Indy 500 Races Can Be Won or Lost in the Pit. How’s Your Pit Crew Doing?

Guest Post from Glenna Crooks, PhD:

If you are a leader today you face a faster pace of change
and far greater complexity than at any time in human history. As if the
technical challenges, required skillsets and necessary mindsets were not enough
to master, there’s more. It is likely your organization is multigenerational,
multiracial, multilingual, ethnically-diverse and gender-fluid. It may cross
time zones. If it is multinational, you comply with differing laws and
regulations and adhere to differing cultural norms.

Add to that, your world gets more hyper-connected with each
passing day.  Any, even minor, mistake you
– or others on your teams – make, can create instant, major blow-back. How
could it not?  After all, you face 24/7/365,
always-on media, government regulators, Wall Street analysts, company
shareholders, community stakeholders, critics, customers and employees, each
with different – and sometimes conflicting – demands.

My work as a global strategist organizing chaos and solving problems
in health care puts me in touch with extraordinary people navigating these
choppy waters. I have the “up close” view that comes from long days of working,
long nights of dining and long weeks of studying together in development
courses. What a privilege!  I admire them
all and am pleased to say none succumbed to the pressures by cutting corners or
losing sight of their mission to help and to heal.

In 2005, however, I noticed a troublesome trend.
Increasingly, the pressures were taking a toll.  I’d become a trusted, confidential counsel
which is why, over time, more and more of them felt comfortable to share
worries they’d not disclosed to others, even to spouses, coaches and counselors,
and certainly not to Boards, other senior executives or employees. They were
overwhelmed. They feared they were not up to facing the future
successfully.  Even more, they feared
their companies were destined for failure, their employees would lose jobs and
the patients they served would suffer.

I don’t go looking for problems; they find me. That’s what
happened here. These concerns sent me in search of solutions, and I found many.
Some had worked in my own life: better fitness, Covey’s Seven Habits, active
vacations and better stress management, to name a few. It seemed, however, that
regardless of how necessary those
approaches were, they were not sufficient.
What else did they need?

In 2007, I found the answer in an unlikely place – the
fashion magazine W – and from an
unlikely source: Robert Downey, Jr. In an interview, he’s quoted as saying he
needed a “pit crew” of people to help him live his life. He wasn’t a Model T;
he was a Ferrari, so it took a pit crew to keep him on the road. 

If you are like the leaders I know, you have a good pit crew
at work: good assistants, talented staff, great consultants and policies and
procedures to help it all run smoothly. What became apparent in a decade of
research, however, is that (except in very rare cases) virtually all leaders lacked
similar support for life outside of work. That not only left them with little
downtime to recover from the demands of the job, it disrupted work days with
avoidable non-work commitments, obligations, events and crises. Though this had
not (yet) taken a toll on their performance, it had taken a toll on them and
their relationships.  

In that case, what should a leader do? What my
favorite superhero called “pit crews”, I call “networks.” I urge you to learn
about yours. Explore who’s in them. Learn if an important person might be
missing.  Determine whether they’re
supporting you well enough and if not – especially if it’s someone you pay for
services – consider making changes.

What networks you should explore? There are six networks
that support you outside of work: family, health and vitality, education and
enrichment, spiritual, social and community, and home and personal affairs.
And, there’s one additional; it is important because it impacts you, often
without you realizing it. This is a network I call “ghosts”: the influential people
from your past who shaped your life.

Why is this important? It is true for everyone,
but especially for leaders: when it comes to your career, the strengths and the
weaknesses of every other network show up in force. Unreliable child care,
doctors who keep you waiting, or a contractor that walks out on a remodeling
job, for example, drain your energy and rob you of the peace of mind you need
to lead well.

·Then, what’s next? With new insights about your
own life, realize that each of your employees – and customers – are facing
similar non-work support challenges. Many may not yet have the skills you’ve
developed during your leadership journey. What might that mean for how you
manage? For the training you provide? For company benefits? For new products
and services for your market? For customer service? Please keep me posted. I’d
love to hear about it.

Crooks, PhD
was a Reagan Appointee, a Merck&Co Global Vice
President and Founder of Strategic Health Policy International, Inc. With Bruce
LaMont, she recently c-founded CogentSageQI, an innovative performance
optimization platform built on a unique data ecosystem aligned to key
performance indicators and the bottom line. She is the author of The
NetworkSage: Realize Your Network Superpower.