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How Winning The Amazing Race Helped Me Grow Professionally

Whether you're collaborating on a new project at work or endeavoring on a 50,000 kilometre race across Canada, here are my top tips for finding success

01/19/2018 13:19 EST | Updated 01/19/2018 13:24 EST
Paul Mitskopoulos

I've always considered myself a team player, but teamwork takes on an entirely new meaning when you're sitting in a box full of cockroaches as your partner counts the correct number of species to free you.

This was just one of many challenges that pushed me and my partner, Sam Lambert, to our limits while on The Amazing Race Canada. Embarking on, and winning, this competition was one of the most trying, terrifying and rewarding experiences of my life, and helped me to grow not only personally, but professionally as well.

Ongoing feedback brings you closer as a team and pushes everyone to improve.

Transformation is one of our main cultural tenets at LinkedIn, and I'm lucky to work with a team that celebrates development, whether it takes place inside or outside of the workplace. The Amazing Race Canada transformed me as a professional, and helped me to become a more empathetic, cooperative colleague.

Whether you're collaborating on a new project at work or endeavoring on a 50,000 kilometre race across Canada, here are my top tips for finding success as a team.

Face issues head on

Establishing open lines of communication is vital for any successful team. It may feel uncomfortable to raise conflicting ideas, or to debrief after a project didn't go as planned, but these tough conversations are so important. Diversity of thought drives more interesting and creative ideas when approached constructively. Ongoing feedback brings you closer as a team and pushes everyone to improve.

Sam and I made sure to set aside time after each challenge to go over what went well and discuss what we needed to work on. This strategy played a huge role in our ultimate success; our Amazing Race Canada journey got off to a rocky start, but with each challenge, and subsequent debrief, we became stronger, smarter and more driven as a team.

For a team to succeed, all members need to reach a point of alignment.

As with anything worth pursuing, our success did not come without setbacks. Upon arriving at the first challenge in St. John's, Newfoundland, Sam and I were tasked with the hardest trial for us of the entire competition: deciphering Morse code.

After numerous failed attempts, we accepted that we wouldn't be able to complete the task on our own, and so we relied on our relationship-building skills instead to get us through. Understanding and accepting our limitations led us to join forces with other teams, proving that sometimes asking for help is the right strategy, and failure is an inevitable part of the journey to success.

Goal-setting should always be a team effort

I've learned to place a premium on close collaboration, a skill set that proved invaluable on The Amazing Race Canada, particularly my capacity for collaborative goal-setting. Sam and my commitment to setting clear objectives together in the pursuit of our shared end goal — to win the entire competition — helped us to stay motivated when we felt especially exhausted or out of our depth.

For a team to succeed, all members need to reach a point of alignment. It's difficult to fully invest yourself in a project without a unified vision of what success looks like. Even though you may disagree on some of the details, if everyone buys into the ultimate vision you're much more likely to succeed.

scyther5 via Getty Images

Bring your full self to every challenge

My experience on the show gave me the confidence to finally bring my full self to work each day. Prior to The Amazing Race, my friends and family knew of my relationship with Sam, but I had yet to "come out" to my colleagues. Going on-air in front of millions of viewers forced me out of my comfort zone and empowered me to be my true, authentic self, which has paid dividends for me as a professional.

I realized that incorporating your passions and interests as part of your professional identity makes you a more accessible leader and can foster a more tight-knit team. My confidence has increased dramatically, and sharing this side of myself has deepened my relationships with my colleagues.

So, what did winning the Amazing Race teach me about working as a team? It's okay to lean on others for support when you need it; sometimes to succeed you need to be disagreeable; and let others in. Despite what fears may shake your confidence, you never know what you can achieve until you try so don't let your fears hold you back. I know I'm glad I didn't.

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