you something to look forward to.


Do you celebrate success before moving on to the next project or task?


Management & Leadership Development in Sussex10. Don’t forget to get focused on your next goal!


Whilst in reality this might not happen in quite such a linear fashion as depicted here, one of the key elements of Leadership  is to set/agree goal(s). So in short, don’t forget to start focusing on your next goal! Having taken the time to celebarte your achievements on this task its now time to focus on whats next. Take the lessons from this ‘journey’ and make sure that you apply them to your next one.

“When you get to the top of the mountain it enables you to see the next one that you need to climb”.


We travelled over 2800 miles on our journey together, yes we got lost occasionally (Preacher!) but we always met our objectives at the end of each day. We all celebrated each day together by sharing our experiences and by the end of it we had turned into a pretty good riding team, working together and supporting each other to get through the madness of traffic that is Los Angeles as a group. On our journey to hand the bikes back, not once did we get split up, despite working our way through 6 lanes of wall to wall traffic and helping each other to achieve every turn-off and junction. We had a great time, experienced and saw so much and I’d like to think that we saw a real cross-section of an enormous country. But I also learnt some things along the way, both about myself, and the people that I met along the way.



I hope that these lessons have given you some food for thought and made you think about how you are working with your business or team. If nothing else I hope that you have enjoyed reading about my adventure and lessons.


What adventures have you had that you’ve learnt from? I’d love to hear about your experiences and lessons or your thoughts about this blog. What do you do with your team that works for you?



Martin Smith Learning and Development Ltd is a professional training and coaching consultancy working with business leaders at all levels to provide improved business results, increased profits, greater staff performance and retention. We help you to GROW your business by developing your people.


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