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Rebecca Stephens MBE - Motivational Speaker
Motivational Hosts and Presenters, Inspirational Speakers, Motivational Women Speakers, Adventurers and Explorers, After Dinner Speakers, Motivational Speakers
In May 1993, Rebecca Stephens became the first British woman to climb Everest and was awarded an MBE for her achievement.
Rebecca tells the story of that historic climb, the courage and determination it took to scale the world's highest mountain. Her interest in climbing came surprisingly late, considering her unprecedented Himalayan triumph, when, as a journalist, she accompanied an Anglo-American expedition on Everest's North East Ridge in 1989.
Her passion for the mountains grew at an astounding rate - in only four years of climbing she climbed some of the world's major peaks: Mont Blanc, Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya and Mount McKinley. But Rebecca’s presentation is much more than a straight mountaineering story: it is an inspirational account of how a woman - and an amateur - faced an extraordinary challenge that changed her life and how such challenges have important messages for business.
She is an outstanding speaker on leadership, translating ideas into action, planning and preparation, coping with people with different temperaments and personalities, and the importance of teamwork and communication. She captivates her audiences and encourages individuals to believe in their own capabilities. On every climbing expedition Rebecca has shown great endurance, courage and determination to succeed. Time and time again she has had to drive herself to new limits and motivate herself to achieve goals.
She is the author of Buying a Home Abroad and On Top of the World, her compelling account of climbing Mount Everest. She has held various positions as a journalist and a writer and has worked as a reporter on Enterprise South for TVS. She is an occasional presenter for Tomorrow's World, the BBC's long-running science programme and on The World, a Discovery production and has made guest appearances on Call My Bluff and Science Zone too.
Rebecca has many interests in addition to her passion for mountaineering, which include trekking, exploration, flying and skiing. She is also a trustee for the Foundation of Sport and the Arts and Sir Edmund Hilary's Himalayan Trust. In 1997 Rebecca joined forces with polar expedition experts Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Dr Mike Stroud on the Eco Challenge race across Canada.
"You received the highest marks ever - 8 x 10 and 2 x 9 (and one delegate never gives 10 on priinciple!) Congratulations, this is a brilliant and true reflection of your ability to share your extraordinary story in such a business-focused way." The Academy of Chief Executives
"Really inspirational...you are the 'talk of Coutts', from the Chairman down, and you ensured that our corporate messages came alive on a personal level." C outts
"Rebecca made us feel that you can achieve anything that you put your mind to..." Automobile Association
"I must totally revaluate my life..." BP Amoco
"The feedback on your presentation has been overwhelming! Delegates responded well to the key messages and have made a clear link to improving their own performance" BP Amoco
Who or what was your motivation to achieve?
If I were to talk about Everest, the motivation to climb it came from within. I went to Everest as a journalist to write about other people climbing Everest. I climbed to the first camp myself (to see what it was all about), and got hooked. Aged 27, I found what was right for me, my chosen path. Of course there were obstacles along the way - I had to give up the security of a job, for a start – but it’s a wonderful feeling when your actions are aligned with what you truly want to do, and there was very little that could deflect me from my path. The conviction I felt – and the importance of being true to your self – was really the most vital lesson I took away from Everest. This, together with the importance of the team; I couldn’t have done it without the Sherpas.
Why is it important for businesses and organisations to motivate staff in recession?
It is always important to motivate staff, but even more so in a recession. The fact is we have very little control over the economic environment in which we work, but we have considerable control over our own actions and the support, commitment and opportunities for training and development we offer our staff. A sense of purpose is important, more so than any bonus. It’s the responsibility of leaders to communicate a clear vision to their staff, to remind them of their value and importance. And of course the atmosphere at work is important, again a job for leaders, to always adhere to the three graces of teamwork: respect, trust and honesty. Good old-fashioned values that work.
What was the turning point of your sporting life?
My first trip to Everest when I discovered for the first time in my life what I truly wanted to do.
What was the turning point of your personal life?
The birth of my first child.
Were there times you thought you would not succeed?
Yes, many times. In the mountains, we have no control over the weather, and on Everest, McKinley and Aconcagua, the weather was diabolical. But we were lucky; in each case the weather cleared just long enough for us to scramble to the top and back down again. Interestingly, I always felt confident that we would succeed if the weather allowed us. I would like to be in a position to say this was true for every undertaking in my life, but sadly this isn’t the case. Sometimes the conviction simply hasn’t been there.
What are you hoping to achieve in the future
This I am very clear about. I want to work as long as my body will allow, sharing lessons learned from the mountains and how they can shape and influence our thinking and behaviour. Expeditions in the mountains are so like businesses, more so today than ever. The environment in the mountains, as in the workplace, is tough, volatile and unforgiving; the challenge is great. We have a clear vision and plan, but must flex in order to deliver. We’re working in teams, often multi-cultural. The parallels with leadership and teamwork in the mountains and in the workplace are all too obvious, but so too planning, execution, communication, risk and decision-making.
The mountains allow us to connect with the earth as well, something that at a personal level I value highly. Once a year I allow myself the luxury of leading a trek, usually in the Himalaya – it keeps me grounded. But it can be transformational as well. There is something about the simplicity of walking 8, 9, 10 hours a day, in a vast and beautiful landscape away from the daily clutter of our lives, that allows the mind to order itself and throw into focus what is important. We leave home for a holiday but in the process come to realise what important steps need to be taken on our return.
There is no question in my mind how transformational these experiences can be in people’s lives, and recently I’ve had opportunity to combine such mountain experiences with the leadership development and coaching work that I have been doing for years. Last September I climbed Kilimanjaro with an international group of MBA students. The leadership learning from the climb was recognised as a formal part of their MBA course, and was unquestionably a life-changing experience for participants. This year we are repeating and further developing the course; and moving forward, I want to share the power of this experiential learning with others, using it as a tool to develop our thinking and behaviour around leadership, and also sustainability and innovation.
And of course I want to be a loving mother of two increasingly independent girls; I have another book to write, and I want to paint.
Can you delegate?
Love to delegate! Everything possible except writing and story telling in the classroom (whether office or mountain tent!), which is essentially what I do.
What makes a good manager or leader
Somebody who is authentic in who they are and what they want to achieve and understands the wonders and complexities of people in order to be able to build and work with an effective and focused team.
Why do you think it is important to book an external speaker
When we stop learning, we stop growing and should hang up our boots and retire. Increasingly we need to be thinking about doing things differently in order to compete, and in some cases survive. This doesn’t happen sitting in the office, doing things the way we have always done them before. Either we go out and explore; or else we invite people in from the outside, to cross-fertilize, innovate and transform.
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