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Women Helping Women: 7 Lessons from Ladies at the Top

By cmiadmin | Mar 29, 2016 | Comments Off

Women Helping Women: 7 Lessons from Ladies at the Top - Includes Michelle Ray

by Helen Drinan at HuffPost

Almost any college president will tell you that there are certain events that are their favorites. Among my most cherished activities are soaking in the excitement and possibility of the first day of class; the mix of emotion and pride during commencements; and a special gathering that my university has hosted for the past 37 years known as the Simmons Leadership Conference.

The conference is considered the preeminent gathering for women’s leadership in the country. Every year, more than 3,300 business women (and some men!) come for a day of renewal, skill building, and sheer inspiration. Over the years our dazzling speaker line-up has included Oprah Winfrey, Madeleine Albright, Meg Whitman, Hillary Clinton, Sally Field, Viola Davis, the late Benazir Bhutto, and Billie Jean King.

Since not everyone can attend the conference, I wanted to share with you some wisdom from this year’s speakers. Enjoy!

#1: Be Daring.

Ping Fu
Vice president and chief entrepreneur officer at 3D Systems

On her most “daring” career move:
Ping Fu: I quit a stable job and started a company when I had a baby girl. This move completely changed the trajectory of my career, my attitude towards my life journey, and my understanding of responsibilities.

What did you learn from that experience?

Ping Fu: The entrepreneurial experience has taught me a few lessons:

  • It is all about love. Love what you do and love the people you serve. It is love that carries the tough days
  • When in doubt, always err on the side of generosity
  • Leadership is a being, not a position. Know who you are
  • Practice trusting and tracking; not commanding and controlling

#2: Your Voice is Powerful - Use It!

Carla Harris
Vice chairman of Global Wealth Management and senior client advisor at Morgan Stanley.

On the female leader she most admires:
Carla Harris: Shirley Chisholm and Barbara Jordan. Both were unafraid to use their voices and extraordinary oratorical skills to get people to listen and to thereby provoke change with their arguments, delivery and compelling logic. They understood that there is power in your voice and that it should never be submerged, for when you submerge your voice, you submerge and lose your power.

#3: Focus on Your Strengths - Be Confident.

Beth Phalen
Senior vice president at EMC Corporation, leads Data Protection & Availability Solutions within the Core Technology Division.

On the best piece of career advice she’s received:
Beth Phalen: The best advice was a while ago, and was basically, “stop putting yourself down.” The message was: “Your strengths speak for themselves. Don’t limit your positive impact by discrediting yourself or minimizing your point of view.” It helped me realize that I can make a contribution and I’m really not helping anyone by not projecting confidence.

#4: Just Do It.

Precillia Redmond
Vice president and manager of organizational effectiveness and strategic project management services at Liberty Mutual Insurance Group

Her tips for work/life integration:
Precillia Redmond: As someone said to me years ago when I complained that I felt guilty all the time - guilty for not spending enough time with my kids, husband, family, work: “Allow yourself to feel the feeling, but do what you need to do anyway.”

#5: Men Play a Role.

Edie Weiner
President and CEO of The Future Hunters

On the major issue or current event women should focus on to effect change:

Edie Weiner: Finding solutions for all of the unemployed, underemployed, and disillusioned young men here in the U.S. and abroad. Nothing destroys the fabric of homes, communities, lives, and the economy as much as disaffected young men with nowhere to develop their talents, interests, economic independence, and civil responsibility. This is a women’s issue! Women, even with the obstacles they encounter, can be strong and supportive. But young men, challenged by war, displacement, poor economic prospects, and biased justice systems pose a significant challenge to their mothers, wives, girlfriends, and children. They are attracted to fiery idealism and quick payoffs. Crime, violence, drug addiction, and terrorism increase, and communities are torn apart. We will have unprecedented refugee problems everywhere, fueled by climate change, wars, and economic collapses. Anthropologists have long known that as go the young males, so goes the civilization. We have to find productive ways to engage our youth, and provide promising paths for their futures

#6. Look to History: Women Role Models Abound.

