How many of you are self-labeled car guys or gals? I am sure the majority of you enjoy the hum of an engine as much as we do. And there is something to be said about the teamwork required to achieve that hum.
This teamwork goes all the way back to the designers. It takes a hand or rather hands, to design that vehicle, a team to build it, a team to keep it in tip-top shape, and even a team to drive it.
Over the weekend, I watched the opening race for the Formula1 season in Bahrain. It was obviously an action-packed event and so many spend time focusing and praising the drivers.
Crazy fact, in Formula1 there are 2 championship divisions.
The first is the one we all know and love, and the one most people who watch and care about automotive racing pay attention to. This is the Drivers Championship.
The second one is the one that no one pays attention to, and yet means the most. This is the Constructors Championship.
Okay… Let’s take a pause.
Why am I telling you about the structure of Formula 1 success? What does it have to do with us?
Bear with me, there is a method to my madness.
Identifying an Issue/ Seeing an Issue
The driver’s championship is no doubt a blast to follow, and it speaks volumes on the subject of the world’s most skilled driver at speeds most of us wouldn’t dare go.
But the constructor’s championship is something so many of us can look at, learn from, and apply to our lives. In fact, automotive racing is a beautiful metaphor for life, leadership, teamwork, and culture
Remember how we started by fantasizing about the hum of an engine? Well, that engine is not humming simply because a skilled driver sits behind the wheel. It is far more complex and complicated than that.
That engine was a concept. And then it was a prototype that took trial and error to produce. Trial and error produce frustration, as well have found out at some time or another.
What made this team able to push out a finished product before being discouraged on their trials and their errors is the culture and the environment in which they are working.
Formula 1 teams succeed when, and only when, the entire team is set on one singular goal. That goal is to be the fastest team in the pits, and the fastest car on the track. Encompassing them all around as the fastest race team on the track.
If every single time a car malfunctioned and blew on a driver, the development team had their butts chewed out by leadership, I doubt they would ever end up producing a perfect race car.
Think about it… The last time your boss “yelled’ at you…
How did you feel and want to react? I cannot say for certain, but my guess is that it left you feeling small, devalued, and frustrated.
Now, instead of being berated for a mistake, the leadership team sits with the constructors and identifies what happened, what caused that thing to happen, and how they can find an efficient and effective remedy for that issue.
That change of reaction from a leader has a butterfly effect on the team. Instead of causing a negative ripple, they cause a ripple of growth. Yes, it can be uncomfortable. But I have a saying from my father.
“Nothing worth doing is easy!” And every day I find it to be truer than it was the day before.
It is not easy to restructure your instinctual reaction to conflict or stress. But when you do so, it will begin to set off light bulbs in your employees and when you lead by example, people follow you much more willingly than if you ‘teach by preach’.
Learning from our mistakes…
Nikki Lauda… a household name for you race fans. Nikki was a pioneer of Formula1 and arguably one of the best and most winning auto racing drivers of all time.
There are a multitude of quotes and statements from Mr. Lauda we could discuss, as Nikki was a fierce leader for his team. But the one that means the world to me is, “Really, you should always discuss the defeats because you can learn much more from failure than from success.”
Anytime we do something we believe to be worth celebrating, we do not hesitate to talk about it. But when we drop the ball, make a mistake, etc. we are so quick to turn our nose up at it and act as if we were unaware of it was not our mistake to own.
Basically, as human beings, we love to point the finger and play the blame game.
But that, ultimately, only does us more wrong. If we do not own our mistakes with the right attitude, we will not learn from them and that mistake will become not a mistake by error, but a mistake by neglect, and that is no mistake.
When we discuss our losses, we can find out why we lost, how we could have won, and what we will do next time around to ensure our success.
“To make a decision you need to be in a perfect environment: you have to be motivated and surrounded by the right people.” -Nikki Lauda
As we discussed, the hum of a Formula1 engine requires teamwork to achieve. But the success of the racing team is something that requires even more teamwork, more communication, more flexibility.
This is the teamwork and the chemistry required to win a driver’s championship.
Let’s take Mercedes Benz. They were, at one time, a non-factor in the Formula1 world.
And then, at the beginning of the 2010s, they brought on Nikki Lauda to their board of directors and Toto Wolff to their racing team as the team manager and principal.
These were two guys with like-minded goals… To win Formula1 world championships.
These two then did a complete overhaul of the team. They found other like-minded individuals, who believed in inconsistency, communication, teamwork, hard work, and diligence. These folks are what we know to be the Mercedes Benz Petronas team and they have won the Constructors world championship every year since 2014.
That is almost a decade of dominance. And it is all due to the culture of teamwork and communication that was created by the leadership group.
The Plus of Great Culture…
The last Formula1 tidbit I will throw at you focuses on the superstars, the drivers. But it applies to everyone.
For those of you who watch racing, you will see the teams that succeed all take ownership of the process, even in areas where they are not chiefly responsible.
Take the drivers in these race cars. The winning teams and the winning drivers, like Mercedes Benz and Lewis Hamilton, when their car malfunctions, Lewis does not lose his cool with the mechanics and blames them for his loss of the race.
No, he ACTUALLY apologizes. Crazy, right?
Why would he apologize if he did not build the car or do something to cause the catastrophic failure?
Because he CARES. His success means his team’s success. And his teams’ failures also mean his failures. And a team that works together, wins together.
So how can we apply the company culture that the winning teams in Formula1 racing use to our advantage? How can WE steal their formula, so to speak?
It is much easier than becoming a world-renowned racing driver or buying a multi-billion dollar corporation and starting your own team.
You can apply this to your own career!
Are you in a leadership role?
If so, what can you do to restructure your instinctual reaction to mistakes made by your employees?
How can you restructure the conversation following the error to be a conversation purposed to incite growth rather than self-loathing?
What about discussing failure?
Is there a way you can incorporate a celebration of success and an analytical discussion of team failures for your employees into a staff meeting of some kind to show them appreciation and give everyone opportunities to grow and be their best selves while representing your business?
Are you an employee?
When was the last time your race car broke down and you yelled at your mechanics? Is there a different way you can handle it next time? Perhaps even offering to be a part of the solution?
Obviously, there are so many cultural tips and tricks we can take from these guys. And it’s not just drivers – you will find that anyone that is at the top of their field, performing at a high level regularly will share a lot of these core values and techniques.
Leadership is really where it all starts. And it all starts with the leaders’ thoughts and beliefs.
So what can you do to help restructure your company culture and steal their Formula?
Written by: Samuel Martinez