FROM THE BRIDGE: Leadership
Attendees of The Triton’s January Bridge luncheon were, from left, Gui Garcia of M/Y Ocean Paradise, Ken Bracewell of M/Y Rena, Greg Clark of M/Y D’Natalin IV, Jeff Ridgway, Paul Preston, and Glen and Susan Allen of Fleet PHOTO/LUCY REED Miami.
Some skills can’t be taught; come with age, experience BRIDGE from page A16 Unfortunately, one captain said, it doesn’t happen often enough. “The problem I see is captains who don’t teach their life experiences,” this captain said. “We’re not passing that along. I see a lot of young captains with the tickets to run yachts, but one in 10 has the leadership skills ready to do it.” Over the past decade, many younger captains achieved licenses with not as much sea time as some think should be required. That meant less experienced captains took leadership roles on yachts, perhaps before they are ready. And that, these captains say, results in high crew turnover and eventually the owner’s dissatisfaction. “When I hear captains complain about how horrible their crew are, I want to hold up a mirror,” one captain said. “Crew are more our business than the owner is. What are you doing to get better? We have to be good teachers.” “If you have a lot of crew turnover, you have to look at why,” another captain said. “Do you have the tools you need? Are you a good leader? … We have to be good at creating a vision of what we want crew to be.” “You’ve got to get a few knocks on the head to get humble enough to realize it might be you,” said a third. They discussed how they might get more feedback on their abilities. Few get performance reviews, but they can ask crew who leave for an exit survey. “That’s how you get the most honest answers,” one captain said. “Would you work onboard again, what did you like most, what did you like least?” One captain who enjoys the crew management side of running yachts – he calls it building a team – likened his performance to that of a Broadway show. “It’s everyone pulling together, not just the two or three people up front who get all the applause,” he said. “I always tell my team, anytime you get a compliment, pass it along. When the chef gets praise, pass the credit along to the service team. No one can do their
job unless everyone does their job. “It’s hard with young crew, who bask in the glow of a compliment,” he said. “The reflex you need to train in them is to pass that accolade along. I do it, too. When the guests are all around the dining table and say what a great time they had, I say I couldn’t do it without the support of the owner, who’s usually sitting at the table there, too. You want to take every chance you can to funnel accolades along.” Alternatively, they accept the blame when crew quit. “For me, it’s when a crew member resigns for something that could have been prevented,” one captain said. “You say to yourself, where did I fail?” “But you have to draw the line with yourself,” another captain said. “So often, we see more potential in people then they see in themselves. We give them more chances, more time to discover it, and in the meantime they’re causing collateral damage and we have to be sensitive to that.” Often, this level of captain will delegate the handling of crew issues to department heads, including more personal issues such as snoring. Interestingly, several crew complained about this practice in this month’s survey, perhaps misinterpreting it as captain not making any decisions or managing the crew themselves. “I tell them [department heads] I’m happy to go down there but it’s better for you to gain the respect of the crew,” one captain said. “And it teaches them how to facilitate crew communication with each other.” “It’s another way to elevate them,” another said. “Department heads can come to me to discuss their decisions, but I like it to be their decision,” the first captain said. Lucy Chabot Reed is editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at email@example.com. If you make your living running someone else’s yacht, e-mail us for an invitation to our monthly Bridge luncheon.
January 2014 A17
Monthly publication with news for captains and crew on megayachts.