A colleague, David, bought a tandem bike recently. This has provided a new way for David and his wife Launda to exercise and tour the local area. It’s also provided a unique opportunity to explore their finely-tuned relationship (They’ve been married for 21 years and have got this whole relationship thing down…mostly.)
The AHAs started right when they got the bike. Mike at TeamActive did a great job explaining the unique challenges of tandem cycling. David and Launda listened, but also thought, “Hey, how hard could it be?” Turns out it was not a walk in the park, and they quickly figured out that they needed to consider themselves cycling newbies and be ready to learn.
In their 21 years of wedded bliss, David and Launda have worked through their fair share of communication issues. When you can finish each other’s sentences, coordinating your actions on a bike should be simple. What they learned by tandem biking is that it’s necessary to over-communicate, stop assuming and agree upon a shared language, especially when taking on a new, interconnected challenge.
The level of interdependence on the bike was a shock as well. Yes, in theory they knew that if David leaned one way, it would impact Launda and their joint stability on the tandem. In reality, even small shifts in foot or hand position can cause imbalance. Don’t even ask them about the challenges of crossing railroad tracks on a tandem. Painful memory, literally, but a valuable lesson learned about being more aware of unanticipated consequences of our actions.
Their experiences on the tandem are not that much different from what people in organizations experience, particularly after a long tenure. Try as we might, we forget how interconnected we are. We assume that people understand the things we say. We get caught up in our perspective and don’t consider the sweeping impact of our actions.
If you’ve been with your organization for a while (and maybe even if you haven’t), stop and consider what you may learn from the tandem bike experience. Are you taking your hands off the handlebars and not telling others that might be impacted? Be safe out there.
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Photo courtesy of David and Launda Wheatley