Michelle Ray
CEO and founder of the Lead Yourself First Institute in Vancouver, Canada.

On the female leader she most admires, and how she has driven change:
Michelle Ray: Golda Meir, who was elected Prime Minister of Israel in 1969 - the first woman to achieve this position anywhere in the world. It wasn’t because she was a woman., but rather, due to the fact that she was a leader. She forged change by supporting diplomatic solutions to finding peace in the Middle East and unrestricted Jewish immigration. She aligned herself and Israel with individuals and countries once considered unlikely “friends” of the Jewish state, thus gaining tremendous respect as a leader. She was ahead of her time. She was confident, charismatic and highly principled.

#7. For Goodness Sake - Help Other Women!

Maggie Ruvoldt
Executive vice and general manager at 2U, Inc., an education technology company that partners with nonprofit colleges and universities to deliver online degree programs

On the major issue or current event women should focus on to effect change:

Maggie Ruvoldt: Opening up the inner networks for other women. When you break into the smaller, unofficial network, don’t close the door behind you.

This blog post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Simmons College, in conjunction with the 37th annual Simmons Leadership Conference - the premier women’s leadership conference in the country - held March 29 in Boston. For more information about the conference, visit here. To follow the conference live, follow #SLC16 on March 29.

 

See More About Michelle Ray Here 

Lior Arussy Interview - Learning To Be Grateful

By cmiadmin | Mar 14, 2016 | Comments Off

Lior Arussy Interview - Learning To Be Grateful

by MSNBC Host JJ Ramberg

https://youtu.be/IE6Q1A3f88s

Lior Arussy, the founder and president of Strativity Group, tells us why all small business owners should learn to be more grateful.

 

Learn More About Lior Arussy Here 

Ultra Distance Paddling and Project Athena with Robyn Benincasa

By cmiadmin | Mar 09, 2016 | Comments Off

Adventure Sports Podcast

Ep. 142: Ultra Distance Paddling and Project Athena with Robyn Benincasa

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Episode Info

Robyn inspires us again with more great stories about multi-hundred mile paddling races as well as helping others to come from huge life challenges to amazing success as overcomers through Project Athena.  Need a dose of kick it and go?  Don't miss this show.

 

See More About Robyn Here 

Mike Walsh’s Advice on Future Proofing Your Business

By cmiadmin | Mar 07, 2016 | Comments Off

Mike Walsh’s Advice on Future Proofing Your Business

by ERIC JOHNSON

Mike Walsh - Inspire

We opened the final day of Nintex InspireX, our first customer and partner conference, with food for thought from futurist Mike Walsh on future-proofing your business. He led with how technology innovation is impacting the human experience, and asked how businesses should and could be reimagining the way they work in the future.

These are big questions to try to answer in a 60-minute keynote, but at the crux of Mike’s presentation was this: Today’s business transformation – the much-discussed and perhaps not very well-defined “digital transformation” – isn’t about completely overhauling the way a business operates today; it’s about reinventing the experiences they deliver for employees, partners and customers.

For any organization preparing for the future, Mike recommends asking yourself these four key questions.

 

Question #1 – How will the next generation shape the future of business?

Kids are growing up in a vastly different world than many of us did. The pervasiveness of technology is changing their expectations of how the world is supposed to work. Today, technologies such as radio-frequency identification (RFID) and contextual computing, as well as the Internet of Things, messaging ecosystems and predictive analytics, enable us to interact, make decisions and obtain information more easily than ever.

According to Mike, this all means that businesses that want to prepare themselves for the future need to look through to the end consumer – what they expect, how they interact with technology in their personal lives – and then reimagine their business operations from that lens.

 

Question #2 – Can you design an organization to move as fast as consumers do?

Agility becomes more and more difficult the larger a company becomes. Bureaucracy can get in the way of innovation – something many of us may have experienced in current or past roles. But Mike offered this thought: The key to building adaptive, fast-moving organizations is to focus on the networks that connect your people and teams. Create more social workspaces, adopt transparent communications tools and share data internally to uncover new ways to hack your culture.

