building high performance teams

Global recruitment & HR services company, Randstad, again sponsors the Williams Martini Formula One racing team in a fast-paced, action-packed sport that demands the highest levels of accuracy, dedication and commitment from those in the driver’s seat, and those in support. In this article, we illustrate why these same attributes need to be emulated off the track, in the workplace, in order to build truly exceptional high performance teams.

For most of us, F1 racing inspires images of speed, skill, high performance, success and celebration. These same images can also be seen in any highly successful workplace, with one inherent quality linking F1 drivers with high performing leaders and individuals — determination. Determination to take risks, determination to push the limits of talent, to focus the mind, and to get the most out of those working with you.

With this in mind, accelerating the success levels of your business means not only leading with the focus and determination required to get around the track before your competitors, but surrounding yourself with a team that will drive this through their own desire for personal and collective success.

accelerate your business

Like any sporting team after a difficult race, businesses are looking to enhance market share, increase profits and provide a stable foundation for future growth — and they are looking to do it quickly. Now is the time to build the team you need to get across the finish line.

Unfortunately for the employer, high performance individuals do not make up the entire market. They can be somewhat of a rarity in some industries, simply due to the energy required to sustain such high levels of intensity, drive and motivation. Considering the uniqueness of this talent pool, the first challenge facing any employer looking to build a trophy winning, high-performance team, is determining exactly how to engage the right people.

The first step — before even looking at possible new hires — is deciding precisely what you require in line with the goals of your business. High performance individuals work best when they can align their personal goals for growth with those of their employer. Ensuring you have a strong and transparent strategy in place prior to going to market means you will only attract those high performers who feel a connection with your company mission.

Finding the right people — the true high performers who will be critical to your accelerated growth plan — means finding people who will hit the ground running. Similar to F1, these are people who show a natural ability and talent in their field, have a strong ability to lead others, and are determined to succeed no matter what.

Like any sporting team, you also need to ensure your potential new high performers have the right mindset for your business — and given the commonality for this particular talent group to be of high intelligence, an interview should not be the only informant. These days, with a high performance team relying on the intensity of each player, insight into people’s mindset and future behaviour is best gained through various scientific methods, such as psychometric testing, to ensure your drivers and pit crew are entirely on the same track.

When you have your ideal team in place, the next challenge is learning how to drive them to success — as it requires strong leadership to transform a team of high performers into a high performance team.

driving a high performance team to success

In the 65 seasons since 1950, only 32 men have won the Formula One World Championship, while only eight have topped the season leader board three or more times.

In the world of business, a handful of leaders such as Jack Welch of GE, Steve Jobs of Apple and Eric E. Schmidt of Google, are renowned for their achievements, but none have achieved greatness alone. Great leaders share a common belief that leadership is more about character and vision than authority and power. It is how they interact with their teams and peers, and how they naturally inspire, that truly displays their ability to lead. This is true of business, as it is true of any sporting arena and of life in general, as can be seen by the truly great leaders of our time, Nelson Mandela and US president, Bill Clinton.

The real question is, does this apply to the management of high performers? Is it about character and vision, or are they looking for something else — something that sets their leader apart?

Over the decades we have seen leaders take different approaches to getting the mix right, but one thing is clear, whatever the industry and economic climate, they are all working towards the same goal — inspiring collective action.

In a team of high performers, collective action is inspired by a leader who either exhibits the same unique qualities as their team members or in contrast, identifies the differences and ensures they learn how to cater to the needs of their team.

ongoing drivers for high performance

Schumacher is the only F1 driver to have an entire season of podium finishes, a feat he accomplished in 2002.

While high performers deliver ongoing outstanding results, their high intensity can often mean they are difficult to manage over long periods and can be more demanding than other employees.

In this instance, if you are also managing other teams, it is important that you remember to provide the same amount of encouragement and recognition to your other reports, so your entire workforce maintains a consistently high level of efficiency.

So how can you manage high performers efficiently over long periods?

1. Recognise, reward and challenge

Just like a team leader on the racing track, business leaders need to encourage their teams by providing genuine and regular recognition of excellence. At the same time, in order to ensure a sustainable level of efficiency, it is important to make certain that high performers, with their unique levels of intensity, don’t tire of the ‘everyday grind’.

Build in new goals once existing goals are close to being achieved, provide new challenge and competition, and introduce tangible rewards for milestones.

2. Set the goal and let them achieve it

High performers are often unique in that they have different and innovative methods of approaching tasks and goals than other employees. Rather than trying to manage this and reign it in, set a clear direction and goal for them, and then step away. Don’t micromanage — let them achieve.

3. Align business and individual goals

High performers need to strive towards inspiring goals that are achievable but may be just out of reach — this presents the challenge they need to work harder, faster and smarter. This group is characterised by the need to constantly try to better previous successes, interestingly also the hallmark of some of the most competitive people in the world, F1 racing car drivers. Put the company or task goals in place, and then allow your high performers to set their sights on their own personal benchmark, often enabling them to far surpass expectations.

ensure you are on the circuit

In one of the most dominating performances on the F1 track, a young Jackie Stewart in 1968 raced the Nürburgring-Nordschleife racing circuit under torrential rain. With an average lap time of nine minutes, Jackie managed to blitz the field to win by just over four minutes, a feat which has never again been matched.

Just like reputations forged on a rain-drenched track, the credentials of a true leader shine through during periods of difficulty — a concept set in stone during the recent economic downturn.

According to respondents of Randstad’s World of Work Report, the main reasons for a planned job change were the need for a new challenge and career advancement (20%), followed by poor leadership (17%).

High performers are no exception to this research, often feeling the impact of periods such as downturn more than those achieving at a ‘normal’ level. Downturn for high achievers can transform quickly from a period of challenge, into an insurmountable obstacle — something that seemingly can’t be cleared regardless of determination — and this can result in plummeting levels of morale, and in turn enthusiasm and dedication from high performers. Critical in these times, is a leader’s ability to identify this drop and continue to inspire and motivate their people, so they continue to achieve beyond average downturn levels. This is no mean feat.

During these periods, the traditional leadership attributes of inspiration, motivation, creating vision and providing recognition come to the fore. Effective harnessing of these characteristics can mean the difference between maintaining your high performers through difficult periods, and boosting them back up quickly in upswing, or losing them completely and requiring an entirely new team.

in pole position

The name synonymous with F1 racing has to be the 81 year old driving force, Mr Bernie Ecclestone. For decades, Bernie has been instrumental in transforming the sport into the business venture it is today. It has been said that there is no other industry or sport that deals with so many high performers or egos as motor racing.

Managing a team of high performers requires a detailed strategy of intertwined activities including an effective talent attraction and recruitment plan, an ongoing development process, a motivating rewards and recognition approach, and a proactive retention program.

The key for employers and leaders to remember when managing this vibrant and evolving group is to recognise the top individuals in your organisation, and tailor programs to inspire them. Understand what drives them, reward their efforts and allow their passion for success flow throughout the organisation.


Randstad is a Fortune 500 Company and one of the world’s largest recruitment and HR services organisations. The Randstad Group employs almost 675,000 people every day with the aim of ‘Shaping the world of work’.

Success in Formula One requires the commitment of a talented team performing at the best of their ability. This is also true for employees at Randstad, and Williams Martini Racing share Randstad’s core value in “striving for perfection”. Randstad’s ability to attract, coach and retain the best people for organisations around the world is testament to the fact that we live by this core value. Visit the Randstad - Williams Martini sponsorship page for further information.

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