Blog

009 – Jackie Stewart in the pits

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —March 5, 2018
Filed in Business storytelling, Podcast

Today’s story illustrates the strong link between great work and what can been seen, heard, and felt in the workplace.

You can tell this story to help your team understand how top performers appear and get a conversation going about what your workplace looks and feels like.

It’s also a great model for an excursion you can take your team on to experience what great looks and feels like.

jackie-stewart

This is our first episode with a guest, Anecdote’s chairman, Paul Honeywell. Paul was over from the UK so we asked if he might share a story on our show that you could add to your story repertoire.

The story is set in the world of Formula One racing and it’s about a stroll Jackie Stewart, three-time world champion, takes with his friend Sir Charles Masefield through a series of Grand Prix pits.

For your story bank

You know Jackie Stewart right? Three-time formula one world champion, long hair, loves to wear the tam o’ shanter, a proud Scot.

Not long ago he was taking his friend Charles Masefield on a tour through the pits at a Grand Prix.

Before they got started Jackie asks Charles to take note of how things look and feel in each pit, the professionalism, cleanliness, teamwork etc.

As they walk through each pit Jackie is well known and warmly welcomed. There is a lot of “Hi there Jackie, how’s it going?”

When they finished the tour Jackie says, “Charles, get out your notebook and jot down how you would rank the teams from best to worst based on what you just experienced.”

When Charles finished his list Jackie pulled out the world rankings and spookily it was a perfect match.

A lot can be gleaned just from how things look and feel.

Podcast Transcript

 

Shawn:

This is Anecdotally Speaking, a podcast to help you build your business story repertoire. Hi, I’m Shawn Callahan.

Mark:    

And I’m Mark Schenk.

Shawn:

Welcome again to an episode of Anecdotally Speaking. Today we have a special guest, our first guest actually so that’s pretty exciting.

Mark:

We’re breaking new ground here.

Shawn:    

I’d like to introduce everyone to the Chairman of Anecdote, Paul Honeywell.

Paul:  

Hi, nice to be here.

Shawn:  

Paul has been over, doing some work for the last week or so, having some fun working out the future of the company. And of course, I said, you’ve got to tell us a story, get on to Anecdotally Speaking and share a story that people can tell on their own as part of their story repertoire.

So, Paul, maybe we should start with a little bit of a snapshot of who you are, what you’re doing, and then we can move on from there.

Paul:   

Thank you. I’ve been in business for a long time, too long, but during that long period I have learnt such a lot and one of the key things is it’s all about communication and it’s all about people and that’s why I believe story telling is so powerful and why I’m really pleased and proud to be working with you guys.

Shawn:  

Fantastic, that’s very nice. Now, I believe that you’re also involved in some really high-tech work at the moment (I know you can’t say too much about it because it’s right at the early days) but maybe you can give people a sense of what’s happening in that space.

Paul:

Basically, I’m the Director of a very advanced technology business actually developing what we regard as the world’s most intelligent sensors because ultimately, electronics and robotics has to interface with the world somehow, whether it’s with people or the environment or whatever.

And this technology is really right at that interface: understanding what’s around it, what’s going on in your body for example so that the systems and things that will help you can actually respond properly.

Shawn:

It’s going to have an amazing impact. I’ve heard Paul talk about this and it sounds like magic. Anyway, sometime in the future we’ll be able to explain a little bit more about that, won’t we?

Paul:    

We will indeed.

Mark: 

In fact, Arthur C. Clarke, I think said, any technology that is sufficiently advanced will appear to be magic.

Shawn:      

Yeah, I think it’s definitely in that category.

Paul:  

Well definitely. We have used that as our own little slogan internally

Mark:

Was I close with the quote?

Paul:    

You were very close. That’s really good and it was Arthur C. Clarke.