Of course, changing how we use technology inside our organizations can sometimes be a challenge in and of itself. Mike suggests that you pick a few high-profile projects, and encourage those teams to experiment with new collaboration tools and workflows (e.g., Slack) and have them share data and insights with the rest of the organization.

 

Question #3 – How do you design an agile technology culture?

Agility is about more than moving fast – it’s about how quickly you can respond to changes in your environment. In order to build an organization that responds quickly to changes, follow these two pieces of advice, Mike said.

First, focus on hiring people who will be energized by the unknown. People with a problem-solving mindset are less likely to fall back on process when faced with a new challenge.

Second, organize your workforce into small teams empowered to take risks and make changes – the saying “too many cooks in the kitchen” comes to mind here, with the idea that the more people you have thinking about a problem, the more difficult it can become to solve.

 

Question #4 – How much smarter do leaders need to be to survive smart machines?

New technologies driving machine learning and artificial intelligence mean that the solutions we use in our businesses today are only getting smarter and smarter. And these solutions in turn are making us smarter as business leaders. That said, it’s critical that we know how to leverage these technologies in the best way.

According to Mike, we need to get better at understanding the software and data components of our organizations. Find the data that matters and act on it to drive impactful business results. Get better at communicating complex info visually to get everyone on board with your ideas. Get rid of “that’s not the way we do things” mentality and use data to change anything and everything. As Mike puts it, embracing the future means challenging everything we know to be true.

 

The future is now.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by future-proofing your business and not know where to start. Mike’s advice: The future is an invitation for us to think in a different way. Digital transformation isn’t one big change – it’s hundreds of small changes in an organization that change the human experience.

If you’re interested in following more of Mike’s ideas and research on the future, check out his weekly podcast “Between Worlds.”

To Score Big On Sales, Make It A Collective Effort For Your Company - Tim Sanders

By cmiadmin | Mar 07, 2016 | Comments Off

INVESTORS BUSINESS DAILY - News

LEADERS & SUCCESS

To Score Big On Sales, Make It A Collective Effort For Your Company - Tim Sanders

by MICHAEL MINK

7SECRET-030816-shutterstock

Closing high-quality deals and maintaining big accounts are tough, and too often companies rely solely on the sales geniuses of individuals and departments.

So notes Tim Sanders, author of “Dealstorming: The Secret Weapon That Can Solve Your Toughest Sales Challenges.” He’s also the former Yahoo (YHOO) chief solutions officer.

He says research on top-performing companies proves that sales know-how “is a team sport, involving players from across the enterprise.” Also, his Dealstorming concepts “have led to a stunning 70% close ratio for multimillion-dollar deals” in over 100 cases in which he’s been personally involved.

Tips on going wide and long to maximize sales:

Live for collaboration. When faced with a sales challenge, “you’ll triple your chances of success by asking your operations, marketing and finance teams for help,” Sanders told IBD. By harnessing that collective brainpower, top companies outsell their competitors by 20% or more. Spread the wealth too at review and bonus time, for the contributions of these nonsales personnel.

Turn them loose. It’s been Sanders’ experience that involving the CEO or another top company officer slows the sales initiative planning process and inhibits individual creativity.

Junior attendees in meetings are reluctant to speak up or they gravitate to the ideas of the seniors executives, “even if the assumptions behind them are flawed,” he said. “In 75% of cases, the breakthrough idea came from a nonexecutive who was closer to the problem or was free from the constraints of executive or sales process. Make C-suite escalation a last resort, not the first response.”

Embrace strategic planning. Sales meetings shouldn’t be 50% information dumps, then discussion. Sanders recommends leaders distribute a “deal brief” to the team at least two days prior to any meeting. It contains a statement of the problem, the opportunity at hand, an influence map, activities to date and premeeting assignments.

