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Evernham backs up this belief in
282 THE OB SKILLS WORKBOOK
team by emphasizing team performance over individual performance. When the car wins a race, everyone shares in the prize money. In addition, when Evernham earns money through personal-service activities such as speaking tours and autograph signings, he shares what he earns with the team. “I wouldn’t be in a position to earn that income if it weren’t for the team. Everyone should feel as if his signature is on the finished product.”12
The teamwork during a race can even include adversaries—as in other drivers. In an effort to make races competitive for fans, NASCAR uses several methods to make the cars approximately even in performance, thereby enhancing the competitive environment for the audience. To get ahead, racers depend on their friends in the form of cars that help aerodynamically “slingshot” them ahead of the pack. This may take the form of teammates (Wally Dallenbach and Terry Labonte for Hendrick Motorsports) or opponents.
Push for perfection but accept imperfection. High performance teams are constantly improving, even in small ways. Evernham makes use of every opportunity to learn something new. If the car is running well, Evernham asks Gordon to find something wrong with it. “We always try to make the car perfect. But the car doesn’t have to be perfect to win; it just has to be less imperfect than everyone else’s car.”13
Don’t strutt your stuff. In the
past, most crews concentrated on the car and relied on horsepower and driving talent to win the race. Evernham takes a larger view that keeps the egos in check:
There aren’t many secrets in the Winston Cup, so you’ve got to protect as much information as you can. We want to have the fastest car on the track, but we
don’t want everybody else to know how fast we are. We don’t show our hand until it’s time to race or to qualify.
We also try to mix things up on race day. We don’t want to fall into patterns or to tip off the competition about our next pit stop. Since everybody can hear us on the scanners, we might use a code word to signal whether we’re changing two tires or four. Sometimes, when the car is running well, Jeff might get on the radio and complain to me that the steering’s tight, even though he’s about to pass another driver. And that driver’s crew chief will fall for it: “Yeah, Gordon can’t pass you right now, because he’s tight.” The driver will leave a little opening and—boom—we’re past him.14
To win the race, drive by different rules. Evernham attacks each race as different from the last. He is constantly looking for even the smallest advantage that can give his race car and driver the edge. The team practices passing cars in unsuspected areas of the track, when their competitors least expect it.15
High performance teams do not happen by chance; rather, they are the result of good recruiting and meticulous attention to learning every detail of the job. With 10 wins in 1997 and 13 wins in 1998, the Gordon recipe for success has resulted in three Winston Cup Series Championships. Jeff Gordon wins approximately one of every four races he starts, a pace unmatched in modern times. The question remains, can anyone catch him?
1. Evaluate Jeff Gordon’s race team on dimensions discussed under the author’s conversation on characteristics of high performance teams.
2. Discuss Jeff Gordon’s race team on dimensions discussed under the author’s conversation on methods to increase group cohesiveness.
3. Compare Gordon’s race team on the methods of team building. Which one most applies to this situation?
1. Dodd, Annmarie. “The Fastest Sport on Earth—Fast-Moving and Fast-Growing, NASCAR Uses Its Loud, Folksy Appeal to Find New Racing Fans for the Future,” Daily News Record, January 25, 1999.
5. Glick, Shav. “Dollar Signs: Sponsorships, Big Money Make NASCAR World Go ’Round,” The Los Angeles Times, February 14, 1999, p. D1.
6. Yost, Mark. “Companies Use NASCAR Races as Means to Rub Elbows, Boost Their Business,” Wall Street Journal, February 22, 1999, p. B17B.
7. Dodd, op. cit.
8. “NASCAR Online: Jeff Gordon,” http://www.nascar.com/win-stoncup/drivers/GordJ01/in-dex.html, February 19, 1999.
9. Cain, Holly. “Gordon Becomes Driving Force,” The Seattle Times, February 14, 1999,
10. Glick, op. cit., p. D1.
11. Slater, Chuck. “Life in the Fast Lane,” Fast Company, http://www.fastcompany.com/ online/18/fastlane.html, October 1998.
THE OB SKILLS WORKBOOK 283
CASE 1 1
First Community Financial
Developed by Mark Osborn, Arizona Chamber of Commerce
First Community Financial is a small business lender that specializes in asset-based lending and factoring for a primarily small-business clientele. First Community’s business is generated by high-growth companies in diverse industries, whose capital needs will not be met by traditional banking institutions. First Community Financial will lend in amounts up to $1 million, so its focus is on small business. Since many of the loans that it administers are viewed by many banks as high-risk loans, it is important that the sales staff and loan processors have a solid working relationship. Since the loans and factoring deals that First Community finances are risky, the interest that it charges is at prime plus six percent or sometimes higher.