Mark:    

That’s fantastic, Paul. So, now if we move on to the story bit. The objective of Anecdotally Speaking is to share a story with our listeners that they can possible use in a business scenario and then we’ll talk about why it works and the circumstances that you might use it. So, off we go. What have you got for us?

Paul:  

This is actually a story which is highly relevant if you’re dealing with teams and the need to perform well. I’ve mentioned our technology business; we’re very pleased and grateful to have as our Chairman a gentleman by the name of Sir Charles Masefield. Charles is the ex-president of British Aerospace, the Commercial Director of Airbus, and trade Minister for the U.K. government—so a very senior, experienced guy, a really nice guy, and a great storyteller.

Charles told me the story where he was walking with Sir Jackie Stewart, who will be well known as a multiple world champion in formula one. Actually, it was towards the pits at a major Grand Prix, and Jackie said to Sir Charles, let’s just run through a little exercise here because I think this might be fun.

I’m going to take you to each of the pits and as we see each team I want you to take note of what’s going on in each pit. How are the people interacting? What does it look like, what’s the environment, how tidy is it, how clean it is and so on? And at the end of it I just want to reflect on what you’ve seen.

Of course, Jackie is very well known and is welcome in any of these team’s pits and as they walk along, ‘oh hi, Jackie, come in, how’s it doing?’ and so on. And after visiting 10 or 12 of the pits, Jackie said, ‘just get your notepad out and rank in order 1 to 12 where you would put them in terms of overall efficiency, professionalism, cleanliness, team spirit, etc.’

Charles thought about it for a while and wrote down his list. And Jackie said, ‘now on the other side of the paper I want you to write down the positions in the world championships for the constructors.’ And spookily, it was exactly the same. So, the lesson in all of that was that if you want to be the best you have to be the best in every respect. I thought that was a great story that we could use over and over again.

Shawn:    

Nice one. That’s great. Let’s talk about what grabs us and makes that story work. Mark, you kick off. What are your thoughts in terms of what makes that story work?

Mark:   

Look, I just want to start by story triggering. One of the things that happens when people tell stories is that it will often trigger a story, experience, a memory of your own. And that’s exactly what happened as Paul was saying that.

As he was talking I was reflecting back to a time when I walked into a building (I was starting a new project up in Newcastle) and I walked in and I felt like the life was being sucked out of me. Obviously, it’s a bit different. They were not a high-performance team; they were a low performance team.

Shawn:  

The other end of the spectrum.

Mark:        

The other end, yes. Not where you want to be, but it was like Sir Charles walking through the pits—you can literally feel it.

Paul:   

Yes, absolutely.

Mark:

So, that was the first thing that I noted immediately—I was taken back to that other memory and I’m going to put that in my story bank because that’s another story to tell. In terms of things that worked for that; I can visualise the two of them walking through the pits, having conversations, and seeing the teams working in different ways.

Shawn:    

In fact, just that little bit about everybody knowing Jackie and saying, ‘oh, gidday, Jackie, how’re you going?’—just throwing in a bit of dialogue like that just makes it a real visceral experience. You’re there standing next to Jackie as he’s getting feedback and hellos from people as he’s walking through the pits. I think that’s a nice touch.

Mark:  

Yeah, that bit of dialogue, and it only takes one or two seconds, and it does add effect to your story. That’s a really good tip for our listeners is that a bit of dialogue takes almost no time at all.

Shawn:

Yeah. What do you reckon, Paul? What jumps out for you? What do you like about it?

Paul:    

What I like about it–I didn’t experience it for myself therefore I’m experiencing it third-hand—but I can imagine it. I know what Jackie Stewart looks like for example, he’s a celebrity therefore I’ve got that in my mind. I can imagine myself being there.

The fact that your mind can create this kind of visual of what’s going on and puts you in that situation really makes it a very powerful story.

Shawn:

And you make the point about the celebrity. There is definitely a hierarchy of stories and right at the top is anything to do with death (we seem to be very intrigued by it—I guess we want to hear those stories because we want to avoid death). And then sitting under that is anything to do with the safety of children—we want our children to be safe and then quickly sex.

