Rachael Robertson (CSP, MBA) is a former Antarctic expedition leader, Chief Ranger and leader with 20 years of 'extreme' leadership experience. She is a best-selling author and leadership guru whose talents are in great demand from leading organisations around the globe.
As only the second female to lead a team to Davis Station in Antarctica she managed a diverse group of up to 120 people, through total isolation, months of darkness, with no way in and no way out. It was a leadership laboratory in the most extreme and hostile environment on Earth, where most of the theory doesn't apply.
This leadership role is a truly unique experience. Antarctica in winter is totally inaccessible which means once the last ship leaves at the end of February, no one can leave the base under any circumstance (not even if you are dying) until the ship returns in November. It's a 24 hour a day, every day of the year, leadership role.
Rachael was responsible for all aspects of life on the Station, from the safety and welfare of over 80 expeditioners in Summer, to the delivery of the Australian Government's $20mn science program. In any circumstance, this would be a tough role, but for a female in a male dominated environment, it was also a very challenging one!
Prior to this Rachael held senior operational management roles for 16 years in a range of complex and challenging environments, was Victoria's youngest Chief Ranger and led the media coordination unit during the Black Saturday bushfires.
Leading an Antarctic expedition, coordinating media during the Black Saturday bushfire event and guiding teams through turmoil all require extreme leadership and the ability to inspire through tough times. As Rachael reveals using incredible and often hilarious examples, these situations demand big leadership in small moments, because it's the small moments that build momentum.
She is now a keynote speaker and facilitator at many national and international conferences with over 350 clients including NAB, AXA, Westpac, BHP Billiton, IBM, Minter Ellison, Crown Casino, CPA Australia, Wesfarmers, BP, Choice Hotels and Melbourne Water. Rachael presents with great humour, humility and passion. No matter the event, Rachael will leave your audience inspired, challenged and equipped to take the next step in their leadership journey.
Some of the specific leadership insights Rachael reveals include:
- Understanding the whole individual
- Enhance the team you have
- Match people to the task
- Creating and harnessing diversity
- Leading through adversity and change
- Taking care of the small 'stuff'
- Be authentic and reflect
- Developing resilience
- The importance of taking care of yourself as a leader
There can be no argument that leading Antarctic expeditions is extreme. Once you commit there is no turning back. Yet the challenges for the leader are the same in every workplace. Leaders need to acknowledge and navigate through the perpetual scrutiny, the frequent isolation, and the need to keep going when you feel you have nothing more to give. Rachael shares her experience in:
- How to develop personal resilience and look after yourself
- Accountability and how to make the right decision, the right way
- 'Boundaries' - tools to navigate and manage personal boundaries
- How to hone your self-awareness and the importance of reflection
- Remote leadership - how to build teamwork, influence and trust in dispersed organisations
- 'Plane crash' - tools to support leaders through adversity
- The scrutiny of leadership and how to manage the spotlight
Few of us get to select every member of our teams. Usually, we need to build an effective and resilient team from an existing group of diverse people. The ability to understand and harness this diversity to create high performance is critical. Rachael led a highly successful expedition team in Antarctica and she shares her experience and techniques including:
- The 'Golden Carrot' - how to motivate & reward staff using intrinsic measures
- LADAR - what words to listen out for on your 'language radar'
- 'Expedition' - how to keep teams focused on your main goal, but know what needs to be done now
- The rule of No Triangles and how to strengthen respect and integrity within teams
- 'The Antarctic Winter' - every workplace has one, how to keep teams inspired through the 'business-as-usual' times
- 'Emperor Penguins' - why collaboration is critical and why only the smart survive
- 'The Bacon War' and why you need to manage the little things
Adapt or Perish
The ability to adapt to a changing environment is an integral part of nature. Leaders who thrive and succeed have learnt the art of adaptation. Reading the lay of the land; understanding and anticipating what challenges may emerge; and having the flexibility to respond to any given situation is vital for leadership success.
Rachael presents inspiring stories, tools and insights on:
- How to effectively lead people through change, understand resistance, and celebrate and embed short-term wins
- Democratic, autocratic or laissez faire - why making the decision the right way is just as important as the actual decision
- 'Adaptive leadership' - the different tools to use for adapting your style during a crisis and through business-as-usual
- 'Inspirational leader' - techniques to keep staff engaged, enthusiastic and valued
365 shades of white
'Life, love and leadership in Antarctica' - If you're looking for an opening/closing keynote; a lively and unique session within a conference program; or an after-dinner speaker that will inspire, challenge and entertain your audience - this is it. This presentation has been specifically designed to give an insight into the highs and lows of 18 strangers living in complete isolation in the most remote place on the planet, for an entire year. With awe-inspiring images of Antarctica, plenty of humour and using real-life stories, Rachael takes the audience on an emotional journey revealing the truth behind life in this most fascinating and isolated environment. "Would you go again?", "what did you miss the most?", "was there any romance?" - learn more about the incredible reality of 'life in the freezer'.
Rachael is a passionate and enthusiastic speaker. She has that magic mix of tangible down-to-earth stories that give way to strong and inspiring messages on leadership, relationships and life. She fully engages with the participants and the audience from the moment she arrives right through to the moment she leaves the event. She is a fool-proof option as a speaker; we can relax when she is on board, confident in the knowledge that the audience will be entertained and inspired by her presentation
- Senior Communications Manager Alstom Group
Excellent Rachael's presentation is inspiring and for me personally as a female leader, Rachael made me feel like it's possible to do amazing things! Her style is very genuine and real and her leadership story is nothing short of remarkable.
- City of Melbourne
I have never received so much positive feedback from a guest speaker as I have this time. People continue to tell me how impressed they were with Rachael's story. She provided a fantastic insight into difficulties around management in a remote site. Her messages and insights can be applied within our business. She shared a range of unusual and interesting stories which made her message even stronger.
- Crown Ltd
Rachael was engaging and responded well to the group. Her experiences are extraordinary and she did a great job of relating what she learnt. She was also able to illustrate the similarities between her roles and those of my team. In one word, "Terrific!"
Excellent. Rachael was the highlight of conference! She was everything she promised to be - inspiring, entertaining, moving, insightful and she closed our conference with references to our overall theme - just perfect! Many staff have mentioned that this was the icing on the cake to a great 2 days.
- The Body Shop
Extraordinary! In one word, Terrific!
Excellent! Rachael was truly inspiring and the absolute highlight of our five events around Australia.
I have never received so much positive feedback from a guest speaker as I have this time. Brilliant!
- Crown Ltd
Amazing! Rachael inspires us all to work with all the tools available to us... to make our own opportunities and not just wait for them to come to us! She was fantastic
- Choice Hotels Australasia
Inspirational leadership...real and fascinating stories.. great insights...simply excellent.
- Exxon Mobil
Rachael was excellent - she was both inspiring and informative and the audience loved her
Fantastic message without the 'hype' was a refreshing change to some over excited speakers
- Queensland Health
Great storyteller who gets her themes across by telling stories around it. True, honest stories with visuals that make point more compelling.
It was such a joy listen to Rachael's story about her life in the antartic. Our customers loved her and she was such a positive person as she brought a great atmosphere at our annual dinner. We are planning on having her at our next annual Sydney customer dinner.
- Events Manager, Alstom Grid
Astounding! The interactions in our senior management team have been transformed in the last few months by simply applying a few of the many ideas from Rachael's session. This is an excellent program for a technical team!
- CIO, Federal Government Department