People over Process 100% of the Time

I wrote a version of this email a couple of years ago. The key point from the email is more relevant today than ever before. So I’ve tweaked it. Enjoy.

“If you had to apportion how much of your success over the last seven years has been down to people versus processes, what would you say that proportion was?”, he was asked.

“100% people, because people make processes”, answered Toto Wolff. He was being interviewed on the High Performance podcast in April 2021.

Toto Wolff is Team Principal and CEO of the Mercedes Formula One team. Under his leadership at the time of the interview, the Mercedes F1 team had clinched seven consecutive Formula One Double World Championships. The Red Bull team has won a couple of times since.

I’m fairly clueless about F1, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching a Netflix show Drive to Survive, which highlights the pressure each team’s two drivers are under every year. It’s not like many other sports. There are ten teams, each with two drivers. So 20 seats in cars in a race.

If you’re a driver and your contract is up at the end of a season, then you’re driving to survive.

  • But what if they were driving to thrive?

Here’s the weirdest part. Because your ‘teammate’ drives the exact same car, it’s against him/her that you’re compared most often.

  • Sounds like some companies I’ve coached in before. Ruthless. One’s biggest competitor in the market may be in the same building. At what point does healthy competition between two star players become unhealthy at team/org level?

The ‘team’ prepared two drivers, who might have watched too much Top Gun, to battle against each other and the rest of the field. Each driver had a team behind them supporting them. But many drivers didn’t reciprocate.

So when Toto Wolff said he apportioned 100% of his team’s record-breaking to PEOPLE, I was surprised.

Precision engineering, massive budgets, big investment in technology, huge data input and feedback from analytics…scores of mechanically and electronically qualified geniuses…and he says 100% people versus performance. Not 99%, but 100%.

Wow!

I began to listen to Toto more closely.

(You can listen to the full conversation by clicking on this link – https://www.thehighperformancepodcast.com/podcast/toto-wolff)

“When you speak about the ‘team’ or the ‘company’, you need to speak about all the people that work in the team. Everybody that’s adding their part to the team’s success…when everybody pulls in the same direction, to the best of their abilities with their important character traits and values, this will trigger positive force”.

Amen to that.

“Now this sounds like Obi-Wan Kinobe speaking about force. Meditating doesn’t make the car faster. That is down to data, down to process. Solid engineering and stability. But all of that is made by people, and that is what I find fascinating”.

Enabling his people to do their best work. Encouraging his people to speak their minds. Recruiting people who think differently, from different backgrounds.

As you enter 2024 and you think of the team you lead, or that you’re a part of, ask yourself:

  • How can we support and enable each other to thrive, not just survive, this year?
  • What would make us closer, more collaborative, more effective?
  • Who can help us get there faster than we could alone? Who might we hire, or engage, that could change our trajectory?