Rachael Robertson is the author of the best-selling book Leading on the Edge, an account of leading a year-long expedition to Antarctica. She is a keynote speaker on the topics of leadership and teamwork and her latest book, Respect Trumps Harmony, is out now. When you’re sharing close quarters with a team of diverse people, small issues can boil over and turn into massive problems that can halt a multi-million dollar project. Rachael shares her leadership strategy to develop the self-awareness, the priorities, and the communication skills needed to have an open and transparent culture so that everyone can focus on doing their best work and not on the interpersonal conflicts.
[3:55] Looking through a newspaper one day, a photo of a penguin in the job section caught Rachael’s eye. It was a call to lead an Antarctic expedition and they were looking for people with certain characteristics, not skillsets. Rachael already had a job, but she was curious.
[7:10] The recruitment process was so different than anything Rachael had ever experienced. It wasn’t a job interview, it was a boot camp. She was the only woman who applied and when she was selected, she was the youngest leader in the group.
[10:25] There is absolutely no sunlight during winter. In summer, it’s 0 degrees celsius.
[12:00] The experience taught Rachael that she can overcome anything. Whenever she has a tough challenge in her life, she refers back to this expedition.
[14:25] Rachael has applied for jobs before and not gotten them, and nothing bad happened to her! These mini “failures” gave her the resilience to at least try and see what happens.
[16:10] Rachael shares a challenging experience she had as a leader that she affectionately calls the “great bacon war.” Her team was split: Should bacon be crispy or soft and chewy? Upon further inspection, the problem was actually much deeper than that.
[21:10] Rachael faced a crisis when a part of her team was stranded with less than 10 days worth of food. An important leadership lesson there was, be visible to the rest of your team and be transparent about the crisis and how it’s unfolding.
[24:05] Part of being a leader, you have to also take out the politics. You do that by putting systems and processes in place so that everybody feels like they got a fair shot.
[26:50] Rachael had to work with a lot of different dynamics when it comes to how people get along. You’re in darkness for half a year and sharing quarters with your workmates 24/7, things can get bitter quite quickly if you don’t address the different personality types and styles in the room.
[35:00] When you’re living so closely and you have no privacy, the smallest things can manifest into big issues. The biggest source of conflict was leaving things around and disrespected common areas.
[38:40] After Rachael came back over a year, the biggest feeling she experienced was overwhelm. There was so much to process and take in, in such a busy world.
[40:55] Listener challenge: Practice optimism.
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Quotable Quotes“A really basic rule for me is, resilience is thinking about thinking. It’s resting your thoughts before they continue [down a negative path].” Click To Tweet “As a leader, if you have self-awareness, you can learn everything else.” Click To Tweet “I don’t expect you all to love each other, but I do expect you to treat each other with respect.” Click To Tweet “The aim, going in, was to create a culture where people will speak up and deal with things because I was worried about someone spiraling with depression or exploding with anger.” Click To Tweet “We created a thing called ‘no triangles.’ If somebody has something to say, you go directly to the person, don’t take it to a third party.” Click To Tweet “We don’t know what’s around the corner. Just be optimistic. Just keep hope alive.” Click To Tweet
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