Rochelle Gilmore: Got Your Back
Rochelle Gilmore and Donna Rae-Szalinski share the life lessons that have helped them building a winning cycling team
Rochelle Gilmore believes that the ability to make good decisions is the basis for achieving results and success in all aspects of life. “When I made the transition into business, I found decision-making quite difficult because my decisions no longer only affected me,” she tells us. “They now affected a number of other people whose careers and quality of life was in my hands.”
It was her step-father David Dicker who gave her the key to handling the big decisions involved in setting up the Wiggle High5 team back in 2013: “Take the emotion out of it.” By making calculated decisions and blocking out the emotions associated with making the ‘right’ decision, Gilmore believes she has achieved success for her team.
As a rider, Gilmore followed the advice, “when you think you’ve done enough, do a little bit more,” and she’s carried that strength and determination into her managerial career.
Currently the number one ranked team in the world, with the number one ranked rider in Italian Elisa Longo Borghini, Gilmore admits that she has faced some tough choices in building her talented British-registered squad. “The right decision for my team, company and organisation was not always necessarily the best decision for all involved,” she says.
“I learnt to weigh up the calculated positives versus negatives and make the right decision without letting emotions persuade me to make a decision I wasn’t confident in, which is easy to do when you’re influenced by emotions,” she says.
For all her steel as a businesswoman, Gilmore still feels the tug of the road. In sport you win or lose, she has said, but she misses that sense of clear cut success in business.
The start of the 2017 season has seen some missed opportunities for results as the team refocuses after the Olympic year, but with a team to manage, a business to run and a commentating career, there’s no time for regrets. So, how does she handle adversity? “Look forward, analyse the positives and negatives and act without letting the negatives of the decision overwhelm you.”
Another ingredient for Wiggle High5’s continued success this season will be Donna Rae-Szalinski, who has experience coaching Gilmore’s High5 Dream Team and the Australian National Team. Szalinski believes that, “when a team is in a good place and people are happy, they generally perform better.”
For Donna, the welfare of the riders is as important as results. “If the riders aren’t healthy and happy they don’t perform,” Donna says. “Collectively we have to create an environment where they’re enjoying what they’re doing and feeling valued. When they feel part of a team, results will come.”
The bigger picture
Donna tells us that behind the effortless performances of the Wiggle High5 team lies a proficient staff team who perform at the same level as the riders and a team mantra of ‘having each other’s backs’: “I want the riders to trust their team mates, to know they have each other’s backs, and it’s the same with the staff.” Donna tells us she has very clear expectations about the need to focus on process. “If you only focus on winning a race, you don’t focus on what you need to do to win a race, and on creating an environment where people are willing to do that extra bit, to have a go and excel.
“That collaborative environment is essential, so that all 15 riders feel valued for what they give to the team. Otherwise we’re not achieving the balance of lifestyle and productivity. We’re trying to shape the environment so riders feel valued and get opportunities to race for a result themselves.”
It’s clear that such a supportive environment is addictive – Georgia Bronzini, due to retire at the end of last year, will instead ride another season. “I told her to tell me what she wanted and I’d give it to her,” Gilmore candidly told the media at the time.
With Wiggle High5 at the top of the Women’s World Tour tree, it’s also clear that a culture of having people’s backs is one that cultivates success.