Countercultural Leadership: Professional Pit Stops

Want a radical, countercultural strategy that will transform your leadership approach, pay guaranteed dividends for your team, ensure alignment, and accelerate the achievement of goals? Try deploying a professional pit stop strategy. 

Over the last 5 years or so, I’ve become a fan of Formula 1 car racing, which has led to other unexpected forays into racing. Thanks to my partner, I eventually bumped into the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, an endurance-focused sports car race held near the town of Le Mans, France. Unlike most races which are fixed-distance, the 24 Hours of Le Mans race is won by the car that covers the greatest distance in 24 hours. Teams must balance all sorts of factors including speed, driver fatigue, the car’s ability to run without mechanical failure, maintenance on the vehicle throughout the race, and race strategy. 

As I work with organizations and teams of all sizes and across industries throughout the United States and Canada, this is a fitting metaphor, AND there’s some very pertinent wisdom to be found. What caught my attention the most was the intentional effort spent to identify a pit stop strategy that would support the most optimal outcome for the team. If we apply this in a professional sense, it might look something like this: 

What: Intentional, dedicated, and repeated focused time to refuel, assess resources and maintenance needs, reconsider strategy, and redirect/recommit to a plan of action

Why: Ensure optimal performance for the longest amount of time to achieve the greatest amount of progress

How: Create a cadence that the group can commit to (I recommend every other month at a minimum when starting), identify core agenda items, include time for refueling/recharging of team members, set an intention for the time together/define the purpose, execute, and include an evaluation to drive future performance. It is critical that the agenda includes downtime for team members to get actual physical rest so they don’t leave feeling more exhausted than when they arrived, activities that promote the team dynamic and help team members understand each other better as humans, and a meaningful celebration of wins that the team has amassed since the last get-together.

So why is this countercultural? 

  1. Organizations are really good at preaching things like wellness, taking the time needed to do a job well, preventing burnout, being strategic with workouts…and they’re also really really really good at ignoring all of this. This approach makes sure teams practice what they preach. 
  1. It’s a different way to get work done – and even add more – without modifying the underlying team support structure to accomplish it.
  2. It leverages the performance structure of creating a platform for a highly intentional “investment period” of building appropriate team infrastructure rather than the much more common “changing the tires on the car as we’re driving” approach.
  3. Instead of focusing exclusively or primarily on work output, it places a greater or even higher emphasis on creating, maintaining, and improving cross-functional connections between employees and teams.
  4. Instead of waiting for developments to happen and then being behind the curve trying to respond to them, it accelerates the progress of the group in anticipation of ongoing company development. 

If you really want your team to be the one to go the farthest and achieve the most, a good pit stop strategy is critical. 

- Nicole



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