I recently acquired a tandem bike. This has given my wife, Launda, and I new opportunities to exercise and tour the local area. It’s also provided a unique opportunity to explore our finely-tuned relationship. (We’ve been married for 21 years and have got this whole relationship thing down…mostly.)
The AHAs started right when we got the bike. Mike at TeamActive did a great job explaining the unique challenges of tandem cycling. We listened, but also thought, “Hey, how hard could it be?” Turns out it was not a walk in the park, and we quickly figured out that we needed to consider ourselves cycling newbies and be ready to learn.
In our 21 years of wedded bliss, Launda and I have worked through our fair share of communication issues. When you can finish each other’s sentences, coordinating your actions on a bike should be simple. What we 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 we knew that if I leaned one way, it would impact Launda and our joint stability on the tandem. In reality, even small shifts in foot or hand position caused imbalance. Don’t even ask 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.
Our 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