This conversation is with Toto Wolff. If you follow Formula One, you know what Toto has helped build over the past handful of years. He’s an owner and the Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport.

Formula One is known as the tip of the arrow when it comes to motorsports — their cars are the fastest road course racing cars in the world, being able to maintain very high cornering speeds (pulling 6g’s) by generating incredible amounts of aerodynamic down force. They race at speeds of up to approximately 230 MPH.

Toto is a father, husband, and businessman. He knows risk. He knows innovation. And he knows winning. Under his leadership, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport has clinched a hat-trick of Formula One World Championships, winning a total of six titles and more than 50 Grand Prix since 2014.

The reason I wanted to have the conversation with Toto is because he has an incredible way about how he see’s organizational success — how he balances the financial tension between innovation and risk and how he works with highly talented drivers and engineers and ultimately — I wanted to understand what is at the center of his relentless drive…..and….how exactly does someone become able to be an owner of a Formula One team (let alone the Mercedes team).

This conversation is loaded….Hope you enjoy and are able to put at least one of insights in the conversation into action.

Oh, by the way, Toto speaks fluent German, English, French, Italian, Spanish, and Polish.

 

“How you cope and behave in moments of failure, is in my opinion the way you can see right into the soul of somebody.”

In This Episode:

  • Father suffering and passing from brain cancer during his adolescence
  • Having to support rather than being supported
  • What makes a high performer?
  • Why he loves sports and competition
  • How he came to own a Formula One team
  • Why he he’s not ready to call himself successful
  • Creating a culture that embraces challenge
  • The danger of ego running away with you
  • How he manages ego when things don’t go his way
  • Why skeptical is a word that defines him
  • Setting the right targets and writing them down
  • What it feels like when he’s at his best
  • The relationship he has with his inner-critic
  • Why he prefers to spend time away from entertainment and electronics

 

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Quotables:

“My experience with high performing individuals – that very last percentage of high performers – is that they either suffered trauma or humiliation or both. Because what would justify to develop that above average drive and ambition.”

“A too protected childhood without any trauma creates a high risk that you become a white elephant, that you are very comfortable with what you do and haven’t been pushed out of your zone.”

“I like to benchmark myself. Whatever I do, I like the competition and what we do today needs a stopwatch, and the stopwatch never lies. You can come up with lots of explanations why it went wrong or right but in auto racing you’re either too slow or fast enough.”

“Sports are such a good environment because you either win or lose. In business you can get away with things. In politics you can have explanations. But in sports explanations aren’t worth anything if you haven’t won.”

“I don’t see myself at that stage of my life as somebody that’s been successful and achieved his targets. It’s halftime in an entrepreneurial life. Hopefully if I’m healthy and I can go another 30 or 40 years.”

“Whatever I do, I try to set objectives that reflect success or failure.”

“You need to live words. Everyone can put words on a Power Point and present them. You need to live them everyday and cascade them through an organization.”

“When you have cameras pointed at you there is the danger of ego running away with you and you need to realize that. You need to be able to come back into your hotel room, look in the mirror, and say I’ve a little bit of a dick today, that I got that one wrong.”

Motto: “See it, say it, fix it.”

“Recognize your own short comings.”

“There is no silver bullet, no simple answer to come up with the concept of life. There are many nuances, and there is much more than just a quote. There is much more than black and white. Every situation is different. Every environment is different. You need to have a constant reflection of what’s happening around you.”

“I am a believer of target setting because it reminds you every single day of what you want to achieve and takes away all the clutter and all the noise.”

“Trust isn’t established by words. It needs actions. It grows in the difficult moments where the other person realizes they can rely on you because you haven’t let them down although it would have been easy to do so.”

 

Executive Director at

Toto Wolff is the Executive Director and the managing partner of Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd alongside wider responsibilities as Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport.