Is it all Plain Sailing with your Crew?
Navigate yourself to dry land with Martin on: ‘Plain sailing with your crew’, part three of the Optamor Sporting Series
This month Portsmouth is home to the first races of the America’s Cup World Series, as teams strive to qualify for the 35th America’s Cup which takes place in Bermuda in 2017. From 23rd through to the of 26th July, all eyes will be on Sir Ben Ainslie and his Land Rover BAR team, which is also based in the City, as they begin their quest to be the first British team to win the Cup since its origin in 1851.
With the Optamor office close to the shores of the Solent, at this time of year I often look at the boats out on the water with a touch of envy, as I undertake my commute. Many of the yachts I see have been chartered by businesses and have crews consisting of lucky employees on teambuilding days. Whilst these crews may not be ready to take on the demands of the America’s Cup just yet, they will all be learning important skills on deck which will hopefully make them better prepared when they are back at their desks.
Now while I may love the idea of feeling the air flow through my hair, ok hairs, I know full well the meticulous planning of strategy and tactics required whether it is an around the world adventure, or a jaunt around the Isle of Wight. Additionally, the crew need to be trained and everyone needs to recognise their role (and everyone else’s) and what is expected of them. It is vital that each member of the team make the necessary contribution, there is no room for passengers. This is a very familiar challenge to the many organisations that we support through the delivery of niche training and coaching interventions.
Alongside training to realise the full potential of the crew, a yacht needs a strong and inspirational leader at the helm. The crew can have all the talent and training in the world, but it needs someone with the ability to direct and experience to know when to correct course. During the last America’s Cup in 2013, Oracle Team USA was being comprehensively beaten 8-1 in the series by Emirates New Zealand, however, the Oracle team took the bold move to bring in Sir Ben Ainslie as its ‘master’ tactician and they came from behind to win every remaining race and take the series. The same crew, the same yacht, but a very different performance.
A winning crew has trust in one another's capabilities, communicates well and has a skipper that pulls all of its talent together in unison. In doing so it becomes fast, agile and able to adapt to whatever the weather, sea state or competition throws at it.
Getting out on the water is a great way to put your team to the test (and have some fun along the way). The confines of a small deck will shine a light on how your team pulls together when under pressure and out of their comfort zone. However, an annual day away from the workplace is no substitute for ongoing talent management, training, coaching and teambuilding.
Whether it is yacht racing, selling, engineering, programming etc everyone wants to be the best they can be at what they do. So, when I join the tens of thousands of spectators in Portsmouth to watch the catamarans racing at speeds of up to 47 knots (a staggering 55 miles per hour!), it will be a powerful reminder of what outstanding feats can be achieved when we create a working environment that empowers people to work as a team and develop their talents to their fullest potential.
And, of course I will be hoping that our local team crosses the finishing line first.
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