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Choosing Your Teammates!

Based on The 8 Essential Elements of Human Synergy
Adventure Racing is one of the only sports in which you actually have to have your teammates with you, side-by-side, tackling a series of problems, against incredible odds, in changing conditions, and striving for a seemingly impossible goal of getting everyone across the finish line TOGETHER after 600 miles of joy. :)   That’s why Adventure Racing is just as much an interpersonal journey as a physical one, and a perfect analogy for teambuilding in every aspect of our lives.   In the best of times, you will experience moments that will bond you to your teammates in a very special way for life; In the worst of times, you will walk away having experienced the worst aspects of human nature and be left to pick up the pieces of your shattered hopes.   In my experience, a lack of teamwork skills is responsible for at least 40-50% of the DNF’s (Did Not Finish) in Adventure Racing, and it is far too important a factor to overlook in any discussion about the sport-- or our families or work lives.  Believe it or not, according to a Harvard Business Review Study, the "corporate climate" that you create as a leader (aka how friends/coworkers/family members feel about working, racing and living with you) is responsible for at least ONE THIRD of your results as a team. So the ability to create Human Synergy is far too big a skill to overlook!  So here’s my two cents on what it takes to build a World Class Team in any endeavor, from the mountains of Ecuador to the quest to reach the next level in your business. It’s also a great formula to use when evaluating just the right teammates for your next adventure! 

After years of study in what causes a team to rise from “good” to “world class”, I’ve come to the conclusion that the biggest factors are the attitudes and actions of the individual teammates.  In the races my team and I have won, we were not the strongest or the fastest, but we were able to create a “human synergy”—an ephemeral quality or “magic” that made the TEAM stronger than the collective training and experience of the individual members. If I could bottle it, I would certainly be a millionaire-- but after a good deal of thinking about the subject, I have a pretty good idea of the essential elements required for this human synergy.  Here’s the first part of the highlight reel:

The 8 Essential Elements of Human Synergy

T   Total Commitment
   Do your teammates embrace the 4 P’s of Commitment:  Planning, sense of Purpose, Preparation and Perseverance?

E   Empathy and Awareness of Teammates
     Do you and your teammates care for one another as much as you care about yourself? You must be able to put yourself in one another’s shoes often, and give one another what you need on both a physical   and emotional  level.  Treat one another the way that you would want to be treated.

A   Adversity Management
     How does your team deal with an "adventure" that’s not going so smoothly?  You must remember that Adventure Races, just like our daily lives, are generally a long series of problems to solve, and not the straightforward journey you were hoping for.  The right attitude is key.  Does your team see roadblocks or challenges? Are they focusing on the Hope of Success or the Fear of Failure?   And they must never let the pursuit of perfection hinder progress!

M   Mutual Respect
     It’s important that there be a level of trust, respect, and loyalty on a successful team.  Find things to love about your teammates while minimizing the things that bug you.  Remember the great skills and attitude that each teammate brings to the table, and try not to gossip and divide the team.

W   “We” versus “I” thinking
     “We” thinking is about bringing everyone across the finish line with you, and not just being a standout player on your own.  Are your teammates constantly thinking about how to utilize your collective resources for the most successful outcome?  If they are the strong link, do they just happily enjoy themselves at the front of the pack, or are they realizing that feeling good means you should be carrying more weight for someone who is struggling?

 O     Ownership of the Project
      Choosing the kind of teammates that can wrap themselves around the goals of the team, heart and soul, is extremely important.  Gaining consensus from the team on expectations and goals is key. And remember to inspire your teammates vs. simply motivate them. Motivation is for now, inspiration is forever.

R   Relinquishment of Ego
     Your ego is the heaviest thing in your backpack!  Choose teammates that willingly accept help, ask to help, and ask for help.  You will be the strongest link on the team and the weakest link of the team at one point or another.  Get over it and don’t let your ego, or that of your teammates, get between you and the finish line!

K   Kinetic Leadership
     A great team allows different leaders to emerge, based on their particular strengths.  Don’t confuse captainship (aka management) with leadership.  A captain is just the person that ensures that their team has all of the tools that they need to be successful.  A leader comes forward when their strength and experience is the most useful to the team.   On the best teams, the leadership revolves constantly.  


*Be the teammate you would want to race with *Be cognizant of the fact that, due to the intensity of the emotions generated in almost any sport, the way that you treat people, (especially during their lowest moments) will always be remembered *In the end the love you take is equal to the love you make  (for you Beatles fans) *Try to “coach” versus criticize.  Extending a hand is always more impactful than pointing a finger *Remember your priorities--our team’s priorities, in order, are to: stay safe, stay friends, and go like hell *Check your ego at the start line *Back up but never give up *Accept help and ask for help as a gift to the helper *Give respect as a gift and not a grade *Believe the best in your teammates. It saves a lot of trouble *Change your leadership style like a golfer changes their clubs. Use the right style for the moment.

~ XO Robyn