Rona Cant explains why working together really is the best path to success – whether in an office, or on a yacht.

It is an old adage but as true today as it was years ago. Whether you are working in an international organisation in a big city or a small business close to home it is important to remember that we cannot know everything about everything. We have been employed by that organisation for our skills and the knowledge we have gained. However, no matter how good we are, there are times when we need to accept that we have to ask for help.

With the pressures in business today, plus the economic situation, the days of employing a new person to deal with a specific situation is no longer the option it used to be. Often it is left to the Executive Secretary to find the resolution.

Having been an Executive Secretary it seemed sensible, therefore, when walking to a meeting, riding in the lift, or by the water fountain to have a brief, often snatched, conversation with people in the office. It was a way to meet the staff and find out their hobbies and interests. It was intriguing to find out the paths others trod when not at work.

Not only did this make my work easier but the person with the right strengths chosen to resolve the issue felt acknowledged and valued. This in turn encouraged others to offer their skills at the appropriate time to complete a task quickly. It kept costs down but the quality of ‘a job well done’ was good for the morale of the staff and organisation.

Another advantage was it enabled the organisation to embark on ‘joint ventures’ with the staff whilst not interrupting the ‘working’ day. Several people were accomplishing incredible tasks to help charities, their local communities and people in far off lands and it became a tremendous morale booster for the whole organisation as everyone banded together to help accomplish others goals.

Whilst everyone was busy, being able to have a few words whilst carrying out other tasks meant there was a greater understanding of our fellow workers so dealing with other requests was easier. The staff became a mastermind group on how to overcome various obstacles and challenges in and out of the office.

In some organisations being an Executive Secretary can be quite isolating depending on where your office is and for whom you are working. Accruing this information whilst ‘networking’ or making friends throughout the organisation had its advantages. It was much easier to find the right person with the right qualities to deal with any specific situation that arose.

These strategies were highlighted on the BT Global Challenge Round the World Yacht Race 2000-1 where there were twelve identical yachts with twelve identical crews i.e. their age range, male to female ratio, experience and expertise on each yacht was exactly the same, making it a very level playing field. This meant that it was the way you dealt with the people that made the difference.

On board everyone had an on deck and below deck job. On deck my job was to run the ‘snakepit’. This is an area, just behind the mast, where twenty-one ropes take sails to the top of the mast, move poles around or help to trim the main, come into a very small area. It is so busy that you have no time to tidy the ropes after each manoeuvre hence the name ‘snakepit’ as you are literally standing on lots of ropes. As the yacht ploughs through the waves, the ropes slide around making it hard to keep your balance. Below deck I ran the team that repaired all the sails.

By collaborating with each other we found the best way of dealing with any situation, understood the hidden expertise of each crew member and achieved amazing results in very extreme conditions. All the skills learnt as an Executive Secretary were invaluable making it easier for me to also complete a nature project and write copious notes for my first book ‘A Challenge Too Far?’

Rona Cant is an explorer, international speaker and author. Once an unexceptional, middle-aged single parent she became a round-the-world yachtswoman by competing in the BT Global Challenge Round the World Yacht Race (the toughest yacht race in the world ... (Read More)

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