Toto Wolff on Managing Change
Toto Wolff is the team principal and 30% owner of Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team. Having in the period 2014-16 won triple world championships in both the driver and constructor category, Mercedes under his leadership is without doubt the most successful Formula 1 team of the current generation. Following the retirement of Nico Rosberg at the end of last year, Mercedes have just appointed Valtteri Bottas as Nico's replacement. Toto's statement to the press on this is as ever full of insight into management at the highest level. This is what he said.
The announcement by Rosberg that he was retiring was a shock for even his team, but as Toto says (quoted in a BBC article):
Sometimes in life, unexpected circumstances provide interesting opportunities. Nico's decision in December was a big surprise.
First off then, while the announcement of his world champion driver retiring was a surprise, arguably an unwelcome one, Toto sees the positive in the situation, it becomes an interesting opportunity. We discussed cognitive reframing in our previous article on luck and noted that lucky people, and I would add to that successful people, reframe a challenge or a potentially negative event into one where they see instead an opportunity. Leaders exude positivism because team morale is your responsibility.
But weathering the storm makes you more resilient and we see this as another opportunity for the team to grow.
This is a reworking of Nietzsche's famous 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.' Having seen Nico's retirement as an opportunity, and having overcome that challenge, Toto feels the team is now more resilient as a result. Overcoming challenges as a team binds a team together. Finally on Bottas:
I think Valtteri fits very well in our team, as a driver he's very fast, and he also has his heart in the right place. He share's our values and passion, and he's modest and humble and he's hard working.
While you might expect Toto to comment on Bottas' abilities on the race track (he's very fast), it might be a surprise to some that the next substantive comment is that 'he shares our values'. At the end of last year I published a blog post on values and have for a long time believed that values are one of the most significant and significantly overlooked areas of management.
Accordingly, I think it is fascinating that unprompted, values are one of the very first things that Toto mentions as important in respect of Valtteri Bottas' appointment. It reiterates in my view what I have promoted a number of times on this website: when hiring, or being hired, it is essential that employer-employee share their core values for if they do not, they are storing up trouble for down the line. If they do however share core values, the relationship and outcome will be significantly enhanced by unity of purpose.
Formula 1 is about winning, and values inform the behaviours that will drive that success. Such an important fact is not lost on Toto; don't let it be lost on you.
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