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Born to Win: Operational and leadership insights from Formula 1

Mark Gallagher teach us how high-performing teams are getting the best results in Formula 1.

“Every day is a new race, and we approach it with that mentality. Every day, we are using our environment to drive outcomes, because we are passionate about success and everyone is engaged in the relentless pursuit of it.”
- Mark Gallagher, Formula 1 expert and leading business analyst

Operational excellence and inspiring leadership are as much a hallmark of the most successful businesses as they are of the most successful Formula 1 teams.

Both involve engaging, motivating and supercharging large and diverse teams. Both need to deliver a winning product. And both, ultimately, come down to finding the edge you need to leave your competitors trailing in your wake.

In the second episode of The Workforce Management Show, we explored the relationship between elite motorsport, high performing teams and successful businesses. We were joined by special guest, Mark Gallagher, Formula 1 expert and leading business analyst.  Mark helps companies by showing them business lessons and insights from Formula 1, including topics such as high-performance teamwork, digital transformation, change management, and innovation.

Drawing on stories from his career, Mark shared with us his operational and leadership insights from the world of Formula 1. Here are his top actionable insights:

1. Make continuous improvement a foundation of what you do

Like business, Formula 1 never stands still. Those who fail to keep up are the ones who get left behind. 

“My top KPI is continuous improvement,” said Mark. “It doesn’t matter what it is, it matters that you commit to it. You need to be constantly measuring performance and see how much you’re improving - it’s one of the most important things you can do.”

2. Benchmark against the competition & learn from failure

“I’ve seen some amazing Formula 1 teams fail because they measured everything internally,” Mark said. “They kept telling themselves they were doing a great job, but there's no point doing a great job when the competition is 2% in front of you the whole time.

“Benchmark yourself against the competition and don't be afraid of that because every industry is competitive, so you’ve got to see what the other guys are doing and make sure you're staying ahead of them.”

According to Mark, to do this well, you have to be prepared to learn from failures. If you’re not ‘winning’ you can’t just keep repeating failures and expecting a different result. The first step in learning from failures is owning them.

“People fail when an organisation fails. If you start blaming each other and hiding your mistakes, the whole organisation goes down. But if you get an open, honest, respectful environment, where you can share and learn, the whole organisation starts to go up. So learning from failure is everything.”

3. Measure the reliability of the outcome

One off successes are great but they shouldn’t be what define an organisation. It’s consistency that’s key.

“I'm a huge believer in measuring the consistency of delivery and the reliability of the outcome,” said Mark. “There's no point in being brilliant one day, and rubbish the next. You've got to keep that consistent delivery. We get quite worried when we see isolated, great performances because we don't want isolated performances - we want continuous performance. We've got to stay ahead of the competition, and we've got to do so consistently.”

Formula 1 has been a data-driven environment for years and, increasingly, the most successful businesses across all sectors are those that harness the power of data to ensure consistency and continuous improvement.

By listening to data, Formula 1 teams are able to see where they are failing and identify where they need to improve. By turning marginal failures into marginal gains, the best teams are able to gain a competitive advantage.

4. Great leaders have brilliant teams

Is it the team that makes the leader brilliant or vice versa? Great leaders will always have a brilliant team around them but they should always bring a positive energy with them.

“Leaders bring the energy,” said Mark. “Leaders can, and should, inspire. They should infect people with motivation - and you see the top drivers have a great way of doing this. Your team will live off your dynamic and the best leaders will connect with the people who work on their team on a human level.

“And, as a leader, if you've got a brilliant team of people, you've already made the right decisions. The best leaders in the world are flattered by their teams who do such a great job that they make the leader look good. But, no matter how brilliant your team is, don’t forget to connect with them and bring positivity. A smile can go a long way.“

5. Turn up

Finally, Mark’s most crucial piece of advice is to do something that’s incredibly simple, yet so often overlooked - to turn up.

“My motto in life is just turn up,” he said. “I know that seems a strange thing to say but it's amazing how many people don't turn up.

“Turn up for your colleagues, for your customers, for that meeting, particularly for that difficult meeting. Just turn up and deliver. So much of what I reflect on in my career has been about turning up and going for it, and too many people don't do that, and then they wonder why they never quite succeeded. You’ve got to be there and be prepared to be scrutinised - but you know that's that's part of life - you’ve just got to go for it, so just turn up.”

Watch and listen to the full episode for more of these insights from Mark - including the importance of communication - and get a fantastic look into life behind the scenes of elite motorsport.

Watch now


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