It would seem that there is a shortage of Chief Stewardesses in the industry at present. It is extremely hard to find a good one, who has the necessary experience to be able to manage all the ins and outs of running the interior of a vessel, regardless of its size. By nature the females in the industry leave much sooner than males do, owing to the age group and nature taking its course as the girls couple up and then start to have children.
It is a brief career for most which means they do not gain years of experience before being pushed up the ranks. It is also a difficult industry in which to combine work and family. Although not impossible it is the rare boat that encourages a Chief Stew to bring the baby to work, by which I mean allows the female to stay working and living onboard once the baby is born.
How do stewardesses face the challenges and deal with the stress that the extra responsibilities places on them? And how can they reach the level needed to maintain the standards on a yacht and still be friends with their crew?
In an effort to help those stewardesses who are rapidly climbing the career ladder I started to think about what it is that makes a great Chief Stew? Someone who can control all aspects of the interior with ease, communicate well with crew and guests at all levels, delegate tasks, plan and predict what is required as well as work long days and nights without becoming exhausted or over stressed. Looking back on my career I considered all the elements that I believe are important in making a success of the position.
Be Committed to making your best effort and take ownership of your performance. It starts with the correct mindset and setting your goals along with having a very strong belief in professionalism. This also means holding yourself accountable when things don’t work out and standing by your decisions. Focus on what is important and make it your personal goal to do the best in everything you do and by doing so you will gain job satisfaction, personal satisfaction and a calmness that comes from knowing you have given it your best.
Be Proactive, stand up and make things happen. Proactive people are constantly moving forward and they make things happen by not sitting around waiting for answers but by being resourceful. Proactive people control situations rather than simply reacting to them. Being proactive is a way of thinking and acting which requires foresight and thinking ahead. This means learning to anticipate problems and coming up with different scenarios for how to deal with situations in order to be prepared. Deal with your challenges and issues immediately and confront them head on so they do not overwhelm you and the little problems do not grow into large ones. Every decision is a link in a chain of events so plan ahead and anticipate long term consequences in order to make the best decisions.
Certainly, there are times when it’s appropriate to be reactive. In yachting we have plenty of decisions to make in-the-moment and times when we need to be flexible and adapt to the rapidly changing environment. Long-term plans must sometimes be abandoned in order to meet immediate needs and there will always be those unavoidable roadblocks that you were unable to foresee or avoid.
Be Organised and have a structure to your day. Being organised means you can achieve more in your day so start with a plan and have the day divided into time slots. Choose how you record your plan, your ideas and your to-do lists but do not make it too complicated. Everything needs to be in one place so you can see your goals and focus on what is important. Clarify tasks and use categories to differentiate them such as “End of Season Work” or “Refit Period” being separate from “Prepare for Season”. Learn to prioritise tasks and focus on the things that are important rather than the things that make you feel good. Create routines and then look back to look forward; this allows you to anticipate problems and understand the way in which you work.
Be Positive at all times. What you give out is usually what you get back from others so always think about how your actions will affect them. No one wants to spend time with someone who is difficult, angry or stressed out so learn to keep those feelings hidden. Someone with a positive, can do attitude creates an environment which is easy to work in. As humans, we take our cues from others, often mimicking their emotions and attitudes. If you have ever worked around someone who is enthusiastic about their job you know that their passion is infectious. No job is too small or too difficult, and time spent working with those who are genuinely enthusiastic seems to fly by at amazing speeds so develop passion for your work and others will follow.
Become an Expert. Expert status comes from confidence and confidence comes from doing. Being an expert requires you to start somewhere so do your research, study and learn new skills. Talk to others who know how things are done and listen to them. Believe in yourself that you can and will be able to do the job well. You will start, you will fail and you will keep at it and then suddenly you know more than everyone else around you and you are an expert. There are so many things that you can learn about that will help you be a good Chief Stew but it starts with you – you have to do the work.
Be an Inspiration for others so leave your ego on the dock and let your actions speak for themselves. Show up and work hard with enthusiasm, determination and be prepared. If this means you have to spend time working behind the scenes to be ready to lead your team, do so but don’t expect any pats on the back. You must however, recognise when your team works hard, acknowledging it and show that you care about them. Set an example with your standards and challenge others to raise theirs so that they are encouraged to perform well. Have integrity and stand up for what you believe in but do so in a non-aggressive manner. Quiet confidence speaks louder than being argumentative.
Participate and be fun to work with. Get involved with others and develop good relationships with all your crew. Recognise that you are only one part of the whole team and that you influence, and are influenced by the actions of others. Engaging with them is a way to influence them and make a contribution to the team. Cultivate a good work/life balance and set boundaries for yourself for both work and play so that you participate but always maintain professional behaviour. Develop a happy and upbeat demeanour and remember your manners – please and thank you go a long way to keeping others happy.
Never make things personal. When you are dealing with conflict or difficulties between crew members, do not take it to the playground with name calling. Behave in an emotionally mature way and remember that it is work and not everything runs smoothly all the time.
Above all be authentic, be loyal and be humble. There is a great deal of satisfaction to be had from performing well and some great jobs out there crying out for a good Chief Stew.