Rachel Petero: "And it goes back to that piece about emotional and cultural intelligence."

December 7th, 2016
“And it goes back to that piece about emotional and cultural intelligence.”
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I’m back in the pavilion, this time with Rachel. I’ve hands down got the biggest girl crush on her, and I’m trying not to show it. But it’s hard. She has such incredible presence and every time she opens her mouth, she says something smart and commands your attention. If I ever need advice on anything, I’m coming straight to Rachel. As the sun sets on the castle, and I’m leaning against a pillar entwined with roses listening to Rachel speak, there’s really nowhere I’d rather be.

How you finding things Rachel?

It’s pretty special isn’t it? Even with all the drama and all the egos, I’m glad I came.

This isn’t your first rodeo is it?

No I was at the one in Miami, and have been involved previously.

What are your views on this one in comparison to the other seasons?

This is the bigger production, and the biggest takeaway for me is that the cultural integration of Europe has completely lifted this series. It was Chris’s intention to raise the standards, and he’s done it in the right way. The dynamics of brining in another culture is interesting, and the diversity of gender, experts in the field, has really shifted the American team specifically.

How do you think the culture clash between the Americans and the Brits has gone?

Well, what I’ve seen in my coaching and leadership is that we’ve evolved from IQ. Once upon a time leaders needed high IQ, and it was all about your education and university. Then we learnt that it had to be more than IQ, and we moved into this phase of being emotionally intelligent. That’s the stuff that people used to call soft skills. However, they’re not soft skills at all. They’re the skills that every leader needs. They need compassion. They need to know how to communicate, how to collaborate, and how to connect.

Now, as a society, we’ve moved into this space of cultural intelligence. Whether you understand or not, you need to respect that culture because that’s what the world looks like today. In your teams, in your communities and in your countries.

So having that cultural awareness and intelligence has helped the North American team here. To see things through a different perspective.

So you think it’s had a positive impact then?

Totally! And I can see it. It’s an honour for me to be able to observe both teams and see how it unfolds. It took the American guys three days before they finally realised they had to listen to Kelly. So she stood there today feeling proud, speaking her own words, not their words, and she delivered. And finally, finally, she won their admiration. It took that long. Whereas Europe were completely different.

How so?

When they chose their candidate, they all got behind her. Regardless if people thought the other candidate should have been chosen. They all got behind her. So her journey was completely different to Kelly’s. It’s all about culture.

It’s funny you should say that because a few people have mentioned that the American side is more aware of the diversity piece.

I always look at the leadership. Jack Felice is an amazing man. But there’s room in the North American team for more women. To bring in a different perspective because they all speak in the same way. It’s homogenous and boring. But I think you still get sexism on both sides, the Americans are just more savvy about when to say it.

Who have you enjoyed getting to know that you didn’t know previously?

I like to meet and engage with people I wouldn’t normally meet, so I’ve spent a lot of time finding out a bit more about people. People like Jerona. She’s my roomie so we’ve gotten to know each other. At a business level I’ve really connected with her as well.

And people like Bert. He fascinates me. He has a great demeanour. Johnny Campbell is great too.

Do you think you’ll stay in touch with people after?

Yeah definitely! As many of them as I can because they’re all amazing in their own right, and they have something unique that I may need to connect into later on.

What do you do when you hear sexist comments?

I make a mental note, and will have a conversation with that person later. I think we have to call them out on it. Whether they accept that advice or not, I think it’s my job to have that conversation. And I’m okay having it.

We need more leaders to call it out.

Absolutely! And it goes back to that piece about emotional and cultural intelligence.

Who do you think has displayed good leadership qualities over the last few days?

I have to say Chris LaVoie. He has taken on so much feedback, stayed in his purpose, and taken it all on board. Also Ann Swain. Her style isn’t everyone’s style, but when it came down to the crunch, she was able to step in and keep us in our integrity.

What do you think you’ll take away from this?

I know it’s elevated me personally and professionally.

What has been your favourite moment so far?

I think last night with all the drama. Honestly! To witness it really elevated my belief that cultural intelligence is so, so important. We were living it and feeling it. It really makes me more determined to inject more of that into the development programmes that I’m doing. Also seeing Kelly and Stephanie really step up and own what they had to deliver.

Who do you think will win?

I think it could be either. They both offer something quite different, and it’s really what the appetite of Karen and James is.

What advice would you give to young women going into business.

Get a coach and a mentor. It was one of the best things I did ten years ago. I had a coach, and got mentors in the areas I knew I wasn’t strong in. It helped me to accelerate my business faster.

Stay in your purpose, of what you’re all about. If you haven’t found it yet, keep working on that. And don’t be scared to trust that intuition that we naturally have. We seem to forget about it. But the more I trust my intuition, the more I learn and the more I grow as a business.

When I’ve finished asking her all my questions, neither of us move. We sit and talk about the struggles of being ethnic women in the business world. We discuss the joys and the triumphs. Our dreams and vision for women. It’s one of the most delicious conversations I’ve had in the longest time. We’re eventually interrupted by Chris LaVoie who comes over to tell us dinner is ready. It’s only the pull of the wonderful food we’ll eat beneath the stars that pulls me away from my conversation with Rachel.