Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Should Your Boss Don a Racing Helmet?

Akio Toyoda

You don't have to be a big NASCAR fan to appreciate the sport for what it is: driving cars really, really fast. But when the CEO of Toyota decides he wants to travel to America to drive some laps around the Daytona International Speedway, heads are inevitably going to turn.

Just recently, Akio Toyoda visited to check out an early version of the 2013 Toyota Camry stock car (pictured below) and to meet with Toyota racer Michael Waltrip. In Japan, Toyoda is no stranger to the race track- he's a certified test driver and tests dozens of different vehicles every year, giving his engineers direct feedback as to what he likes and doesn't like. He's even finished the ridiculously long Nurburgring 24 hour racing event in Germany...multiple times!

While at Daytona, Mr. Toyoda drove several laps with veteran racer Kyle Busch, and commented on the future of Toyota and their involvement with NASCAR. "We are very honored to be accepted, to be included, into this bunch of people," he stated. "We want to continue this for a long time so that Toyota would become truly a member of U.S. auto companies, just like the Big Three in Detroit. And eventually we will be widely accepted by the fans." Toyoda then went on to mention that he hopes to ditch tired car designs of the past and to launch at least a dozen new, original vehicles over the course of the next year.

Zebra Camry 2013

That's some pretty serious dedication and involvement from a CEO. In fact, a recently published study by the Journal of Business and Psychology shows the correlation between bosses and work morale. The findings claim that the more interactive a boss is, the more productive and happy the workers are overall. Seeing as how Mr. Toyoda also spent a good amount of time last year traveling to different Toyota plants and dealerships around the United States to boost employee spirits, I'd say he's on the right track (no pun intended!)

The concept and basis behind his travels, known in Japan as “genchi genbutsu”, suggests that for one to truly understand a situation, they need to “go and see” where work is done. Somewhat similar to what is done if you've ever seen the reality series "Undercover Boss".

What do you think of Akio Toyoda's involvement with his brand? Should CEO's be at the front lines on a constant basis? Do you personally feel motivated at your job when your boss is more involved with what you do?

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