Robyn Benincasa, “How Winning Works: 8 Essential Leadership Lessons from the Toughest Teams on Earth”

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Reviewed by Femflection

New York Times best-selling author and world champion adventure racer Robyn Benincasa accepts full responsibility for inspiring people to do insane things like climb Mount Kilimanjaro, run their first triathlon, start their own adventure racing teams, or launch their own businesses. After all, that is who she is and what she does: an adventurer who inspires people to do amazing things.

In her 15-year career as a professional adventure racer, Benincasa has competed in close to 40 expedition-length events – gnarly, multiday, multisport killers such as Primal Quest and Eco-Challenge. She has biked through jungles in Borneo, climbed Himalayan giants in Nepal, trekked across lava fields in Fiji, rafted rapids in Chile – and racked up multiple world championship titles along the way. In her spare time, she is a full-time firefighter in San Diego on the nation’s first all-female crew.

Her latest book, How Winning Works: 8 Essential Leadership Lessons from the Toughest Teams on Earth, hit the shelves in May 2012 and was quickly dubbed a New York Times bestseller.

Some “How Winning Works” quotes:

  • “I learned many lessons from my first race with my heroes. I learned it was easier to breathe when I cried, so I cried often and without shame. I learned that a teammate’s faith in you can propel you up any mountain. I learned that winning requires an entirely different mind-set than not losing. I learned that the best teams in the world share not only their strengths but also their weaknesses. I learned that you don’t inspire your teammates by showing them how amazing you are. You inspire them by showing them how amazing they are.”
  • “The biggest, strongest, and fastest competitors are not guaranteed a successful finish. It’s the teams that truly understand interdependence, have empathy for one another, share common ideals, manage adversity well, and check their egos at the start line that win these races. In my experience, the same is true in the corporate world.”
  • “Fear is okay. Fear keeps you on your toes.”
  • “You don’t inspire your teammates by showing them how amazing you are. You inspire them by showing them how amazing they are.”
  • “And I learned that when people leave their egos at the starting line in pursuit of a common goal and form a deep and genuine connection to one another along the way—otherwise known as human synergy—they create a beautiful and unstoppable force that can handle whatever the winds, the mountains, the rivers and the jungles throw their way.”

“How Winning Works” – The Book:

In “How Winning Works”, Benincasa shows you how to climb to new levels of professional and personal success. She shares the eight essential elements of teamwork, learned through her extreme adventure racing, that create synergy with all the teammates in your life, from colleagues and customers to family members and friends:

  •   Total Commitment:

Does your team have the 4 P’s of Commitment: Planning, Sense of Purpose, Preparation and Perseverance?

  •   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 in order to keep going.  Treat one another the way that you would want to be treated.

  • A   Adversity Management:

How does your team deal with a race that’s not going so smoothly?  You must remember that Adventure Races are generally a long series of problems to solve, and not the straightforward race you were hoping for.  The right attitude is key.  Does your team see roadblocks or challenges? A good team member must also have the skills to lead through adversity.  Creating a vision and gathering input from the team is always a great way to go.  Relax.  This problem, or others like it, will happen to many other teams along the way.

  • 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 bring 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 you constantly thinking about how to utilize your collective resources for the most successful outcome?  If you are the strong link, do you just happily enjoy yourself at the front of the pack, or are you realizing that feeling good means you should be carrying more weight for someone who is struggling?

  • O Ownership of the Project:

Choosing the right teammates that can wrap themselves around the goals of the team, heart and soul, are key.

Gaining consensus from the team on expectations and goals is vital and should be done before the race starts!

  •   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 get between you and the finish line!

  •   Kinetic Leadership:

A great team allows different leaders to emerge, based on their particular strengths.  Don’t confuse captainship 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 use to the team.   On the best teams, the leadership revolves constantly.  Military style leadership doesn’t work to well in Adventure Racing!

Stories from her adventure racing illustrate how winning teams interact under the worlds most extreme conditions, from jungles to mountain peaks.

Just replace the adventure racing/sport talk and replace it with whatever else you are struggling with in your life and you’ll see how you can use the 8 essential elements of human synergy to live your most authentic life!

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