This process harnesses “the power of incubation, where ideas bump into each other during downtime, sleep or passive activities,” he said. “When meeting attendees show up, often they come with ideas in hand. This leads to a much more efficient use of meeting time. The most innovative companies in the world from IDEO to Procter & Gamble (PG) live by this.”

Illuminate. When dealing with prospects, ask them to identify major issues, says James Nielsen, CEO of Sales Bootcamp, which teaches the professional sales process to college graduates and new hires.

“If your prospect doesn’t have an urgent problem to solve, you’re going to have a tough time convincing them to evaluate, purchase and implement your solution,” he points out.

Provide real answers. Prospects need numbers and proof points to support your argument that you can solve their problem and that you can solve it better than anyone else, Nielsen says.

Generate leads. Companies should build a sales development team that focuses exclusively on prospecting into new accounts, Nielsen advises. Create a target account list based on a specific niche your company is focused on.

“Try to understand their business the best you can before picking up the phone,” he said. Further, personalize your prospecting emails and voicemail. “Something in that email should be very specific to them or their business.”

He adds that Salesforce.com (CRM), which offers customer relation management products, has generated an additional $100 million in revenue by adding an outbound sales development department.

Be persistent. One email isn’t going to cut it, Nielsen says. Utilize Twitter (TWTR) and LinkedIn (LNKD) when applicable.

Broaden hiring criteria. Many top producers fail to replicate their success in their next job because they are dependent on previous systems and products for it.

“To build a collaborative sales culture, ask candidates about how they solved big sales challenges or landed big accounts,” Sanders said. “A key question is to ask, ‘What nonsales projects have you volunteered for, and what was your role?’ This reveals the intrarelationship builder who creates the future.”

See More From Tim Sanders Here 

TY Bennett Storytelling - Step-by-Step Strategy for Influence

By cmiadmin | Mar 07, 2016 | Comments Off

TY Bennett Storytelling - Step-by-Step Strategy for Influence

ccp-009-ty-bennett-storytelling-step-by-step-strategy-for-influence-header-v2

 

 

Ty ccp-009-ty-bennett-storytelling-step-by-step-strategy-for-influence-bio-imagespeaks on leadership, influence and storytelling. His books - The Power of Influence and The Power of Storytelling: The Art of Influential Communication - are used in graduate courses at multiple universities including MIT.

Read the Interview Here: 

Alzay Calhoun: Hello, everyone, it's Alzay Calhoun with Coveted Consultant. Today I'm talking to Ty Bennett. Ty Bennett has written a couple of different books in the areas of influence, leadership, and storytelling. I found him from a book that he's written called The Power of Storytelling. Today we want to focus in on that topic and see if we can't figure out how to better use storytelling as a real business tool. First let me welcome Ty. Hey, Ty, how are you today?

Ty Bennett: I'm great. Thank you so much for having me.

Alzay Calhoun: Glad to have you. Let's begin at the top. Where in your career did you realize that storytelling was a valuable tool?

Ty Bennett: When I was 21 I started a business in direct sales with my brother Scott. We eventually built a very successful business, but in the beginning I was struggling to get people to take me seriously. I was 21, probably looked like I was 12, and I was struggling to get people to just see me as a legitimate business leader and to move people forward, to be influential, if you will. I started to really work on my communication, my presentations. I started to record myself, and one of the things that I would do as I went back and I listened is I would always ask myself, "Where did they engage? What point were they most interactive, did they seem to respond? Where was I having success?" It seemed that it was always in and around stories. Stories seemed to grab people's attention, to engage them emotionally and cause them to take action, to listen to me more intently.

That became a focus for me. It really came out of some failure in the sales process and in the leadership process to realize that stories were an important facet. The more I dove into it I realized that stories are truly the most influential form of communication, because they move people and they cause emotional response, which is what we want.

Alzay Calhoun: You realized there was an objection. You wanted your customers to move in a certain way, they weren't doing that because they had an objection. That objection was your age, right?

Ty Bennett: Yeah.

