Leadership & Organizational Learning on the Race Track!


Leadership & Organizational Learning on the Race Track!

Posted on

I recently led a Leadership Team offsite to review last year’s strategic objectives for this growing organization and set new goals for the year ahead. One might think that the entire focus of this two-day event would be calibrating everyone’s efforts for continued growth. While that clearly was our context and guiding intention, how we got there was less of a direct path.

Fortunately for this organization and the many customers it serves, each of the  business owners believes in team development and creating camaraderie to inspire greater performance from their leaders. As a result, our two-day schedule was not nearly as packed as it could have been. Instead, we took much of the first afternoon to go kart racing. And by kart racing, I mean experiencing one of the greatest racetracks ever built at Road America, one of the greatest race courses in the United States.

If you’ve ever been kart racing – indoor or outdoor for that matter – you know that it’s not just about driving fast or racing to win. The goal isn’t to go out there and attack the course in your first lap. It’s a learning process as it takes time to learn the course and especially to learn the kart. Unless you’re an experienced and frequent race car driver, it will likely take you several laps to warm up the track with the kart tires – and for you to warm up to the track!

Just like driving the karts, our Leadership Team took some time to learn how best to set their goals for the year ahead and used a similar iterative process to determine how best to work together. This is why we actually planned several rounds of group goal setting right from the start. The first round was more about brainstorming what goals and objectives would best move this organization forward. From there, we then had three more rounds of small group discussions to develop near-term action plans for each of the six strategic goals that were prioritized. We divided our group of 13 leaders into two smaller groups and we continued to regroup each time based on the specific topics and everyone’s ability to contribute to those conversations.

As we experienced on the race track the day before, the first “lap” was a little slower as we practiced with our “vehicles” – some for the first time ever. Some had experienced a similar process at our first annual retreat last year, but we still had a few new “drivers” this year. Our second lap though went much faster and was much more productive in that these leaders were more effective in articulating their strategic actions and very next steps. By the third lap, everyone began learning from each other and raced around our boardroom track with very little direction from the “pit crew”.

It’s clear that a two-day Leadership offsite is not enough time to accomplish the year‘s goals. That wasn’t our plan… What’s also clear is that learning to be faster and more effective drivers on the track gave these leaders both the confidence and capabilities they will need to succeed in achieving those goals in the year ahead. Sure, there are other ways to facilitate this process and learn together, but what better way than learning first-hand – together?

Do you have a high-performing learning organization, or does your leadership struggle to work together? Organizational learning doesn’t just happen on its own, so give us a call at 310.589.4600 or send us an email if you’d like some suggestions on how best to win the race. You can also visit the Innovation Workshops page of our website for more information on how best to design your leadership offsite. Our race car drivers are skilled at staying ahead of the pack while driving you around the track! 

Leave a Reply