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Lead A Ship

Bad Superyacht Leader

Working on superyachts means being exposed to all manner of crew, nationalities, cultures and, not least, different generations.

Good leaders get the best out of their teams by recognizing that one size does not fit all. Understanding how to motivate and encourage people to perform at their best is a massive challenge in our business, especially since the lines between on- and off-duty are often blurred when living and working together.

Everyone has a different leadership style and while some rule with an iron fist, others favour a “friendlier” approach. Both have consequences, right and wrong exist, and crew vote with their feet. While some boats have very little turnover, others have massive rates of attrition which can often be attributed to the aforementioned styles. It may sound counter intuitive but as a crew agent, I don’t enjoy seeing a lot of crew movement on yachts. The fewer crew leave, the more successfully we have placed them.

I worked for a captain many years ago who gave me, a junior deckhand, the same amount of time and consideration as he did the chief engineer. It left a lasting impression on me. He led by example and made crew feel respected, valued and appreciated. How did he do that? It took me many years to come to this conclusion, but I think partly it came down to his lack of ego. As a master mariner, he had driven almost anything that floated and didn’t have anything to prove. More often than not, we feel the need to impose ourselves on a program or team, but ultimately it comes down to understanding how to engage with and motivate each individual crew member.

The common denominator seems to be respect and remembering how it felt when working for different HODs during our early years. I certainly learned who I wanted to emulate and who I wanted to avoid being like as I came up. One of the most valuable lessons I learned was that sometimes, I was the problem. How often do we consider this as HODs? Feedback is provided readily to the junior ranks, but who is giving it to the HODs and captains in the industry?

Interacting with different people means we need to adjust our approach (insert sailing analogy). Yes, we’ll get there eventually, but it’s possible to make the route smoother, less frustrating and less costly.

Feel free to reach out; sometimes a different perspective can be very helpful. After all, this is part of why we are here.

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