Yesterday saw a fantastically exciting Formula1 race now mired in controversy. One team was fractured. Another strengthened. Emperor penguins in Antarctica are in a similar race to Formula1 team-mates – fight each other when you can, but “take one for the tribe” when it needs you to. So, are you a “Vettel” or a “Rosberg”?

A Fractured Team.   Copyright Mark Thompson, Getty Images

A Fractured Team.   Copyright Mark Thompson, Getty Images

BAD STUFF HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON'T DO WHAT'S BEST FOR THE TEAM

At the three-quarter mark of the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix, the Red Bull were comfortably looking at 1-2 finish, Mark Webber in front and Sebastian Vettel in second. The team sent out the order – MULTI 21 which translated to “Conserve the car, the race is all but over and maintain current positions”. Red Bull Racing knew that a head-to-head fight to the last would risk damage to both cars and compromise the combined points for the team.  Formula1 followers, Mark Webber fans and the Red Bull Racing team vividly remember Turkey in 2010 where Webber and Vettel, comfortable in positions one and two, crashed into each other in the final stages of the race.

Apparently, Vettel ignored what was best for the team, kept his car “hot” and overtook Webber in a risky passing move. Admonished publicly, he apologised. The team achieved a 1-2 victory but the team is fractured. All trust is gone and with it any willingness to take one for the team, a trait required for great teamwork.

Further down the grid, the same scenario unfolded for Mercedes. Here, the drivers did do what was best for the team. For Nico Rosberg it was a tough thing to take – he was faster and could have overtaken Lewis Hamilton for a place on the podium.

EMPEROR PENGUINS KNOW HOW TO TAKE ONE FOR THE TEAM

You might be thinking… what does this have to do with Emperor Penguins?? Well, there’s a remarkable similarity. Emperors are the only animals that live year-round on the continent of Antarctica. In summer they are aggressive, territorial and fight for the right to thrive. In the long, cold and dark winter they put all their posturing aside, huddle close, and together, fight the elements to survive.

Take a hit for the team (c) March of the Penguins, 2006

Take a hit for the team (c) March of the Penguins, 2006

Each and every male Emperor takes a “hit” for the team. As the storms blast through and the temperature plummets to -100 degrees °C these unique creatures form a tight knit huddle. It continually moves, and shifts as one by one, an individual will take his time on the outside, at great risk and great harm. They protect the tribe so the individual can thrive.

Like Nico Rosberg, the penguins that take a hit for the team suffer, but quickly recover once their turn is over. The team is strengthened. When an individual chooses NOT to collaborate and seeks personal glory above the needs of the team, everyone suffers.

TAKE YOUR TURN ON THE OUTSIDE AND WATCH YOUR TEAM THRIVE

In all teams there are things no-one wants to do. Realistically, who really likes taking minutes of meetings? Who likes doing that time consuming background research for the next session? Have a think about your team. 

ARE YOU TAKING ALL THE HITS, NONE OF THE HITS?

If you’re a NONE person its time to put your hand up and do your bit. Be a “Rosberg” not a “Vettel”. Encourage those around you to do the same. People will respect you more for it, you will build their trust and importantly, the team will operate more effectively.

If you’re taking ALL the hits, print this blog post and hand it around at the next meeting, or flick the link through to the team via email. Help people understand that great team performance comes from equitable sharing of the load. Get help from your team leader or manager. Help build a culture of participation and collaboration and see your team thrive.

Cheers,
Rachael