The sense of support and commitment team members feel towards each other’s performance and development,” is just one vital sign when it comes to high performing teams. I wonder how much of this is going on at the Red Bull F1 team at the moment.

Motor Racing, as a sport and as a business, is a team effort. It’s not just about the drivers. Reckless behaviour from one individual has the ability to hamper overall performance, and crush chances of victory for the team.  The pit teams are often used as legendary examples of working as a team under pressure.
The drivers’ relationship to them is clear – they have to trust each other and focus completely on the task without question.  The drivers’ relationships with each other can be more complex – as we have seen.

The relationship between Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber is proving to be quite a challenge for their particular team. The F1 season has just started, and the conflict between the teammates has resumed. The latest breakdown coming on Sunday, when Vettel refused to obey team orders and overtook his race-leading teammate and proceeded to win the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Former F1 World Champion Damon Hill called it a “big problem”, while the immediate assumption from those inside and outside of this team is that Vettel is in it for himself, not the team.

It’s a major (and common) problem in teams within businesses across the globe. But let’s get things in perspective; the Red Bull team is currently leading the 2013 Formula 1 Constructors’ (teams) championship. Vettel leads the board, and Webber comes close, in third place. The Red Bull team must be doing something right.

What the team has on its hands is a weakness, something that as a collective it must be aware of, because eventually this internal dispute will become a threat to overall performance.

The leadership has a key role to play here. Initially, spotting the danger, and there are three specific ways that leaders will be able to identify where team members are not supporting one another:

1. Team members competing with one another
2. Team members hiding information from one another
3. Missed opportunities: Team members failing to resolve problems effectively because information is not passed on.

The true leaders are the individuals able to step out from the fast-pace of the team environment and assess where certain ‘team’ players are acting selfishly and not for the collective. Leaders need to ascertain: Are people watching each other’s backs? 

Certain levels of dysfunction can, and always will be, tolerated within a team, but high-performing teams need to be clear about their strengths, and support and work for each other when goals are to be achieved.

In any team, conflicts may arise from factors outside of the team’s direct influence, and the Red Bull team faces now a situation that challenges their resolving conflict abilities. The team leaders will hopefully learn something from this if they want to stay where they are, ahead of the competition.

One of our Six Conversations for Team Success is about Working for Each Other: Can you identify areas where team members are supporting each other? The answer, in truth, at Red Bull cannot be a resounding ‘yes’ that’s for sure.

Clive Hook
Programme Director

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