I’ve been thinking a lot lately about an experience I had earlier this year, that albeit frustrating, provided some key takeaways that I wanted to share.
I had volunteered to help a grassroots race team get off the ground earlier in the year. It was an interesting experience, because I was working with someone new to me who had asked for my help. It was different from working on a project with my friends. (Honestly, it was more like working with a client from my day-job, as an consultant.) I was only around for about two months. It didn’t really work out, just really due to an improper character fit with the people involved.
After a few races:
- The ‘team owner’ told me that I wasn’t going to be fast enough to beat some of the local competitors that I race with, without giving any solutions to improve. (I had even gotten on the podium in our second race, with the pace to win with a brand new kart, when the exhaust broke in the final because we were too new to know any better. So I did have the pace to win...)
- He told me that I wasn’t dedicated enough, because I wasn’t spending weekdays at the racetrack practicing. – (Having a job and needing to pay bills while racing will prevent that weekday race scheduling, surprisingly.)
- Finally, and most importantly, he tried to put his own personal limits on what he thought my ability is, and decided to replace me with someone else, more under the table. (I’m fine with being replaced, but just do it in a straight-forward way. Don’t do it behind someone’s back.)
It was a shitty feeling, being treated like that, even if it’s was for such a small thing in the big scheme of things. So, after a long discussion at a Starbucks, I left to work on other projects. What I’m not ok with, is someone trying to define for me what they think I’m capable of, when they ask me for my help.
The experience really got me thinking about why we race with other people in the first place. Sometimes in our “quest for victory”, we forget about the people that we interact with along the way, and how we’re treating them. Mostly because our passions are driving how we want our reality to be. Let’s be clear. The majority of the people who race are grassroots racers. What we do isn’t Formula 1. Even, if I were to win every race until the end of the year, Ron Dennis is not going to call.
Though, I was extremely frustrated at the time, it got me thinking about what makes a successful team work. A large part of working on a successful team of people is of it is about fitment between all of the players, and making sure that all of the pieces of the team work together properly. Yes, racing is about being competitive, but it is more about the people than it is about the victory.
We race, because we love to do it. We love to improve our skills, and challenge ourselves in new ways.
Personally, I compete in motorsports, because I get to work with passionate individuals who want to be involved with other passionate individuals. We want to share in our love of the sport with those who “get it”. We want to collaborate with people in a way that is going to resonate with them, by adding value through our involvement in the sport.
However, a single person cannot do everything alone, nor would we want to. At almost any level, motorsports is a team sport. Whether it’s a father and son working together at a local kart track, or working with Penske. It’s the combined efforts for several dedicated people that make things work forward. It’s about finding a way to create a respectful environment where people work together as team to take on greater challenges, while having still fun.
I think for every person, the definition of a successful team will differ. For some, it’s the headcount. The larger the team, the more successful it is. For others, the team can be small, but the results it produces are what’s important. Others, it’s how the team makes each member feel valuable over the long term that’s important. However, regardless of the definition, there has to be an element of respect when people are volunteering themselves to help move an passion project forward.
In my opinion, a successful team should have the following elements (Know How to Non-Profit.org does a better job summarizing this list than I do):
- Clear Objectives: Mutually-agreed aims and objectives, and everyone has a clear understanding of these.
- Balanced Roles: A good balance of skills, abilities and aspirations. Team members have a clear understanding of each individual’s role in achieving overall team objectives.
- Effective Processes for Decisions Making: Hood processes for making, communicating, implementing and reviewing decisions.
- Good Communication: Productive and effective communication up, down and across the group.
- Appropriate leadership: The team trusts the team leader and feels that it is led in an appropriate way.
- Support and Trust: People express themselves openly and honestly. There is a willingness to work through difficult situations or conflict constructively.
- Individual Development: ‘Mistakes’ are faced openly and used as a vehicle for learning. Individuals are given opportunities to develop new skills and experience.
- Regular Review: The team regularly reviews its performance and goals and alters its priorities and practice in the light of review
I think the real purpose of the post, is to get people thinking about how we treat one another when we decide to start working together. Consider what everyone’s goals are. Have open and honest discussions about how things work, and make sure that everyone is on the same page.
- Teamwork is about putting together a team of passionate people who support each other to grow and improve, not look to replace one another when ‘objectives aren’t met’.
- Teamwork is about working together to help everyone receive value, not gathering resources at the expense of others’ time and efforts all for one person.
- Teamwork is also about finding balanced resolutions to problems the people that you’re working with. Not ‘my way or the highway’
Long story short, have fun in the sport that you love and find people to work with that you can trust. Be a team leader in your community, treat people with respect, and make sure that everyone has an enjoyable time.
This sport should be for fun. Otherwise, it’s not worth doing.