How often have you heard that a successful business runs like a well-oiled machine? Though cliché, I reflect on that very idea as I tune in this month to my favorite pastime — auto racing. The concept of a well-oiled machine plays out quite literally when contemplating all that goes into a prosperous racing venture. In fact, the more I watch just how seamlessly the various aspects of a racing operation come together, the more parallels I see to a flourishing business.
Take, for instance, the Crew Chief. Relied upon to oversee all operations and provide guidance to the team as a whole, this head of operations calls the shots and serves as the backbone of the team. He works with engineers, mechanics and the driver to compile data and elicit peak performance while at the track. He also ensures strong communication throughout all levels of the team.
Likewise, a good boss fosters a sense of leadership in his or her team. A successful manager is able to communicate with employees on all levels of an organization, and recognizes the important role that each individual plays within the team as a whole. He or she should be approachable and must gain the respect of colleagues by being open with them, trusting them, and relying on them to perform to the best of their abilities.
The Pit Crew performs an intricate ballet, every member having a specific job, yet each one integral to the overall operation of the team. From the jack man to the tire changers to the fueler, each must rely on the others to complete their specific task accurately and efficiently before the driver can get back out on track. And all members must anticipate the others’ moves so they are not tripping over each other in the pits, costing their driver valuable time.
Successful work teams function the same way. When each individual performs his or her job function proficiently, the team comes together as one unit. However, when there are “weak links” in the chain, the whole operation fails. By anticipating the needs of other team members and cross-training staff, you can reinforce any weakness within the team. With everyone supporting one another and working toward a similar goal, the process can run both effectively and efficiently.
As with any job, a race team must have the appropriate resources necessary to perform at 100% efficiency. While the racecar is a driver’s “office,” the cockpit must be set up strategically so all of his or her controls are within reach. Also, the team must take into account which car setup will work best at any given racetrack, including aerodynamic downforce, camber and whether to run soft- or hard-compound tires.
While often comparable in size to the cockpit, a workspace also must be equipped with the correct tools. From simple items such as a stapler or telephone, to more intricate needs such as adequate training and technology, an employee cannot perform at full efficiency without the proper resources. Likewise, an effective team member must demonstrate flexibility to go off course from time to time to best meet the demands of an ever-changing workplace.
Perhaps the most important tool of all is trust. The driver must trust his or her spotter, or “eye in the sky,” to relay clear and accurate information on track conditions and surrounding traffic. The pit crew must also trust the driver to stop on his marks each and every time he enters the pits or their lives could be in danger because the operation is not flowing smoothly and someone is in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Trust is also crucial in the workplace. The key to building cohesive teams is trust amongst the members. There needs to be an open flow of information in addition to respect between managers and their reports.
Though you may have days when you feel like everything’s happening around you at 100 miles per hour, don’t forget to take a deep breath, check your rearview mirrors and hold your line. If the way you’re doing things isn’t working for you, take a moment to realign your configuration and get on the throttle again. Before you know it, you’ll be taking the checkered flag and tasting victory in winner’s circle!