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Leadership lessons from the jungle to the boardroom

Posted 2 years ago in Small business by
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Scaling mountains, navigating jungles, trudging through caves – you might not believe it, but there are more similarities between adventure racing to running a small business than you might think. Extreme time pressures, constantly changing market – sound familiar?

In her keynote at Xerocon Austin, World Champion Adventure Racer, firefighter and New York Times bestselling author Robyn Benincasa, shared the powerful effect of ultra adventurism on team performance.

“What you guys do every day for your families and your clients is an endurance race,” Robyn said.

“It’s all about taking your core strengths, talents, team members and saying, ‘I’m going to be the person to completely change the game’. The best thing you can do for your team is move the goalposts to an even more inspiring finish line.”

When setbacks arise be an Athena

“When you have a great team around you it works really well if you inspire everyone on that team to suffer equally,” Robyn jokes. Robyn’s had her share of setbacks, discovering six years ago that she had osteoarthritis in both hips. But her persevering attitude led her to what she considers one of the best things she has ever done.

Robyn started Project Athena, an organization for survivors of medical or traumatic setbacks that lets them live an adventurous dream as part of their recovery. And their motto is an inspiration for us all when we face those inevitable setbacks that life throws us, “being an Athena you’re not just a survivor you’re an adventurer”.

‘We thinkers’

She encouraged people to be ‘we thinkers’, rather than ‘me thinkers’.

“There’s a world full of teammates out here in the world, not a world full of people I have to get over around and through to accomplish my goals by the end of the day,” Robyn said.

Robyn urged the audience to think of collaboration as the goal instead of winning. By adopting a collaborative mindset, you’ll be set for success.

“Every single person in this room is now your teammate, Xero is your teammate,” Robyn said.“Let’s always find a way to capitalize on each others strengths and throw each other a tow line when they’re struggling.”

Creating a great team means hiring the right people who are inspired by your business’ mission, said Robyn, and who fill gaps in skillsets.

“The only way to win is bringing people onto our team who have the strengths that we don’t have and take them with us,” Robyn said. “Find out what people are great at and let them lead. People always embrace the things that they help create.”

A leadership lesson in armwrestling

Robyn surmised by asking the attendees to partake in an armwrestling competition where their teammate was their opponent and they had to see how many times they could help them get their arm down. Laughter and mild mayhem ensued. She then remarked that even after talking about leadership and the concept of holding your teammates on your shoulders, “so many of you were about to blow an artery trying not to let your own teammate get their arm onto the table”.

“We are so wired to compete which is a great thing but everyday you get to decide who you’re competing with and make that decision as a leader,” Robyn said. “We’re also wired to see winning as being something mutually exclusive. But, the best leaders say if I’m going to win, I’m going to get there better, stronger, faster if I take all these people with me.”

“You know what your goals are, but it’s up to you. It’s all going to take you a whole lot of courage as a leader”.  

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