Lessons Learned from the Indianapolis 500

Lessons Learned from the Indianapolis 500

By Alexandra S. Jackiw, CPM®, CAPS, C3P

Indianapolis has long been known for the “Biggest Spectacle in Racing” – the Indianapolis 500.  In years past, car owners and their teams have come to Indianapolis during the month of May to qualify for and to win the most famous auto race in the world.  This year the race was held without spectators on August 23.  Although it was different this year because of necessary restrictions as a result of the COVID pandemic – most parts of it remained the same.  And – there are valuable lessons to be learned from watching the race, even if you’re not a race fan.

I have been a big fan of the Indianapolis 500 for many years and have enjoyed attending the race — but not for the reasons you might expect.  What fascinates me the most about the Indianapolis 500 is what happens behind the scenes – how each team works with precision towards the ultimate goal of winning the race.  It takes an entire team of committed, disciplined, and focused individuals working towards the singular goal of getting its car and driver across the finish line first after 500 grueling miles.

The “process of winning” begins long before 33 cars line up on race day to compete in the Indianapolis 500.  It starts when a team of people works tirelessly to build the best race car and then strives continually to improve it.  The driver does his part by testing the car under various conditions, each time providing his crew with feedback on how the car performs and how to fine-tune it.  Crew members specialize in maintaining specific parts and components in the race car, continuously inspecting, cleaning, and recalibrating those components to squeeze out every bit of speed.  The crew also practices pit stops – rehearsing critical, well-timed stops to refuel, change tires, adjust the aerodynamics, and address any driver concerns during the race.

And on race day, the pit crew and driver perform at their peak – a well-orchestrated team of professionals bent on putting their car in Victory Circle.  It’s incredible to watch the pit stops from my vantage point, seated in the Paddock area at past races – knowing each person on the crew is striving for peak performance.  What makes that peak performance even more compelling, is the knowledge that any misstep or miscalculation, no matter how small, could seriously injure or even kill the driver.

So, what are the lessons I carry away from observing race teams at Indy?

  • Teamwork is everything, no matter what business or endeavor you pursue.
  • Mediocre or average just isn’t good enough.
  • Striving for peak performance is exhilarating, rewarding, and motivating.
  • Continual practice, training and reinforcement make everyone on the team stronger and more effective.
  • Feedback and communication are critical to getting the absolute best out of all team members.
  • Knowing the role you play in the big picture and continually improving how you perform in that role is key to team success.

Many teams work extremely hard to deliver excellent results in all areas of our business – property management, client service, accounting, construction, and development.  I wonder how close we could all come to achieving PEAK PERFORMANCE – landing in Victory Circle — if we worked as though our efforts were a matter of life and death?