Alzay Calhoun: Help us connect the dots between ... Should a business leader think about having a story per objection? Is that how we should think about it, or should we think about storytelling a different way?

Ty Bennett: When I coach business leaders, I tell them, one, to start to document stories and keep a journal, a file, if you will, of different stories that you can use. A lot of those do come out of objections. How do you handle those? With our sales team, we would tell them to take a journal and to go out and to document the objections they face in the first hundred people they talk to, because in the first hundred people they talk to they would get every objection you're ever going to get. From that they would have those objections, and then we'd sit down and we'd talk about it. How do we handle that? How do you answer that? What's a story that can help to put that in a different perspective?

I think that's one of the things that stories do, is they do help handle objections. I think stories also are used to help to introduce a point. They're used to help validate a point. Sometimes we give the point and then we want to give an example of where that's been applied. Sometimes we use the story as the lead-up to introduce a new idea or concept or a product. Stories are often used just as a simple attention grabber. Sometimes stories are used in the closing process. Sometimes stories are used to help create a vision. Sometimes stories are used to help explain you and yourself, who you are as a leader.

Some of those stories we use over and over again, and some of those stories we may just use for a particular presentation that's done one time, but I think that it never hurts us to start to develop a file, if you will, a document of certain stories that you can use that are effective in explaining certain aspects of business, of yourself, of a product, or something along those lines.

Alzay Calhoun: Excellent. In preparing for today's conversation, you offered a standard approach for what businesses typically do in terms of storytelling. You called it solution to solution storytelling. Can you explain that, please?

Ty Bennett: The model for influential storytelling is the exact opposite. The model for a great story is really struggle to solution. You hook people with the struggle, you help people with the solution. If you think about it from a movie perspective, if we were to go to a movie today and we were to sit down and we were to watch this movie, we're all excited, we're anticipating a great movie, and it ends up being about a guy that just merrily skips through life, no ups, no downs, everything works out, everything's perfect, we would leave and say, "That was the stupidest movie I've ever seen in my life." There's nothing emotionally connecting, there's nothing relatable. There's nothing real there.

Yet in business, I think because we want to come from a power position, we often tell stories that are solution to solution stories. Think about how businesses tell stories. They say things like, "We're great and we've always been great, and if you work with us it's going to be great." Most people are like, "All right. See you later. Great." There's nothing that engages us. The truth is we exist in business to solve problems. In essence, there's a struggle. You exist as a leader to help your people move forward. You exist as a company to solve a problem, whether that's with your product or your service. If we can be vulnerable and real enough, authentic enough, to tell stories that help move people, see the struggle and relate to the struggle, if the struggle is relatable, then the solution becomes more credible.

It's really kind of counter-intuitive for a lot of people, because we don't want to show any vulnerability, we think it's a weakness, but in business the truth is vulnerability is a strength. Now, it's not a struggle for struggle's sake story. We don't want to hear that your life sucks. We want to hear that it did suck and now it's amazing. We want to see the transformational process. If we can tap into people's emotions and they can say, "Wow, that's exactly how I feel," then the solution is going to be exactly what they want.

Alzay Calhoun: What if I'm scared to do that? I heard everything you said and I get it on a conceptual basis, but now you're asking me to air my dirty laundry. You're asking me to tell about the time I fell and bumped my knee. That just doesn't feel like it's going to be an advantage for me. Help me feel better about that.

Ty Bennett: That's natural. Normal feelings. It's scary to expose ourselves a little bit and to show weakness. Again, I want you to think about the fact that, number one, if you're still stuck in that place, if you haven't got to a solution point, that's not a story you're ready to tell yet, because there's no conclusion to it, there's nowhere to move forward. If you have a product that helped you solve that, if you have advice that you gained through that experience, if you have an idea, solution, whatever it may be, then that's something that you want to share.

Here's the thing. For me, when I go back and think about it, I remember certain things where I was like, "I don't know if that's okay to share or not." The truth is I've found that the more real and authentic and vulnerable I am in the storytelling process ... If I do it well, if I take them to a great place. You don't want to take them down to something negative and leave them there, and you don't want to present it in a way where it makes you end up looking like you don't have your act together or that you are not somebody that they should really buy into. It's struggle to solution, so that has to be strong.

