N2 People Skills

Thursday, June 16, 2016

WARNING: Using this knowledge on crew will create serious change!

Why is CREW engagement important?

John was 22 years old and a new deckhand aboard a 60m yacht. He had been onboard for three weeks now. 

He was beginning to wonder if he had made the right choice of joining this crew as he was with the bosun in a tender now doing 30+ knots, with no kill cord or lifejacket worn by either!

John was thinking he would feel o lot safer if he could only wear a life jacket at appropriate times and wondered what happened to the standing orders he had listened to when he first joined the yacht.

John had taken his RYA power boat 2 not

that long ago where he had to wear a lifejacket and kill cord (as did the instructor), yet here he was in a much faster boat, not wearing either and he was beginning to feel this yacht was not as safe as he had hoped it would be.

Just yesterday he had to wash the transom on the yacht without a lifejacket or harness (or anyone watching), and had to hang off railings and balance on a small ledge.

The crew he worked with never seemed to wear lifejacket's in tenders, or remember to put a kill cord on. He was a bit unsure of his role on the deck team, and while he put this down to being the new kid on the block, he did not feel energised or empowered. 

In fact the thought of offering his wisdom or insight, or expressing his views so they might be taken into account as decisions were made, seemed like a wish and dream!

John wanted to say something at this moment, he wanted to put a lifejacket on, wanted to shout to the bosun "can we stop so you can put the kill cord on and we can both put lifejackets on!"
But he had the feeling he would be scorned at if he did.

John was not engaged, was having a hard time putting his best foot forward as he was not feeling supported. Some crew had also started to feel that John was not putting his best in, and the chief mate was thinking that perhaps he had made a mistake in hiring John. 

When crew are not engaged they may foot drag, procrastinate, make poor decisions, skip or ignore safety procedures, and likely not put their all into what they are doing.

This was a fictitious story, BUT the points mentioned have all come from real interviews with real yacht crew and first hand observations. While this may not happen on all yachts, it does happen and outlines what can happen when a whole crew or even one are not engaged. 

In fact a report in the UK was commissioned to take an in-depth look at employee engagement and report on its potential benefits for companies, organisations and individual employees. What it found set out evidence that underpins what we all know intuitively, which is that only organisations (or yachts in our case), that truly engage and inspire their employees (CREW), produce world class levels of innovation, productivity and performance.

The report revealed (amongst other things), that only one in three employees were found to be engaged. 

Given yacht crew are employed to offer a safe, ‘out of this world experience', this is perhaps something everyone in the yachting industry should pay close attention to.

What is engagement and why does it matter?

Lets call engagement something that is based on trust, integrity, two way commitment and communication. Something that should happen between yacht/captain and yacht crew, and between managers aboard and team members. 

It's an approach that increases the chances of work success, it contributes to team and individual performance, productivity and well-being, and: 

  • It can be measured
  • It varies from poor to great
  • It can be nurtured and dramatically increased
  • It can be lost and thrown away

Engagement is not something extra, its what people do, and how they do it. It’s how we survive and grow. How we give our best, how we align with a vision and how we champion that vision to get the best results.
yacht crew engagement

When crew are engaged they pay attention, feel proud of the yacht they work for, are inspired to do their best and motivated to deliver team and yacht objectives. Engaged crew understand their role aboard, they are aware, energised and know where they fit into the team’s purpose and objectives.

When you have an Engaged crew they will:

  • Have a clear understanding of how they and their team are to fulfill its purpose, objectives and goals
  • Know how they might change to fulfill these better 
  • Know they have a voice in this journey to offer ideas, express views 
  • Know these will be taken into account as decisions are made

Why does it matter?

 The report showed that 64% of the people surveyed said they had more ability and skills to offer than they were currently being asked to demonstrate at work. They were not engaged.

It also showed that organisations with high levels of employee engagement were more efficient and effective, and that highly engaged employees were more customer focused (great for the large yacht industry).

Engaged crew care about the future of their organisation (yacht), and put in greater effort to help it meet its objectives.

They feel proud of the yacht they work on, are inspired to do their best, and motivated to deliver the yacht objectives.


Organizations that have succeeded in the engagement of employees (in the UK study) had five common enablers in place. These were noted as:

  • Strategic narrative
  • Engaging managers
  • Coaching employees
  • Real listening
  • Sense of integrity

Of course, you will have noted the lack of some of these in our fictitious story of John where this obviously boiled down to leadership and management issues.

Crew engagement hits at the core of professional (hospitality) yachting. 

Considering it's the owners that ultimately foot any extra cost of high turnover. The owners that will have to face any resulting problems and costs of accidents and/or crew issues, and the owners and guests that ultimately get the short stick if crew are not engaged. We feel crew engagement is something that every owner, captain and management company might want to investigate.

Of course the dark horse is that time is always an issue in yachting. There never seems to be enough of it, and there are plenty of crew looking to fill any vacant positions. So while looking into whether your crew are engaged, and what level they are, time can be the enemy.