Mark:

You don’t want to try and get all three of those in a business story; that gets you in a lot of trouble.

Shawn:   

I’ve only come close once. And then underneath that is power, and celebrity is a type of power. There is money power, hierarchy power, expertise power but there’s also celebrity power. So as soon as you hear a celebrity we’re kind of drawn into that in a way.

On the flip side, sometimes I wonder whether sports stories have a potential of not resonating with the audience. You hear a lot of blokes, essentially, telling stories of sport and I just wonder how that resonates with the women who are in the audience.

Mark:        

Yeah, it would be good to get some feedback on that but certainly having done it myself, seeing other people doing it and heard the feedback, sports stories often will not resonate with a portion of the audience. It’s always important that no matter how good your story is you always understand the context and the relevance of the story for the audience.

Paul:      

Yeah, I think that’s right. I do often think that in business it’s not like being in sport. In business you can’t actually see your competitors right in front of you. You can’t see the scoreboard of the football match or whatever it is. You don’t know exactly what role you’re playing versus the other person on the other side.

You always know what a quarterback does in sport, but you don’t in business, but I think in that particular story that didn’t bother me that much because it wasn’t talking about the car race, it was talking about the principles of people working in a particular way.

And I think we can all resonate with that. As you said, Mark, when you go into a particular building and feel the life drained out of you or the opposite. It makes such a difference and you can tell. And I think that’s it; it’s not just about people, it’s about the environment, the way they interact with each other, the way they seem to be slick and well organised, well led, and focused on a single purpose together. They all know what their job is.

Mark:

Again, as you were talking, another memory was triggered. I remember walking into the Yammer office in New York and the place was jumping. I walked in and felt energised. Again, you can feel this stuff.

Paul:

And I think you can also get energy off the people around you. WeWork is a great example of that where you’ve got young start-up businesses located in places where there’s a kind of buzz, you know, street food outside, this sort of thing. That energy is infectious.

The opposite is unfortunately also infectious. If you have somewhere that is dull and uninspiring that tends to draw everybody down.

Mark:  

One of the things for me was duration. It was probably only two, two and a half minutes to tell that story—a really clear message from a very compact example.

Shawn:

I was thinking there will be people in the audience who vaguely know Jackie Stewart and to make that story even better would be to do a little snapshot of what the guy looks like.

I remember he’s a fairly short fellow isn’t he and kind of a wiry character?

Paul:   

Known for quite long hair and being a very proud Scot—he’d wear a little tam o’shanter (tartan hat) and his racing helmet had a tartan band around it, so he was quite a distinctive guy.

Shawn:   

And I think some of those little features, you wouldn’t want to say too much but just enough to get that image in people’s heads a little more strongly about who this guy is.

Mark:  

And I think it was good that you mentioned he was this multi champion winner so if you didn’t know who Jackie Stewart was you’d immediately key into that and why he’s there and well regarded.

Shawn:  

I’m just thinking we should have a talk about the places where you’d use it.  How would you use this story? What are some of the scenarios and where can we apply this story?

Mark:

Well my first thought is if you’ve got a team that isn’t working too well. In fact, where you’ve got a leader, manager, frontline supervisor, middle manager, or senior executive and they’re not leading that well you could tell that story and go ‘when I walked through here the other day it didn’t feel like we were top of the championship table. Maybe you should have a think about what you can do to help this team become a high-performance team.’

You’d tend to get more traction with a message delivered like that than you would if you just tell the person they’re not doing well.

Shawn:  

The other thing that sprang to mind is that you could use this story as a model for an activity to do with your team—actually take them through some work-places where some are high-performing, and some are not. Get them to have that conversation, like Sir Charles did with Jackie Stewart and then get them to reflect on their own workplace. We do we sit in all this?