What got me over that fear is the recognition that this way works better. It truly does. People respond to it better. You have more influence if you do it this way. For me, the desire to succeed overcame my fear of what it would possibly expose.

The latest book by Ty Bennett.

Alzay Calhoun: I like that. I think that's really strong. I took two things away there. One is this idea of struggles to solution is the core of the storytelling. If in my own personal story I haven't gotten to a solution yet, then perhaps that story isn't one I should be sharing. I also heard you say that in your business you had a core recognition: This way works better. If I want a better result, then I should use a better method.

Ty Bennett: Exactly.

Alzay Calhoun: Very good. For those who are listening and, again, following along, may still be on the fence about using this as a real tool in their business, be blunt and honest. What happens if you don't use the tool of storytelling, if you don't apply it to your business? What happens?

Ty Bennett: Here's the thing. We all do a little bit. Storytelling is such a natural, vital part of our communication process. It is the way that we think, the way that we process information, and so we do at some point. You're fighting something very natural if you're not using stories. You're not using the genetically programmed method of leaning that happens in all of us. Storytelling was the first form of communication that existed. It's the first thing that your kids learn before they learn how to read and understand logical concepts. They learn in stories, they retain in stories. You're fighting something that's very, very natural, and doesn't make a lot of sense in my mind.

What happens is you are not somebody that is engaging. You are not somebody that is influential. You don't move people forward in the same way. It's interesting. I have sat down with salespeople, my sales team when we were building our business, and I have sat there and watched them give very logical, very data-driven presentations that were very sound concepts, and the truth is people fell asleep. Nobody cared, and they didn't respond in the end. Then I've taught them how to still have the data and the logic, because that credibility needs to be there, but wrap it into a story that's engaging and engages people emotionally, and seeing the results that are so different. To me, what happens when you don't use stories is you don't have the influence that you could have.

Alzay Calhoun: The cost is influence.

Ty Bennett: Which is a pretty huge cost in business.

Alzay Calhoun: Yeah, right, because there's so many different situations where we need that influence for a variety of different things.

Ty Bennett: Yeah. I think if you're a leader, if you're in sales, if you're presenting, if you're a teacher, you cannot afford to give up any influence.

Alzay Calhoun: Right. Offer some baby steps, if you would. What are some baby steps that I should take if I'm thinking about applying story in this more structured way?

Ty Bennett: Sit down and think about the next time you're presenting or a place where you want to use the story. Then start to generate some ideas in terms of what story you would use there. One of the great questions you can ask yourself is not what's a great story to use in this to illustrate this point, but maybe go to the struggle side of it and say, "Where did I screw this up? Where did this go wrong? Where have we made a mistake in this arena?" Maybe there's a nucleus for a great story there. People laugh when we make mistakes, when things go wrong. It's just a totally different experience for the person.

Then I would really encourage you, especially if this is something that's new to you, is write it out and script it out and role-play it a little bit, just so that you have a basic premise of what you want to say and you feel comfortable in saying it. I just always have been amazed that people feel like it'll be more natural if they wing it in front of a prospective customer or prospect. I would rather do that in front of my friends or in front of the mirror multiple times and be pretty good when I go into that opportunity to move things forward. Just simple baby steps.

One of the keys is that question. Instead of looking and saying, "What's a great story?" because that's really hard to come up with, look at the situation and say, "Where did we screw this up?" Because that's the struggle part of that struggle to solution story.

Alzay Calhoun: I will admit that I'm guilty of winging it.

Ty Bennett: We all are.

Alzay Calhoun: I just go in there and tell them that story about x. You already made the point, but it's so much better when I take the time to give that story discipline and make sure I hit these certain points. Yeah, I'm guilty of that one. As a business and where you're taking things with your conversations on influence, leadership, and storytelling, what is a big project that you've got coming up?

