Pit Stops for Management

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From Deborah Koehler

Zoom! Swoosh! Bang! Cheer! There is adrenalin in the air. The excitement spreads through the Pit. The driver is pulling into the pit stop: this time for a tire rotation and spark plug change. Time is running fast. In the background the sounds of a Formula 500 race continue. In all the associated pits the cars are tuned and tweaked for optimum performance during the 5-hour race – and all are working together to create a win for their talented driver.

Great organizations have elements of the Formula 500 – great teams working together to ensure peak performance. They must be laser clear about what they are trying to do: they too, must tweak and tune round after round, year after year. Every “round” counts as leadership must quickly reward and repair as needed, without fear or favor. Those who lead are intensely focused on delivering results. They know how to read the performance of the machine they are running. They know how to read the road ahead.

But let’s look more closely. Preparation and correction do not happen only on the track. They happen, even more so, during the “Pit Stop” when cars pull in to get tanks filled, wheels changed, nuts tightened, and small adjustments made to ensure that the cars will stay at top performance. Pit stops might seem unnecessary in the moment as winning the race is the larger goal, but without pit stops the race would sooner or later come to a standstill.

Pit Stops take practice! In the Formula 500 the Pit Crew rehearse and revise so that their timing is down to the millisecond. And even the car drivers’ have routines that are individualized and ritualized. All have learned, over time, the practices and habits that work best for them to stay on top of their game. They know what they have to do to perform at their best. They understand the daunting, unforgiving challenges they face and know that only brutal honesty about how they are doing and quick correction when they are not doing as well as they might can keep them at peak performance. Half-truths and evasions cannot work – in fact, are extremely dangerous. Pit Stops are not for PR or ego stroking. They are for doing the real, hard, honest work needed to compete successfully.

By contrast, far too many executives and teams are under constant pressure of real events in real competitive races, and neglect to develop the grooved habits of quick adjustment to fall back on to make sure that their performance is at its best. What if they did pay attention to the characteristic ways their performance tends to get soggy and then did the hard work to groove the rituals, the habits, of correction that would keep them at peak performance? What if they made it a regular practice to come in for a managerial Pit Stop every so often to make sure that all their habits and reflexes were in top working order?

Every professional knows: The faster you go, the more pit stops you need. That’s why we strongly suggest that all truly performance-oriented organizations should encourage their managers and leadership teams to schedule a Pit Stop from time to time with one of SYMBIONT Group’s Consultants. If optimal performance is the goal, Pit Stops are essential.