Sometimes the biggest lessons in life come from the most unexpected places. Maybe it’s something you read or overheard at a coffee shop. Maybe it’s a podcast or a random conversation you have with an Uber driver. Maybe it’s something that your kid says that reframes how you are looking at a problem (I could fill a novel with the things I learned from my kids). Inspiration and revelation often come when we least expect them. Lately, I’ve been learning a lot about leadership, and life in general, from a very unexpected place: my Peloton.
A lot has been written about Peloton’s meteoric rise and passionate users. I absolutely love mine. I love the challenge, the intensity, and the feeling of community. What I have grown to love, and what I certainly didn’t expect going in, is how relevant and transferrable some of the teachings are to the business world. Some of these lessons include:
If It Doesn’t Challenge You, It Won’t Change You. Leading a team through change is one of the biggest challenges and biggest opportunities for a management team. And if we can push our teams just a bit past their comfort zones, they can uncover skills they never knew they had. Or, as the leaders from Peloton say, “strength doesn’t come from what you can do, it comes from uncovering the things you once thought you couldn’t.”Cisco is in the midst of one of the largest transformations in our history and re-inventing a legacy brand ain’t easy. But our customers need us to evolve, and so that’s what we must do.
Show Up or Shut Up. One of the most important parts of life – both in and out of work – is showing up. We have to show up for our colleagues, customers, and partners; show up for our friends and our families; and (very often overlooked) show up for ourselves. But showing up isn’t just about being physically present – it’s about being emotionally present as well. Being open, engaged, and committed. To me, that’s the essence of teamwork, and it’s at the heart of our “One Cisco, One Team” philosophy. The spirit of this mantra is echoed in Peloton’s words: “we’re grateful for this community.”
Hard Work is Evergreen. The culture of a company is a lot like a garden, and hard work is evergreen. If working hard, working smart, and working efficiently are embedded in your DNA from the beginning, then a solid, sustainable culture will eventually blossom. Or as Peloton’s VP of Fitness Programming Robin Arzón so perfectly says in her ‘Sweat with Swagger’ program (my personal favorite): “hustle is the gift that keeps on giving.”
Inhale Confidence, Exhale Doubt. One of my favorite Peloton mantras is: “clear your mind of can’t.” As leaders, we have to remove “can’t” from our vocabularies and keep the teams focused on the destination no matter how long or bumpy the road might feel. Courage and confidence are infectious. Leaders can’t just explain the mission; they have to embody it at every level. Show the direction, embrace the change, exude positivity, and lead by example.
Aim for a Higher Purpose. Throughout my career, I have been at times a Cisco customer, a partner, and a competitor. Seeing the company from all three sides gave me a deep appreciation for its products, its people, and its values. That powerful trifecta was one of the many reasons I was so excited to join. Cisco aspires to be the “Bridge to Possible” and those aren’t just words printed on a wall, it’s a mission that drives our everyday action. This reminds me of a great quote from the Peloton world, “remember this work.” I joined Cisco because I want to be part of this family, I want to help drive this truly historical transformation. And I want to create an environment where people can do the best work of their careers. What we are doing will be remembered.
Whether you’re on your bike or in your boardroom, the journey from good to great is never complete. And just like the Peloton exercises, becoming a great leader takes hard work.
What do you think it takes to be a strong leader and what are some of your best leadership experiences? Where was the most unexpected place you received inspiration or instruction? I look forward to hearing from you and sharing more Peloton-inspired leadership lessons in a later post.