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Leadership Lessons: Claire Williams on the importance of tenacity

July 31, 2019

Claire Williams   

Deputy Team Principal at Williams Racing

With F1 season in full swing, Claire Williams shares her experiences on being resilient in the face of challenges.

A few months ago, Tata Communications became the Official Digital Transformation Partner of the ROKiT Williams Racing F1 team. Our partnership with one of the most iconic teams in the paddock is a further demonstration of our expertise in addressing the requirements of the world’s most technologically advanced sport.

Claire Williams, Australian GP, 2019

When it comes to going the distance, it’s fair to say that at Tata Communications, we have quite a lot in common with ROKiT William Racing. We share a passion for pushing the boundaries of performance and making the most of human talent, even when – or especially when – faced with challenges.  

We’re proud to share this guest blog post by Claire Williams, Deputy Team Principal of ROKiT Williams Racing, where she talks about the importance of tenacity in F1.  

Over to you, Claire.

Williams – we exist to go racing

We have been competing in Formula 1 for 42 years and we love what we do. In that time, so many other teams have been part of our wonderful sport, but from our perspective, the difference between the teams that have left and those that remain is tenacity – and that is particularly true for Williams.

Our story is well known both within the motorsport community and further afield. Frank started the team with next to no money and fought through a decade of disappointing results and challenges both on and off the track before our first win in 1979. For me, Frank is tenacity personified and if there is one lesson I have learnt from my Dad, it is that you should always work hard, without any expectation of success, and you will get your just reward.

“We recently undertook a survey which asked F1 fans what words they would associate with Williams. The top answer was courage.” 

In F1 today, as an independent team, we operate on a budget of roughly a third of the teams supported by a major manufacturer. This is most tested in the development race which happens throughout each season as we look to bring new components to the car. That race puts an extraordinary amount of pressure on our people as we ask them to search for any incremental gain they can find; they have to be persistent and keep changing their approach until they succeed.

French GP at Circuit, 2019 – by Mark Sutton / Sutton Images

While that challenge is the same for everyone in F1, people with tenacity always seem to gravitate towards our team. Over the last two years, we have witnessed Robert Kubica’s determination to return to Formula One first-hand. For those that don’t know, Robert is now embarking on his second career in F1, after he partially severed his arm in a rally accident 8 years ago. His story is remarkable and what I love about Robert is his fighting spirit. He pushes the team hard (and I mean really hard) to succeed and that is the mark of a true Williams driver.

Over the years, Williams has earned a reputation as a team that will always keep fighting through people like Frank and Robert and so many more in between – and I would hope you could add my name to that list too. A journalist recently surprised me by asking (after Round 4 of the Championship) if we would shortly be taking the decision to switch our focus to next year’s car. Whilst we have had a challenging start to the season, at Williams, we never give up – it is just not something we would even consider.

“My message to the team is simple – when we next stand on the top step of the podium, it will mean so much more for the effort we have had to put in to get there.” 

I think the fact we never, ever give up can be a source of strength for others. That is certainly the case for our fans, and over the years we have received so many messages thanking the team for acting as a source of inspiration in difficult moments in their lives. The lovely thing is, the reverse is equally true. Emails and letters arrive every day with words of encouragement from our supporters that drive us forward and we are working hard to repay the faith they have shown in us.

Robert Kubica, French GP, 2019 – Paul Ricard

At Williams, our biggest asset is our people. We have fantastic people and I am lucky enough to work with many of them in my roles as Deputy Team Principal and Head of Marketing and Commercial. In those roles, one of my main areas of focus is building and maintaining a culture which enables our long-term strategy.

We define culture as the way people, think, act and interact. That culture has to be applicable to everyone within our organisation, from those team members who have worked for us for 35 years, to the new talent we have recently recruited.

“A key part of our culture is regularly communicating with our team – so everyone understands our objectives and our progress towards those objectives. We find when people know how their contribution fits into the wider plan, they are more engaged and able to sustain their motivation through the entire season.” 

The way we maintain our culture – which we sometimes refer to as our racing spirit, has changed dramatically in recent years. In the early days, the team was of a size where the culture grew organically under the day to day leadership of Frank and (Sir) Patrick Head. Today, with over 1000 people based at our factory in Grove, we have a dedicated programme called NextGen Williams, which defines our identity, our vision and our values. It should come as no surprise that one of those values is determination!

George Russell, F1 Spain, 2019

I am often asked how the history of the team guides the present and the future. While there is no doubt that we are proud of our achievements in the sport, the truth is that we are always focused on the next race. Our ultimate objective is, therefore, to make sure our children have the same opportunity as the one we are privileged to enjoy; contributing to the success of Williams Grand Prix Engineering.  

 

Read more about the partnership between F1 and Tata Communications and the recent milestone of 150 races together.