Toto Wolff on why he keeps images of “enemies” on his notebook

© LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff reveals why he has faces of three of his “enemies” open on his notebook at all times.

In an interview with LinkedIn’s Daniel Roth, Toto Wolff revealed he uses a method called “enemy building” to keep himself motivated.

“That’s the theory of some psychologists, the sports psychologists that say a sustainable performance needs to come within you,” the Austrian explained.

“I think this is like the ultimate goal, but it is quite easy to work with enemy building: when you know who your opposite person in a team is in the other company and you visualise that, you have even the picture printed out on your desk or in your notebook [and] you look at that person permanently.

“When you struggle a little bit, when you seem overworked or you’re thinking about other stuff, you see that person, you’re looking into their eyes and you’re saying to yourself, ‘What is she or he doing at the moment? What do I need to do in order to outperform that person?’

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“I can tell you, on my notebook, I have three windows that are always open and I click on these windows and there are three faces.”

Although it would be easy to assume that one of those “faces” is Wolff’s main 2021 rival, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, Toto says the people he has on his notebook are not from Formula 1.

“Every time I look into these faces – and they’re outside of the industry, by the way, but I’m not going to tell you who that is, it just keeps me going. It pushes me further.”

The Austrian went on to explain how he goes about extracting maximum performance from his team.

“Extracting high-performance as an entity, whether it’s a sports team or a company, is not always about working 80-hours a week and being under constant pressure.

“It also means that you need to be able to depressurise, to energise yourself and be motivated. Balancing those sides is crucially important.

“Finding out what drives people, and it’s not always things like money or power, it might be internal or external recognition, having more time with the family, being able to spend time on your hobby, or the social interactions in the team.

“It’s not one-dimensional. We are complex personalities. All of us are different, contrary to what leaders normally assume: ‘Everybody thinks like me’. And that is what keeps me curious.

“And also, it’s not a static situation. We may have times during the season where it’s very intense, where people are borderline burning out.

“But we’re trying to anticipate that and make sure that this comes in cycles and people are actually able to regenerate. Now, I’m saying that as if it would be a home run. It is not.

“We are under strain, but we are trying to smooth that out as good as possible, because it’s gaining a performance advantage,” Wolff concluded.

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