Danica Patrick burst onto the stage at the Phoenix Convention Center early Tuesday morning in downtown Phoenix to sit down for a conversation with WorldatWork’s president Mihai Popoaca, signaling the start of the “2021 Total Rewards Conference & Exhibition.”
Patrick, a retired NASCAR racecar driver, entrepreneur, author and podcast host who resides in the Phoenix area, captivated a full ballroom with her stories about how she first developed a love for racing and eventually broke barriers in the sport. Patrick also spoke eloquently about the internal dilemma she sometimes faced breaking into a male-dominated sport, noting that she often went to great lengths to “fit in.” This, she said, included not wearing nail polish, or hiding her hair length and wearing jackets or full-coverage clothing to avoid standing out.
However, Patrick said she eventually learned to embrace her femininity, which she felt ultimately helped propel her forward in her career.
“What’s different about you is what actually makes you special and valuable,” Patrick said.
Patrick compared this to a working environment, imploring attendees to foster a work atmosphere where employees can be their true selves, which will ultimately bring out the greatness within each of them.
“When you’re trying to put on a façade or portray an image of what you think other people want you to be, you’re not going to be at your best,” Patrick said. “If you allow people to be themselves, they will be happier and, as a result, more productive employees.”
This was the crux of Patrick’s message during her 30-minute Q&A with Popoaca, but she built to this concept through other insightful tidbits for HR and total rewards leaders. Patrick, drawing on her own experience of working her way through the NASACAR ranks, emphasized the importance of approaching situations with humility.
“To learn and improve in your career you have to come at it from a perspective of humility,” Patrick said. “Not assuming that you know everything is so important. Not having your ego in the way will allow you to see things from a different perspective and it will allow you to grow.”
In this same vein, Patrick also talked about the importance of recognizing the efforts of those around you and doling out credit whenever possible, as this will foster better working relationships with those people.
“When people work out of love, they will do anything,” Patrick said. “So, if you can build that relationship, it’s a really important aspect to cultivate.”
As an extension of that concept, Patrick spoke to the value of simply asking others for help in working situations, especially if you are in a leadership position. By doing this, she said, you immediately instill confidence in the employee because you’ve indicated you both trust and value their input. This is key to develop early on in a working relationship, Patrick noted, because it immediately starts that relationship out on the right foot and can lead to greater results from that employee.
“When you can instill confidence in someone else, it can be a game changer,” Patrick said. “It seeps into other aspects of work and the possibilities are endless.”
About the Author
Brett Christie is the managing editor of Workspan Daily.