Teamwork as a topic might seem boring, but not when a world-class extreme race competitor like Robyn Benincasa writes about it. Her tales of teamwork while competing in an extreme race like the Eco-Challenge sometimes involve life or death situations and they are some of the most fascinating stories of strength, endurance and grit you will ever read. And, while her remarks on teamwork in business are nowhere as exciting as the ones on racing, they are just as valuable, and that’s what makes How Winning Works so compelling. This book really highlights how invaluable teamwork is to your success in life, business and sports.
Having competed in 35 extreme racing events, Robyn has plenty of fascinating stories to draw upon. She uses them effectively throughout the book to drive home her 8 elements of TEAMWORK. The stories are what really hit home for me and allowed me to embrace the idea of teamwork more passionately in life and business (sports are pretty much over for me at 44 years young). All are noteworthy, but the first two came with such ridiculously entertaining racing stories that I must share them.
Element #1, TOTAL COMMITMENT. How many of us are totally committed to our business or company? Do you go the extra mile? Are you willing to stand strong even if an unforeseen event occurs that you are not responsible for but must come to grips with?
In 1995, Robyn and her teammates were in Patagonia, Argentina for the Raid Gauloises. They were participating in a 300-mile race through Patagonia terrain that included a 14,000 ft. hike midway through. What started out as a 100-degree day soon became a snowstorm at the top of the mountain. Not to mention a checkpoint that was a ½ mile east of where it was supposed to be. And, it got worse. Two of her teammates were near death due to hypothermia. Robyn and her teammates had to act quickly, so they climbed back down the mountain where they were told by race officials that two teams ahead of them had found the checkpoint so if they did not climb back up they would be disqualified. So they did what any team that wanted to win would have done, they climbed back up. Robyn and her team were TOTALLY COMMITTED! Are you?
This book was off to a great start. I felt alive as Robyn took me to countries I’ve never been to, and did things I’ve never done and writes with such exquisite detail that I feel like I’m along for the ride.
Element #2, EMPATHY AND AWARENESS. Now this might be just a huge coincidence, if you believe in those things, but just a week or so ago, a friend from the fitness industry posted that the greatest skill a trainer/coach can have is empathy. I was floored. I immediately felt my heart resonate with those words and I agree 100%. Ok maybe tied with passion, but it’s highly debatable. So here I am again hanging on every word of this book.
Again, an amazing story draws me in and teaches me about the power of teamwork in business and life. This time, the country is Sweden and the problem is not another teammate, but Robyn herself. Seems she has come down with trench foot which means your feet are unable to repel moisture. This disease comes from having her feet submerged in water for an unhealthy period of time and now when she walks it feels like she is walking on glass. Ouch!
What gets Robyn through this tough time? A teammate. A teammate who was aware enough to forget about winning for a while because a fellow member needed some uplifting. He started singing with Robyn, they knew many of the same songs. It helped get her mind off the pain. By taking the time out to acknowledge someone else in a time of need, the team was able to get to the finish line as a team.
“People will always remember how you treated them in their lowest moments.”
An even more amazing story of empathy occurred in Fiji when Robyn and crew drank water that was contaminated with parasites. This infection is known as giardiasis and it affects the small intestine. Similar to a bad case of food poisoning, you are being flushed from both ends. So the teammate that could no longer take it passed out in his boat for most of the ride. When they pulled to shore he was up to his neck in feces. A big burly man of Fijian descent who had been watching the race came out of the woods and picked the man up out of the boat. Robyn and her comrades followed this man as he carried their teammate 12 miles deep into the woods to his hut that he shares with his wife and two kids. I was struck by the kindness of this man. He showed empathy to a total stranger. That is true human connection and teamwork.
Most of us do not have jobs that require this type of danger, nevertheless, these lessons of teamwork are still invaluable. That’s why several top Fortune 500 companies such as Texaco, AT&T, Johnson and Johnson and Deloitte bring Robyn in to speak to their organizations. They understand that very few people in the world have had to undergo the extreme events that this woman has endured. If you’re looking for someone who understands teamwork at the highest level, she is it.
Whether you are working for yourself or for a Fortune 500 company, we can all become better at serving our clients and working with each other by applying Robyn’s 8 essential elements of teamwork. You’ve got to understand that Robyn lives today purely because of TEAMWORK. In order for us to succeed at the highest level we cannot do it alone. We must do it as a team.
“In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we put out completes the circle and comes back to us.” Flora Edwards
These are the other six essential elements of teamwork:
Element #3 Adversity Management
Element#4 Mutual Respect
Element #5 We Thinking
Element #6 Ownership of the Project
Element #7 Relinquishment of Ego
Element #8 Kinetic Leadership