Ty Bennett: I do mostly keynote speeches now, and write books. I do a little bit of coaching, but the majority is I do about 100 keynotes a year, so I'm business traveling and speaking for different companies. I share my message on storytelling for a lot of sales audiences and a lot of leadership groups, which is great. Probably the biggest next thing for me is I've got a new book coming out April 12th, so coming up here in a couple months. We just are starting the pre-order process and promotion and all of that, kind of fun. The book is called Partnership Is the New Leadership.

Alzay Calhoun: Very good. Partnership Is the New Leadership. If someone wants to reach out to you, perhaps hire you to speak to their audience, what's the best way to go about doing that?

Ty Bennett: My website is just my name, tyBennett.com. All contact information, everything is there, resources, lots of blogs, videos, all my products in the store, all that kind of stuff, so www.TyBennett.com.

Alzay Calhoun: Wonderful. Thank you, Ty, for your time today and just giving this conversation some practicality. Thank you, sir, and good luck in the future.

Ty Bennett: Absolutely. Thank you.

 

See More From Ty Bennett Here

Ty Bennett - New Demo Video on The Power of Storytelling

By cmiadmin | Mar 03, 2016 | Comments Off

Ty Bennett | Learn the Mind-set, Skill-set & Tool-set for Storytelling and discover the power of a good Story in business in his new demo video.

 

Ty Bennett - New Demo Video on The Power of Storytelling

Learn More About Ty Bennett Here

5 Effective Strategies to Create Synergy and Build a World Class Team

By cmiadmin | Mar 03, 2016 | Comments Off

5 Effective Strategies to Create Synergy and Build a World Class Team

My teammates and I have learned about building World Class Teams the hard way. By competing in and winning the world's toughest ultra-endurance Adventure Races. From the leech-infested jungles of Borneo to the towering peaks of Tibet and Ecuador, to the frigid seas and glaciers of Patagonia and the searing desert of Namibia, we have run, paddled, mountain biked, climbed, whitewater rafted, spelunked, mountaineered, navigated and raced across the most remote places on earth for up to ten NON STOP days and nights as a team.

There is no shelter, no warm food, no escape from the harshness of the uncharted terrain, and no reprieve from the competitors relentlessly nipping at our blister-covered heels. If just one racer from our 4-person mixed-gender team quits, we are all disqualified.

So, by necessity, the journey to the unimaginably distant finish line in these 600-1000 mile "Eco-Challenges" very quickly becomes far less a matter of athletic skill than a matter of great leadership, the human spirit, and our ability to inspire our tattered teammates to continue to rise to the occasion again and again--no matter how tough the challenge, no matter how steep the climb, and in the face of a consistently changing game.

Is Adventure Racing Insanity? Granted. But there is one very useful, if unintended, real world takeaway for every finisher: An honorary PHD in Teambuilding. Or as I like to call it...creating Human Synergy. Here are a few Essential Elements of Human Synergy that I've learned from the world's greatest Extreme Teammates:

1. Be Ruled by the Hope of Success versus the Fear of Failure
Are you consistently doing what it takes to "win" versus simply "not lose"? It’s a completely different mindset, leading to vastly different outcomes. Great leaders are shattering the norm, changing the game, and doing things that have never been done in an effort to propel their team to the next level. They are courageous, not only in terms of innovation, but in terms of perseverance. We won many a race not only by "slowing down less" than the other teams, but also by coming up with some game changing solutions.

Once, during a 100-mile whitewater canoeing leg to the finish, my teammate taught me the "be ruled by the hope of success" lesson through some tough love.

We were paddling our whitewater raft near the front of the race on day 6, and every couple of minutes I looked behind us to see where our closest competitors were. That is, until the teammate sitting behind me grabbed the top of my head, spun it back around to face forward, pointed down the river and said "winning is THAT way".

We also switched out our canoe paddles for kayak paddles, which was far outside the norm for canoe travel.