Stay Ahead of the competition

If as a management company you want to produce world class levels of innovation, productivity and performance to set themselves above the rest and gain new clients, or a captain that wants to insure his/her place as captain aboard. Creating crew engagement makes for an interesting and affordable case to get ahead and stay ahead of the competition. Yes time will always be an issue but if you want to give the best then there is always a price. Perhaps the questions should be. How much are crew that are not engaged costing?

We would love to hear how you engage your crew? Where your level of crew engagement is, and how do you review and keep...

N2 People Skills works with clients on crew issues, performance and crew harmony, charter excellence, operations tune ups, onboard trouble shooting and our safety special. We work on crew engagement, leadership, management vision, and alignment of values and other areas where a small about of coaching/training offer significant long term results.  To find out more about our work, or to discuss your particular challenges, please get in touch today. +44 208 1330 855
This post was also posted on LinkedIN

Monday, April 18, 2016

Managing People, Manageing your CREW

Head Stewardess, Purser, Officer, Bosun, Chief Mate, Chief Engineer, Captain, leaders and managers!

All the positions mentioned require you to manage and lead other people, and while time can be a factor it can become the cause of doing the wrong thing right.

What makes a great manager stand out from an average one, how different are the two, and what difference does it make in the long run on a yacht?

From a standpoint of the person being managed or led poorly, it's stressful and generally ends in one of several ways (none of which are great), and many times it's caused by doing the wrong thing right.

The results can be a yacht owner and crew dealing with sub-par performance until the inevitable happens (crew leave or get let go), and then a replacement is found, and sometimes the whole thing starts again. 

Doing the wrong thing right.  

Russ Ackoff, the American management guru, describes this perfectly:

“The righter we do the wrong thing”, he explains, “the wronger we become. When we make a mistake doing the wrong thing and correct it, we become wronger. When we make a mistake doing the right thing and correct it, we become righter. Therefore, it is better to do the right thing wrong than the wrong thing right. Most of our current problems are the result of policy makers and managers busting a gut to do the wrong thing right.

Getting the right thing wrong is better than putting the wrong thing right.”

From an estimate gained from a large yachting company that not only manages yachts but also places crew, their average crew longevity was just about a year. NOT GREAT BY ANY STANDARDS. 

Are managers doing the wrong thing right, and how do you get that shift to the right?

When new crew arrive aboard and managers set about getting them settled in, crew can be given paper work, get uniform, start getting familiar with yacht rules and structure, safety information and so on. But is this the wrong thing right!

  • Do you know how to actually work effectively with this person? 
  • Do you know the best way to communicate with them when trying to connect?
  • Do you know how to approach them when problems need to be solved?
  • Do you know how to deal with them when things get tense?
  • And will they be at ease enough to bring you important information when you need it?

The list goes on, decision making, delegating, problem solving, complimenting, and simple communication and feedback, all vital to information transfer. 

By dealing with the facts and basics of safety, protocol and procedures first, are we in fact, doing the wrong thing right.

No better place is this seem than flying on commercial planes. Take a look around when you next fly and see how many people are actually paying attention to the safety messages. Because of time restraints its too difficult to deal with all different styles of people, or for that fact all the languages of the world. 

They just pick the most likely style and most likely languages and leave it at that, and we all hope or pray that we don't have to remember where that exit was, or how to operated it.

But on a yacht you do have the time, and today the resources available to quickly find out the style of the new crew arriving onboard and be able to see how they fit into the team and how they fit with your own preferred style.

Success at any level on a yacht requires that you must rely heavily on others and be tuned in to each crew's needs, preferences, and styles. Each member of the crew is as important as another for the whole yacht to run smoothly and safely.

Simply put you must become a people expert.

So what makes a great manager other than being a people expert? The Harvard Business Review say this:

There are as many styles of management as there are managers, there is one quality that sets truly great managers apart from the rest: They discover what is unique about each person and then capitalize on it. Average managers play checkers, while great managers play chess. The difference? In checkers, all the pieces are uniform and move in the same way; they are interchangeable. You need to plan and coordinate their movements, certainly, but they all move at the same pace, on parallel paths. In chess, each type of piece moves in a different way, and you can’t play if you don’t know how each piece moves. More important, you won’t win if you don’t think carefully about how you move the pieces. Great managers know and value the unique abilities and even the eccentricities of their employees, and they learn how best to integrate them into a coordinated plan of attack.
So the job of Head Stew, Pursor, Officer, Bosun, Mate, Engineer, and Captain is to turn one crew’s particular talent into performance.  You need a way to get that knowledge quickly, and be able to communicate it objectively in a way that the new crew is open and alert to.
The above comes from a real managers report on a large yacht. This is  Everything DiSC® and used for team building, crew communication, conflict management, motivation, productivity and career development.

Today there is no reason to do the 'wrong thing right' and every reason to 'do the right thing right'.

If you want to be a great manager you need to have a good understanding of your own behavior and that of the crew you manage. You should be able to understand and appreciate the styles of the crew you work with, and have knowledge and insight into how to make communication more effective. 

