Austin Healey made his mark on the rugby field before winning over a new audience on Strictly. Marc Priestley worked as a mechanic on McLaren’s Formula One pit crew. Ed Smith captained Middlesex and played for England. He’s now a Times feature writer and author of books about the lessons we can draw from sport. All three are seasoned JLA speakers with experience to share with corporate audiences…
What lessons does rugby offer for business?
Austin: Both rely on discipline but also need to encourage inventiveness. And in both cases leader must ensure everyone is flexible – right down to their thought process.
What was your own competitive edge?
Austin: I discovered that to win you have to know more, prepare more and push harder. In every respect you need to expend more energy than your competition – but if winning were easier it would be far less enjoyable.
How did you deal with setbacks?
Austin: There are two things you can’t fake – momentum and confidence. When you find yourself on the back foot, you have to go back to solid ground and start to rebuild.
How does a leader rebuild confidence?
Ed: The first phase is clarity of analysis. The second is broadening the consensus about how to make things better. Some people will grasp it intellectually, others intuitively, some not at all – they need to be carried along by momentum.
What about the cynics?
Ed: To achieve change you need a majority of people onside – but not absolutely everyone. Instead of concentrating all your time and effort on detractors, devote that energy to winning over the waverers.
How do you help the team adapt to changing circumstances?
Ed: Good teams have to be light on their feet. You can’t afford a mindset of ‘We’ve got this dead right, all we have to do is repeat it forever.’ You need to encourage inquisitiveness and a continual quest to get better.
What part does data play in F1 decision making?
Marc: Racing cars generate 10mb of data per lap. We use it to model possible outcomes – to optimise strategy and calculate what competitors are most likely to do.
Can data win the race for you?
Marc: That’s what happened at Monaco. Our strategists knew Alonso was taking life from his tyres in our wake, so he needed to pit; our tyres were older and we had less fuel, but our algorithms from practice sessions showed we could increase our lead by such an amount that we could pit later and still come out in front. People thought we’d messed up, but we went on to win the most prestigious race by a comfortable margin.