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Sir Ranulph Fiennes OBE

Mary Donovan, SI East London

“What does Sir Ranulph Fiennes OBE have to do with the Soroptimist movement?” was my reaction when asked to blog about him at our 2018 Liverpool conference.

I knew there must be parallels between his unprecedented achievements and our mission to enable and empower women and girls. As I listened to his no-nonsense account of him and his teams making history, it struck me that we can draw on his experiences for inspiration, and that he and the Soroptimists do have some things in common:

1. We relish travelling to far-flung places to tackle difficult problems. We use our reserves of ingenuity and creativity to adapt and overcome obstacles. We don’t take no for an answer, persevering through seemingly impenetrable blizzards, until our goals are reached.

2. Sponsors and supporters love publicity. So when you reach your goals, tell the world!

3. Skillful colleagues become lifelong friends thanks to the bonds formed in adversity. Don’t pull the ladder up after yourself. Inspire others to follow in your footsteps.

4. With or without academic qualifications, if your work and your passion coincide, you will achieve amazing results.

5. Sir Ranulph’s late wife Ginny was his expedition planner; radio operator; map reader; and emergency coordinator. She planned their early adventures on a six-inch children’s globe, and communicated with the team in the field by Morse Code. Sometimes the simplest, low-tech solution is best. Equally, collaborating with cutting-edge innovators at the right time can provide the marginal gain you need to become world-beating.

6. The timetable of a Polar expedition is dictated by unpredictable weather and participants’ variable physical condition. Ice floes constantly shift underfoot. You must have a clear plan, but adapt to changing circumstances. Keep reminding yourself of your goal. With each step, are you moving closer to it, or further away?

7. Building a high-performing team means understanding the motivations of each team member. Skills can be taught, but personalities don’t change. Build a team by picking the characters who complement each other: we can all learn the practical side.

Read more on Sir Ranulph here.

In January 2018 a team of six British women – all polar novices – became the first female team ever to cross Antarctica via the South Pole, covering over 1700km in 62 days. They are the Ice Maidens. You can read more about them here.