"With those visionary changes, we caught the team that was an hour ahead of us and went on to win the race by 2 hours on that final leg."

2. Offer a Tow Line, but most importantly, TAKE one.
Leave your ego at the start line (but not your confidence!). It’s the heaviest thing in your pack. Over the long haul, leader or not, we are all going to be the strongest link and a weaker link on our team. All of us will happily offer our strength to our teammates when they need it, but how many of us are also offering our weaknesses to the team?

On our team, every racer has 'tow lines', made from thin bungee cords, hanging from the back of all of our packs. If we are feeling strong, we offer it to a struggling teammate. If we are having a low moment, we grab a towline from someone stronger and get lightly pulled along at the faster pace until we recover

The goal? To "suffer equally". You'll get farther, faster if you do. I believe that we have not used all of our strength as a leader until we have asked for and accepted help from our teammates. Think about accepting help is a gift to the helper. People are thrilled when they have a chance to help you. You create a connection and a bond every time you do. Asking and accepting help is one of my favorite team synergy creating tools as a leader.

3. Inspire "We" Thinking
We are all conditioned from a young age to see winning as something mutually exclusive, as in "For me to win, you must lose". What if you decided to instead see a world full of potential teammates instead of a world full of competitors when you left the house every morning?

Great leaders understand that in the quest to become the best of the best, Nobody Wins Alone. The more difficult the challenge, the more critical the team. "We Thinking" leaders capitalize on their strengths and outsource their weaknesses, consistently building and inspiring a team that is able to connect to one another for mutual gain, whether for a moment, for a project or for lifetime. And they happily share that space at the top of the podium with the people that got them there.

4. Act Like a Team Always. Its Far More Important than Feeling Like One
We're not always going to feel warm and mushy about one another. We're human! But it’s important to remember to not let emotion effect locomotion. No matter how we feel, we're never allowed a day off from being the leader or teammate that people need and expect us to be.

During the World Championships in Ecuador, my team had major disagreement about our navigation. In fact, it caused such a rift, that we didn’t speak for hours. But as we approached the media crews on our exit from that hiking leg, our team captain said something that changed the game for us. "If you want to BECOME the World Champions, you need to ACT like World Champions".

And I'm telling you, we could have won an Academy Award for that acting performance--congratulating one another on a job well done, getting food for one another, high fives and hugs all around. It was all for the cameras, of course, but guess what happened? By the time we got new gear and moved on, we were all genuinely happy together and moving forward as team. The argument never resurfaced. We were too busy with winning.

"Yes, I did just suggest you fake it until the feelings come back. It works. Same with love, too, by the way. Acting like you're in love is more important than feeling like you're in love. Try this at home. You will thank me later."

5. Put your Teammates on Your Shoulders.
When we have the label of "leader" we often assume that to mean that we need to get out in front and show people the way. And that is occasionally part of the job. But my favorite leaders to work with allow for leadership among team members based on their strengths and not their titles. They "manage" their team, but allow for different leaders to emerge. And they are always focused on helping their team inspire and amaze themselves, understanding that confidence and inspiration are an inside job.

In the 1997 Eco-Challenge, the Japanese team did something that defied all logic, reason, and the bounds of human endurance. They carried their injured female teammate for 18 hours, piggyback style inside a backpack, up and over an incredibly steep, rocky, muddy, dense-jungle-covered 9000-foot mountain in their quest to get to the finish line. When they emerged from the sugar cane fields at the base of the mountain, battered but victorious, they did something incredibly graceful. They picked up their injured teammate and put her on their shoulders. They gave her the moment to shine, and symbolically gave her the credit for allowing them to succeed against the toughest of odds. It's my favorite Adventure Racing moment of all time because their performance says it all.

We don't achieve our greatest heights as leaders by stepping on our teammates' backs to rise higher--we stand much taller as leaders when we put our teammates on our shoulders. And we don't inspire our teammates by leading the pack and showing them how wonderful WE are.

"We inspire them by putting them on our shoulders and showing them how amazing, smart, and capable THEY are."

 

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