A number of years ago I worked in a leadership position with a large nonprofit, where I was responsible for a big fundraising goal and a staff of 12. I started cycling with a friend, both as a form of exercise and as a way to help me clear my head. While quickly adapting to the sport, I began noticing large groups of cyclists riding together, much like you would see during an event like the Tour De France, just not as large and intense. What I learned from some of my experienced cycling friends is a term called drafting, which is an important technique in cycling, recreationally and professionally.
Working Together In A Peloton
Bicyclists group together in a pack, known as the peloton, or a pace line, called an echelon. Cyclists who are part of the group can save up to 40% in energy expenditures over a cyclist who is not drafting with the group. People will take turns in the lead group, pulling the rest of the group, which is especially effective in a headwind since it increases the speed of the entire group. But to be effective at drafting, a cyclist needs to be as close as possible to the bicycle in front of him.
One day while riding with my group in a strong headwind, I realized there was a great analogy with the peloton and my daily work as a nonprofit leader. If we acted like a peloton in our organizations, we might see less frustration with burnout, higher employee engagement, and possibly more success at work. I shared this with some of my friends in ministry positions, and they found the metaphor applicable as well.
Below are some additional takeaways from my work with nonprofits over the years.
Tips For Nonprofit Work
- Share The Workload
Remember, you save 40% of your energy in the peloton. Imagine how you could increase your goals by delegating more and getting other people involved. This can be staff, volunteers, board members, etc. Those in front exert extra effort so others in the back can save some energy for their turn at the front at another point in the ride.
- Trust And Communication
Riding in a peloton can be just like working in a nonprofit, which requires you to trust others while communicating the good and the bad. Good communication is vital for your team’s health. In cycling, it’s critical to point out any potential hazards in the road for the whole group. Be sure your staff is looking out for the good of the entire organization, and not just their own success.
Having a culture of encouragement inside the peloton is a common and critical part of any great team, so the same should be true with your nonprofit workplace. Be sure and recognize each other, and help those who might be struggling. Keep in mind the objective is to help everyone cross the finish line.
I hope a few of the above suggestions help assist your efforts in leading your organization. If you have other suggestions for working in a nonprofit, leave us a comment below so we can learn from each other.