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Home > Crew Matters > Who needs team building, and why?

Who needs team building, and why?

Why is team building and team bonding so important? Surely when you are about to launch your shiny new boat for the first time, everyone involved is happy, engaged and excited! So, if it isn’t broken – why would you need to fix it?

Let’s look at this from a different perspective. You wouldn’t leave treating your garden fence until after it had started rotting, would you? Maybe you would and it would take you longer to resolve the issues and you may lose some fence panels along the way.

It has long been established that teams go through stages of development in the same way that individuals do.

At the start we are still learning the ropes and establishing the rules and expectations, our levels of morale are generally high. We feel enthusiastic and optimistic, we don’t know what we don’t know.

At this stage the job of those in senior roles on-board is incredibly important. Setting expectations and ensuring the on-boarding processes are effectively facilitated. An opportunity for people to get to know each other better and agree how they like to be communicated with, how they like to spend their free time and what is important to them as individuals is as important as understanding what the job is, what the rules are and what the expectations of behaviour are. Think of it as the WHAT and the HOW of living and working together.

This is the foundation stone of a successful and harmonious crew.

So, what about when you have all been on-board for some time?

Inevitably, as the team starts to settle into the rhythms of work and learning to live with each other they will become more adept and productive in their individual roles and yet we often see a drop in morale at this stage as crew become aware of the realities of the job.  As individuals there will be jostling for position, establishing hierarchies and cliques, vying for ‘their place’ in the team.

If this stage is ignored and crew don’t have the coping strategies of the earlier stage of their formation, you may lose people who make the decision that it’s never going to get any better. That holds the whole crew back from moving forward as you look to replace those who have left. It is a costly and time-consuming problem and hugely inconvenient when it happens mid-season.

It’s still not too late to manage it at this point but may take more time as you will have to deal with the emotional obstacles before tackling the core issues.

Some of those issues may form around the subject of perceived favouritism. Anyone in a position of responsibility knows that you can’t have obvious favourites and this is even more relevant when you are living and working together in such close proximity. If there are unfounded jealousies and territorialism, then it has to be nipped in the bud quickly. There are effective techniques available to help you to have these conversations without it resulting in any further deterioration in the relationships.

Another common issue is ‘s/he doesn’t understand how hard my job is’. As part of the process of building and bonding your team, how can you encourage your crew to share what their job looks like, how it feels to do it? Perhaps try a job swap or some kind of (safe) on-board competition (when the boss isn’t on!) to develop some understanding what each other’s roles entail.

And then of course there is the ‘outsider’. Sometimes there is a member of crew who doesn’t fit the norm. That shouldn’t be a bad thing, it should be a very good thing. For a balanced team you need a mix of skills and personalities. As a captain or a head of department, facilitating an opportunity for others to see the admirable qualities and value adding aspects of that person as part of the crew will not only give that individual the most incredible confidence boost, but will make it acceptable for everyone to like him or her!

In time you will find yourselves at the ‘High-Performing’ stage and anyone who is or has been there will know how glorious it is. You operate as one well-oiled machine. You don’t have to explain everything, you can communicate without words. You are like a family, you can argue and disagree over breakfast and be besties again by lunchtime. You will speak up if you feel something needs to be addressed and you support each other through tough times and celebrate together through the good times.

This does not happen by accident. Great leadership and a well facilitated on-boarding process are pre-requisites. You can manage this process yourself or you can spend a little money and get someone in to work with you and take the strain. You’ll spend a great deal less than it will cost to lose and replace even one crew member and it will set you up for a fantastic season delivering exceptional levels of safety and service and having a great time in the process!

Sara Ballinger

Managing Partner