Great managers and leaders create strategies to overcome challenges and know how to best use the strengths of the people they work with. 

Start today by getting your profile.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Hiring new crew - Firing new hires. How to get it right.

yOU hired the right person for the job….. Right?

 yoU checked their references and they wereall great…. Right?

YoU even made sure the new crew’s direct supervisor interviewed him/ her to make sure you were all on the same page…Right?

YOU went through their CV with a fine comb and were quite impressed by the longevity and their verbal references also.

But now for some reason this seemingly great prospect is now just not performing how you had thought they would, and the mate is asking whether you are going to keep them for the rest of the season, or bite the bullet (even though it’s so close to the boss arriving again), and make another change!

It happens all the time. Crew are hired with high hopes and then disappointment, as they don’t perform as we thought they should.

In some cases you see the first signs of trouble as:

  • Stalling
  • Resentment
  • Stale thinking
  • Poor work
  • Absenteeism/late
  • Withdrawal

So what is going on?

You know what is required of the position and you are pretty sure your new crew had the skill to complete the jobs. 

Well before you roll out the plank and the boss’s cheque book to pay for another set of uniforms, flights, training and all the extra time it takes to get any new crew up to speed, and add the stress to your other crew. Let’s stop and take a closer looK.

 We all have skills and a will. When you hired said crew you researched and made sure they had the skills required to at least make a start of the job. 
And at interview it’s more than likely that you saw the will was there to get the job, otherwise you wouldn’t have hired them. So perhaps a look at how they are being manage,  or better coached?

 Let’s look at Skills and Will matrix  and see if there is something you can do to make that hire the right hire.

Aim of coaching to get to the delegate quadrant.

In the diagam you see ‘WILL’ and ‘SKILL’ are on adjacent sides.

SKILL depends on experience, training, understanding and role perception.

WILL depends on a desire to achieve, motivators, and confidence.

What you need to do is diagnose whether your new crew’s skill and will are high or low for the jobs required, and then identify the appropriate coaching/management style*. 

For example let’s say the new crew is a deckhand that has high will but low skill to drive the main tender.  
In this case the manager (mate or bosun) will need to Guide* the crew.

Guide* - The supervisory role (boson or mate) being to invest time early on to coach and train, answer questions and explain and create a risk free environment to allow early mistakes and learning. As skills build they can relax control as progress results.

If however the new crew seems to have high skill, but low will, the correct style would be Excite*.

Excite* - Identify the reason for low will. Is it task, management style, or personality? Then motivate (you need to know what motivates your crew at this point), monitor and give feed back.

In both examples the idea is to get to the crew to square ‘Delegate*’

Delegate* - Bosun or mate now provides the crew freedom to do the job and sets objectives, not method and praise while making sure they don’t ignore them.

 The coach/supervisor/manager should as the crew’s skills and will improve, encourage the crew to take responsibility and involve them in decision making, using a “tell me what you think” in changes made along the way.

As crew continue to grow give them more stretching tasks, and depending on their preferred style, make sure do not over or under manage.

Simple right. And no plank required, and your hiring decision is now not looking so bad.

This matrix has been around in coaching and management circles for a while and it works to a point. The important point (more so as your crew live and work in the same place), is to know how each crew is best motivated and how each crew is best directed.  For without this you are back to trouble.

Henry Ford once said:

“How come whenever I ask for a pair of hands I get the whole person instead?”

If you want continued and lasting results from crew you have to look at the whole person.

One quick look at the UK Premier League will show you what happens when a manager forgets he has a whole person, not just a football player.  They forget about motivations and stressors and with just one misstep of behaviour a very expensive player can become a very expensive problem. 
Was it a bad hiring decision, poor management / coaching or a lack of knowledge about the individual. 
In most cases all of the above.

It easy to point a finger at the player, just as it’s easy to say the crew are lazy, has a big ego, or needs a good kick up the a……..  

But you hired them and you had the chance to assess this in  the first place. The question you may want to ask is do you have all the information you need?

How to get it right.

The skills and will matrix will help you make the right decisions to get you knowledge of the next step, but you still need a lot more information about your new hire to know how to increase motivation. 

Should you:

Provide opportunities for independent work?
Structure assignments so they can work with a group?
Provide opportunities to work cooperatively with others?
Create opportunities for demonstrating expertise?

If you are unsure which of the above will increase motivation for a particular crew, then you need to understand the person better.

You do not need a degree in psychology to figure this out, but you do need a way to help you understand all this in a short time, because we are complex beings, and what works for one generally does not work for all.

For us we use something called Everything DiSC. It’s well researched set of tools and used by over a million people a year. What love about DiSC is it can be used by all crew from captain to deckhand, it's quick, affordable and compared to what turnover costs it's a no brainer.

Try the Skill/Will matrix on any crew you are having problems with and see if you can adapt your style to help them. But remember you have the whole person aboard and they are not just working aboard, but living with you as well.

Want to know more about Everything DiSC and what is can do for you on your yacht?