04 Aug New publication, Explore
Mental health and wellbeing speaker, Sue Stockdale, knows from first-hand experience the role that mindset plays in the achievement of challenging goals in changing environments. Sue, who is the first UK woman to ski to the Magnetic North Pole and has represented Scotland in athletics, recounts the story of her adventures from challenging beginnings to exploring some of the world’s most extreme environments in her recent book EXPLORE: A Life of Adventure. The Foreword is written by John-David F Bartoe, astronaut, solar physicist and former Research Manager of the International Space Station, and the book is packed full of adventurous insights.
`What I learnt about resilience from a lifetime of adventure‘
In this article Sue reflects that the unknown does not have to be daunting when approached with a positive outlook and willingness to be uncomfortable:
“I approach life with an adventurous mindset and have found that stepping out of your comfort zone is key to achieving your potential. As a polar adventurer, coach, and entrepreneur, I can say that the Arctic environment is very similar to the business environment. The constantly changing landscape often requires leaders to take rapid decisions with imperfect information. Teams need to be adaptable and flexible, and that’s challenging for many people who like certainty and stability. Therefore, the ability to be resilient is a vital skill in both environments. Here are five questions I often ask leaders to consider during one of our coaching sessions when they feel fearful or anxious, which helps them to gain a renewed sense of perspective.
What are your top 3 strengths?
Reminding yourself of your strengths, can be energising. On one of my expeditions to ski across the Greenland Ice Cap, I met my teammates only three days prior to starting out on this life-threatening journey. It took us a while to discover one another’s strengths. One was great at navigation but hopeless at fixing equipment. As we got more and more exhausted, it would have been easy to criticise one another’s weaknesses. Instead, we decided to focus on strengths and make sure we used the best person for the task regardless of their role in the team. What a difference a focus on strengths can make on team morale.
What’s most important right now?
When you must drag a sledge for a month weighing around 60kg, you think carefully about what’s inside it. Every item is carefully selected to be adaptable – socks become gloves, empty food bags become rubbish sacks, even the pages of a book can have other uses. At work, many leaders have got used to having the equivalent of huge sledges, full of extraneous items that are slowing them down. An endless to-do list, and a myriad of requests to attend meetings that are not required. To be resilient they need to be prepared to let go of the excess items and identify what’s vital to keeping their business alive and sustainable in the long term.
Where is your focus?
On our expedition to the North Pole there was nothing to focus on, so we had trust that we were heading in the right direction and remind ourselves of our overall ambition. Leaders must take time for themselves at the start of the day to begin with a clear focus and to know what their top priorities are.
What if you do nothing?
The weather changes very fast in the Arctic which can mean the ice cracking in front of you, or temperatures rapidly dropping. Sometimes we had to take decisions quickly about whether to change route, stop or carry on, and almost always with limited information. In business it’s the same, because speed to market or competitive advantage is gained by acting more quickly than others. Resilience can be developed by being prepared to act, even when the route is not clear. We learn more by doing. Sometimes leaders don’t consider what might be the consequences of delaying a decision or doing nothing.
What’s really going on?
As the stress and exhaustion of skiing up to twelve hours a day took hold during our expedition, the behaviour of team members changed. On one particularly tough day, my team-mate suggested that we should stop early because I was looking tired. I was incensed because he would not admit he was exhausted, not me. The others could see what was happening, so we decided to stop. That evening, when my teammate relaxed, he admitted he had not been entirely honest and regretted his behaviour. Being able to talk about what’s really going on whether on expedition or in business makes a huge difference. Leaders must create a psychologically safe environment where employees are comfortable to speak openly without fear of judgement, ridicule, or negative comment.”
Sue is an accomplished motivational and leadership speaker and feedback on her sessions includes:
“We’ve had lots of very positive comments about your session. The combination of the story of your North Pole expedition and your advice around risk worked really well and it was very inspirational. Thank you very much for your thoughtful preparation and for tying it in to our theme and business so well.” Sue Clayton, Executive Director, CBRE
“Sue delivered a truly inspiring and insightful talk to a global audience at our virtual agile meetup … She took time beforehand to understand the audience and very quickly identified some highly relevant and impactful learnings, using stories of her adventures as a backdrop.” Stephen McAinsh, Lean Agile Edinburgh organiser
To book Sue Stockdale as a motivational speaker to cover a wide a range of themes including leadership, resilience, wellbeing and mental health, please call The Right Address +44(0)1895 827 800