And that’s one of the great things about stories; they do set an example of what you can actually do because they’re always concrete and specific. So, I think that’s another opportunity there.

Paul:   

For me it also underlines the team aspect. This is not just about individuals; this is about a team, about the way we are together, the way we look after our equipment, the way we can respond very quickly together and under high-pressure circumstances we are a well-oiled machine as a team.
I think that’s really important.

Mark:       

And the discipline—putting the tool back on the shadow board so that when something goes wrong you know exactly where it is, you don’t have to look for it. It’s just that discipline that is a big part of being an effective team.

Paul:     

Yes, absolutely, yes.

Shawn:   

Right, we’ve had a bit of a conversation about where it can be used. How about a rating for our story? Let’s give it a rating. This is what we do in each of the episodes. How about we kick off with Mark. What are you going to give this story?

Mark:  

I could easily this story being used in a performance management context where you want someone to be thinking more about how to deliver a high-performance team. I think it would work really well—a very useful tool to have in a management bag. I’m going to give it a 7 and a half.

Shawn: 

Oh, we’re going halves now—this is a new addition to our ratings system. Very good—7 and a half. Paul, what do you think?

Paul:

You’re asking me to rate a story that I really like so I’m starting from a bit of a disadvantage there. But I think this is a very powerful story. I think it can be used over and over again. I have certainly used it already and I’ve seen a good effect come from it so I’m going to give my own story an 8.

Shawn:   

Fantastic. Nothing wrong with that and in fact, when I think about the story I would also give it an 8. It’s an effective story, easy to tell, clear characters in it and I think it would have a great impact.

Just as we wrap up one of the things I wanted to share, a few things that are happening around the traps if you like. We are doing a range of public workshops at the moment so if you go to our events page on our website you’ll see that we’re doing one in Hong Kong coming up soon, San Francisco.

Mark:

Melbourne and Sydney.

Shawn:

So just take a look at that and you’ll be able to come along to one of our public workshops. And I think the other thing is the newsletter is again coming out soon but most importantly; if you want to get a notification of this podcast, go to our podcast page and then just sign up for the notifications and that way, each week, you’ll get a quick notice that the podcast episode is up and you can download it onto your podcast player and listen to the latest story that we share.

Mark:   

And a quick reminder, if you like the podcast please rate us on iTunes or Android and leave a comment and if this triggers any stories for you we’d love you to share them with us.

Shawn:      

Thanks, Paul, for coming along. It’s been great. Thanks for being our first guest. And thanks everyone for listening to Anecdotally Speaking. And tune in next week for another episode on how to put stories to work.

 

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

2 Responses to “009 – Jackie Stewart in the pits”

  1. Marie Etzler Says:

    Hello, I enjoy the podcast. I’m a writer and am always looking for stories at work, especially to include in my yearly department presentation and illustrate points.
    Regarding your question, wondering if sports metaphors or stories resonate with people who don’t play sports, I can share one time that a sports example didn’t help.
    I took a self-defense course once years ago (I’m a woman and live the U.S.), and the trainer was a man. The class was all women. He was explaining how to protect your purse from getting stolen and he said “tuck it under your arm like a football”. We all looked at each other with either confusion or astonishment. Did he realize he was talking to a group of women who probably never played football in their lives? Maybe some of us watch it on TV or had children (boys) who played, but still not had personal experience. So that example did not match the audience at all, highlighting the need to know your audience.

  2. Ronnie Dunetz Says:

    I appreciate your point of whether sports stories are broad enough to include men and women. I would add and expand on this, when one works cross-culturally it is important to get a sense of how parochial or universal a story is. You can really miss out if you start using jargon that is not understood. For example, I find a lot of Americans using the term “ballpark figures”, “out in left field”, which is perfectly clear if you are American and even basically familiar with baseball but, come on guys, not everybody plays baseball and no everybody is American!

    Still, I find that most stories will be somewhat universal, even though there impact may vary.

Send this to a friend

down
up