When I first started mountain biking, I had the privilege of learning from a top tier guide named Steve.
He was an expert at encouraging new riders and helping them develop the necessary skills to succeed. One phrase I remember him saying many times was, “left index, right thumb.” It may not seem like much; however, this phrase bailed me out many times.
The bike on which I learned had 27 gear combinations controlled by four shifting levers on the handlebars—two on the left and two on the right.
For those not familiar with mountain bike shifting, pressing the levers in one direction increases pedaling resistance for faster travel on flat surfaces and down hills; pressing or pulling in the opposite direction decreases resistance to make climbing up hills more manageable.
The levers operated by the left hand work in the opposite direction from those operated by the right, so learning correct shifting takes a little practice!
When learning from Steve, I would often hear him shout as we approached a steep hill, “left index, right thumb!” With those few words, he reminded me which levers to press in order to shift correctly and prepare for a successful climb.
Although I knew how to work the gears, hesitation caused by lack of experience and fatigue could have sabotaged my ride.
Steve knew shifting incorrectly at the base of a climb would stall momentum and force me to dismount and push my bike up the hill. He wanted to see me succeed, and his simple reminder in the heat of the moment prevented much frustration and discouragement in those early days of learning.
As my skills developed, and I became a guide for new riders, I could often be heard reminding them, “left index, right thumb.”
As leaders, perhaps our most important priority is finding ways to help those we lead succeed. As you lead, consider these four takeaways from the story above.
Great leaders want to help others succeed and they are willing to provide support toward that end. Is the success of those you lead a top priority for you? I hope so. I also hope you will find these four takeaways to be a valuable resource on your leadership journey.