When Toto Wolff, CEO and team principal of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 team, first walked through the doors at the team’s base at Brackley, UK, in 2013, he didn’t feel the setting was right. “When I sat down at the reception, it didn’t look like a Formula One team,” he tells sports broadcaster Jake Humphrey and leading organisational psychologist Damian Hughes, who host The High Performance Podcast.
“There was an old Daily Mail on the table from the previous week and coffee cups with dry coffee…. Now you may say, how do dry coffee cups or an old Daily Mail impact on the performance of a Formula One team? It shows an attitude. It shows attention to detail…. All these soft factors that many will ignore are part of the values of a team,” Wolff explains in his conversation with the two hosts.
Today, Wolff and the Mercedes team are the epitome of Formula One racing. Since 2014, the team has won seven consecutive F1 double (drivers’ and constructors’) World Championships, breaking numerous other records on the way. So how does Wolff manage a complex, high-tech F1 team—everyone from engineers to competitive race drivers? When asked about the three top non-negotiables that people around him must buy into, Wolff says: “Number 1: Never, ever lie…. Number 2: Don’t bullshit me because I will find out. Number 3: Be authentic, with all your weaknesses and strengths.”
The podcast reveals such striking insights from some of the most successful, high-achieving individuals in the world. What drives them to excellence and what do they see as high performance?
For Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær, high performance is realising the potential not just of yourself but also the team you are part of. “High performance is knowing, when you leave the door, that you have done everything you can to stay at the top.” Having rubbed shoulders with the likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Roy Keane—“players who always wanted to improve”—during his playing career with United, Solskjær employed those learnings in his managerial approach.
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For Nepalese mountaineer Nirmal “Nims” Purja, one big learning is that “excuses are for losers”. In 2019, the 37-year-old summited all 14 of the world’s 8,000m peaks in six months and six days.
The two hosts have also interacted with people outside the world of sport. Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey speaks about his book, Greenlights, and the “true meaning” of selfishness. British perfumer Jo Malone, one of the world’s most successful businesswomen, shares life lessons and experiences, while the Scottish solo percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie talks about how losing her hearing at an early age made her a “better listener and musician”.
So far, the podcast has completed four series of interviews and interactions. Later this year, Humphrey and Hughes are also planning a book based on their interviews to detail the nine hidden principles that drive high performers to success.
Listen to The High Performance Podcast on YouTube, Spotify and other streaming platforms.