Some Tips On How To Leave The Hands-On Role You Love, From One At The Top Of His Game

Graham Watson, Team Manager of Caterham F1.

Success in sport, as in business, can be a double-edged sword.

You start out working towards a dream job. Suddenly, you’re in the dream job. Then, because you love your job and because you’re great at it, you’re pegged for a management role.

The journalist who loves writing becomes the editor. The floor trader trudges upstairs.

Graham Watson, the apprentice mechanic from Pukekohe, New Zealand, rose to become Caterham F1’s team manager.

Watson’s career follows a classic trajectory:

1998 – Pukekohe, New Zealand
Finished automotive machinist apprenticeship

1989 – Ford Motor Company, Essex, UK
World Rally Championship mechanic

1993 – M-Sport, Cumbria, UK
WRC, Malcolm Wilson’s team

1994 – Paul Stewart Racing

1996 – Benetton Formula One
Team Test Mechanic; No 1 Mechanic

2001 – BAR Honda/Brawn GP
Test Team Mechanic; Chief Mechanic; Engineering Liason Manager; Car Specification Co-ordinator

2010 – Caterham F1 (Lotus Racing)
Team Manager; FIA,FOM Liason

That’s just over 15 years from apprentice to managing one of the world’s highest performing garages – barely enough time, in a career sense, to get your hands dirty.

For many employees facing that time when they really should be taking on “more responsibility”, the prospect of downing tools, pens and skillets for a life of boardrooms and staffing solutions is not at all attractive.

Watson gave Business Insider some insight into how he dealt with his suddenly hands-off career:

Understand there’s always someone ready to pick up where you left off

“In all honesty I shouldn’t touch a car.

“It’s not my job anymore, we have a group of mechanics in there who are very capable, mostly young guys.

“The problem I have, it’s like anything you have in life, you always hark back to where you started and sometimes it’s just too irresistible to say ‘I’ll give you a hand’ and that’s why I’ve got this blister on my hand right now.”

The strongest asset you now have is experience. There’s great satisfaction in seeing it used effectively.

“I always fall back onto what I learnt when I was being a mechanic. I try to get the guys to work in the same fashion, which is never wait for the eventuality to happen.

“Pre-empt these things and put yourself in the position so when they start arriving, you’re already in the mindset of what you’re doing and when it comes to the evening turnaround, which is generally a huge load of work if you have an idea what’s going to happen three hours in advance, you’re in a much better place when it arrives.

“When the workload starts, you’re not starting that process of ‘Right, now what am I going to do, where are we going next?’.”

If you can’t let go, get an out-of-hours project

“I’ve only just literally bought a house with a garage in the last week and I’ll probably end up with something in
the garage but at the moment I’m just…

“I mean, this job is so encompassing, so the hours we work are crazy. We go into the garage until 7 or 8 o’clock and sometimes past 10, it sucks your life up. So you’ve got to be really into it or you just can’t do it.”

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