Ford v Ferrari inspires the power of friendship at work
Ford v Ferrari is a great movie. I’m no movie critic, so I won’t comment on its likelihood of winning an Oscar this season. But it hit on all cylinders in terms of lessons for work. Some people probably think the movie is about Ford Motor Company or the Mustang or the design of high performance vehicles. I think Ford v Ferrari is about friendship—between Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles—and how friendship drove happiness, satisfaction and results.
It’s no secret friendship is important to our work and our lives. In fact, Vital Friends by Tom Rath points to Gallup research which suggests having a best friend at work is the number one reason people stay with an organization. It’s great to have a friend who is a smiling face at the coffee machine each morning and who can bring us up when we’re down, but it’s more than that as well—and Ford v Ferrari demonstrates these lessons about the power of friendship at work.
Purpose And Passion
First of all, friends at work are most compelling when they exist based on shared passion and excellence. Ford wanted to best Ferrari at Le Mans because of personal pride. But it was also an important marketing approach for the company—demonstrating high performance in a race that would transfer to the brand ethos. Perhaps most powerful, though, was the passion for performance and speed shared by Shelby and Miles.
At work, the friend with whom you can kibitz about your weekend is great, but the most valuable friendships are those which also include an element of shared drive and determination. Friends at work can help shape our purpose, expand our passion and inspire big dreams. When you have an idea for a new innovation, a friend can help brainstorm iterations or suggest alternative approaches. A friend stokes both passion and purpose, which are engines for shared motivation.
Stretch And Challenge
Friends help us stretch and take risks. Because true friendships are based on deep levels of trust, friends help us reach further. We feel we can take on the big project we may not be quite ready for, because we know a friend will support us. Friends help us take risks ourselves, but they also are willing to risk for us. Shelby puts his company on the line to support Miles in a mark of true friendship. Friends empower us to take appropriate risks and they are, in turn, willing to stick their necks out for us. Years ago, I took on a new job and needed an ace team to be successful. Two friends make the leap with me, they believed in the dream and were willing to invest themselves in our shared success.
Friends help us work through conflict. One of the best scenes in the movie is when Shelby and Miles fight among spilled groceries. Shelby picks up a can and puts it down in favor of a loaf of Wonder bread which he uses to hit Miles over the head. True friendships allow for conflict—after all, good ideas require debate. The best friends are those who will challenge us when they know we can do better. But friends also provide tough feedback in a way that we can hear it and act on it rather than being knocked out by it. A good friend isn’t afraid to hit us over the head with important critique—but they provide tough comments with a constructive, rather than destructive approach.
Friends have our backs. A colleague was working with an incredibly important client whose tagline for their change effort was “Strategy Shift.” The colleague had put these words in the footer of every page of the critical deliverable but left out the “f” in “shift.” As a result, the swear word was on each of the 100-pages to be presented to the high-value client. It was the colleague’s best friend who pulled her aside and pointed out the mistake. When others weren’t willing to embarrass their co-worker, her true friend realized providing honest feedback was the best course of action. Friends see our flaws and help us do better.
Friends will also go to the wall for us. A former teammate in another company was thwarted constantly by a toxic boss. The boss had successfully discredited him, so his friend went to leadership to expose the boss. The friend took a risk to help the colleague, and demonstrated loyalty and willingness to make a significant personal investment for their friendship.
Friends also see all of us. While the average colleague may appreciate us at work, they may not invest in all of us. True friends understand us for all of who we are today and where we’re going—our life within work and our life outside of work. After Miles dies, Shelby visits Miles’ son who says, “He was your friend, wasn’t he?” A friend who embraces our work together, but also our full life, is the best kind of friend to have.
With a great friend in our personal lives, there’s little we cannot achieve. But at work this is perhaps even more true. When a friend shares your passion and purpose, challenges you, motivates you and protects you, you can accomplish almost anything—setting speed records, accomplishing amazing results and perhaps even reinventing your brand (or winning an Oscar!).