It’s the gift that keeps giving
Organisations need high-performing employees and high performing employees want satisfying jobs. In this piece I will discuss how what I learned from racing superbikes can help both get what they want.
My early career with Anglian Water was not great, my youthful self-confidence running into organisational inertia and coming off second best. However, I was bright enough to knuckle down and start learning about laboratory testing and the science of water treatment, albeit doing just enough to get by.
Faced with a job I found unchallenging I took up motorbike racing, mainly using my road-bike in the production class for near-standard machinery and sometimes in the open class against the purpose-built superbikes just for the fun.
Lesson 1: make the most of what you’ve got
I expected to be blown away by the race-prepared superbikes, but this did not happen. They weren’t making best use of what they had, while I almost matched them on a road-bike just by doing the basics right. A valuable lesson.
Lesson 2: Do what you need to, not what you want to
Racing the Italian sports-bikes against Japanese machinery was hard work, but when I finally switched to a slow (only 145 mph!) but sweet handling 750 Yamaha top five results were a regular occurrence with, on one occasion, two outright wins.
I learned from this not to keep doing the same thing just because you like doing it if you want to progress.
Lesson 3: Know when to move on
My final lesson was learning when to give something up. I replaced 750 with its 1000cc big brother, figuring the extra power would make me a regular winner. Sadly the 1000, while fast enough to win an open class championship, was hard to ride and unreliable. After one blow-up too may it had to go.
A somewhat expensive lesson but a valuable one.
Applying the lessons to work
After one crash too many I re-focused on my job, making a conscious decision to be the best at any task, no matter how routine. This was noticed by the lab manager who moved me onto project work.
Being appreciated for problem solving rather than following a recipe was a great step forward, and success on the first project resulted in more project work and an eventual escape in an operational role.
Clearly, my superbike racing lessons are a gift that keep giving.
Lesson 1: Be great at the basics
Lesson 2: Once great, move on
Lesson 3: If something you’ve tried isn’t working, change it
I hope that you have enjoyed reading this post. If you have thoughts on what I have written so far please leave a comment.
Also if you have an idea for another business topic let me know and I’ll be delighted to find a space for it.