If you are a leader, or in a key position in Sport or Business you will be no stranger to high pressure decision making. If the stakes are high, the greater the pressure.
I just have returned home from Abu Dhabi where I witnessed arguably the most controversial end to a Formula 1 Championship in history: For those of you not aware of this situation, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen went into the last race of the season on equal points. For most of the Grand Prix, Lewis had a commanding lead, until Williams driver Nicholas Latifi left his crashed car on the racing line.
As a result, the stewards deployed the safety car, which decimated Hamilton's lead as second-placed Verstappen could close the time gap, albeit with five out of eight lapped cars between himself and the seven-time World Champion.
Ahead of the last lap, Race Director Michael Masi made the unprecedented decision to allow the five lapped cars to overtake but not the others, leaving a one-lap shootout between Hamilton and Verstappen to decide the title.
Verstappen, on much fresher tyres, got the overtake done with relative ease, leading to absolute fury from Mercedes that a decision from the Race Director had such an impact on the final result. Meanwhile, Verstappen and the Red Bull Racing Honda team celebrated the Dutchman’s maiden Formula 1 world title.
It’s clear not all decisions made under pressure are good ones, mental strain can impair the brain and make us forget what really matters, however other individuals can respond well to pressure resulting in clear thinking with unambiguous priorities.
COVID-19 has placed significant pressure on so many businesses that many individuals within those companies have become so overwhelmed by the risk of making the ‘wrong’ decision. They then either make a decision based on what they believe their business wants to hear, even if it’s contrary to their opinion, or don’t make a decision at all.
We have seen this at Right Formula, where certain businesses have decided not to commit to partnerships or activation concepts even if the data is telling them otherwise. After the last 18 months, most people are focussed on keeping their jobs and many take the view that if they keep their head ‘below the parapet’, they will survive. Perhaps it’s forgotten that if they work for a successful business, someone almost certainly made a courageous decision at some point in time. Richard Branson once said, “If you don’t take risks, you won’t achieve anything” and I agree with him, although I would add the word “educated” in front of “risks”.
Internally, we have also made the very same educated business risks. Earlier this year, we appointed Dan Reading as Head of Sustainability in a newly created department. Dan leads Right Formula’s sustainability strategy as well as offering best-in-class consultancy to a number of our clients. Whilst there has been exponential growth in sports committing to become more sustainable, there is still a skills gap. With Dan’s arrival at the business, Right Formula has consolidated its position as an industry leader in sport.
Over the last year we have developed a proprietary tool at Right Formula that allows us to analyse partnerships in a sophisticated and accurate manner to ensure that their chosen relationships are the right fit for brands. It will always be the brand’s decision of whether they want to commit to a relationship, but we can help inform them and ensure that the right foundations are in place from the start.
The same principles apply to our activation team, and it’s been really pleasing to see some of our clients get back to gaining value from their partnerships and be brave in their thinking, even if they have had to adapt their approach. It would have been very easy to say; let’s sit this year out until things are completely normal again but what will normal be like in the future anyway?
Some great examples include: helping Aggreko to launch their first ever consumer-facing campaign, Set The Stage; activating Pirelli Hot Laps and Paddock Club activity across Grand Prix weekends; leveraging Loch Lomond Whiskies' partnership with The Open by building a huge distillery-inspired experiential zone and being appointed to activate Vodafone’s partnership with Wasps.
As we look forward to 2022, perhaps what we should remember is that we will never reach our full potential living in comfort and routine. We have to make bold decisions and take risks to realise how far we can go. Only then can we really make a difference and truly stand out - both as individuals and as businesses.
I’d like to leave you with one important thing I have learnt over these last 18 months: Change is inevitable. Grasping opportunities is not.
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!