Keeping your crew happy is one of the hallmarks of a great leader. Whether you’re a captain, a head of department, or part of the yacht’s management team, considering these ideas when trying to keep your crew motivated will make sure they want to go the extra mile for you.
Be a good communicator
Captains and management companies often have the big picture in mind. They know upcoming plans and have already identified the challenges ahead; however, they don’t often take the time to share that information with the crew. Keeping your crew in the dark about future yard periods, upcoming winter plans, and/or changes on board cause the rumour mill to start. Sharing this type of information with the team enforces a feeling among crew members that they count and are important to the overall success of the yacht.
Lead from the front
Obviously different roles have different responsibilities on board and a Chief Officer on a 100m MY is going to spend less time on deck than a CO on a 50m MY. But… getting stuck in on deck doing a washdown the day before the owner arrives for an unexpected, last minute visit is good for the crew to see. Getting your hands dirty when you need to shows everyone is in it together and it is a genuine team effort. It is a lot harder to do this whilst you are sitting behind a lap top 24 / 7.
Money doesn’t matter as much as you think
Motivation for team members can come in part from a salary, but a large part depends on a combination of the satisfaction of day-to-day work and the opportunity to make a valued contribution. When the opportunity presents itself and it is appropriate, open things up to your department. Ask them what they think needs doing and what should be prioritised. If it is off season and your second is off for a month, promote a couple of your department to have more responsibility for a couple of weeks each. See who steps up when given the opportunity. Again when appropriate allowing the crew to make some decisions themselves without you micro managing always goes down well. Give crew specific projects which are theirs to own and take care of.
Another way to inspire these feelings is to help each department learn about what the others are doing, creating a strong sense of team and collaboration. A sense of ownership will have them all supporting one another to achieve the best outcome.
Knowing me, knowing you
A team barbecue on the beach or dockside after a charter gives crew a chance to chill and chew the fat without moving too far or making much effort. Combine that with a beach volleyball or touch rugby competition with a nearby yacht, or take them for a day on the slopes or zip-lining through the forest and you’ve given your crew a chance to sweat off pent up energy and bond with each other. Mixing the teams up so that is different departments and people who generally don’t talk pairing up is good for building relationships too.
Trying something new allows crew to become more confident in their abilities. Show you are invested in their growth by providing on-going training and career development opportunities and write that into their crew contracts. Allocating a couple of hours a week for training is a small chunk of your available time. It can even be after hours once or twice a week. A useful way of seeing who is career minded too and who is in yachting for the wrong reasons. Think it’s not your responsibility? It’s a bigger risk that they become bored and burnt out, so show them you value their work by helping them to grow and pushing them out of their comfort zones.
Be scrupulously fair across the board. Whilst having favourites in your team is completely understandable and human nature it is bad news when you are leading the troops. Make sure all perks and all the unappealing jobs are handed out evenly. If you don’t you will rapidly have some unmotivated and resentful crew on your hands. On a slightly different tangent make sure you aren’t that HOD who never has a watch and has to be somewhere off the boat on a Friday afternoon.
Get them involved
Yacht crew involvement in local charity events builds great networks of support among the team and helps them to feel integrated into the local community. If you are sitting somewhere post season for a break, work on a beach clean-up or see if your local marina or yacht agent has any programs you could give a hand to. Everyone entering a 10k race or something similar and raising as much cash as possible is always good too.
Ease off the throttle
Yachting can be incredibly hard work and pressurised with very little down time so you can’t work people at 100% intensity, 100% of the time without people breaking down. Take whatever opportunities you can to give crew time off. Whether that is working extra hours to give everyone a day off or some form of rotational system the more time away from the coalface crew get, the better they perform and the happier the yacht will be generally. If everything is done on Wednesday and the boss arrives Friday then give the crew Thursday off. Don’t invent jobs to be done or redo things just for the sake of it.
There is nothing ground breaking in any of the points above and some of it is probably screamingly obvious. But hopefully, it is a gentle reminder of some basic management ideas which may make everyone’s lives easier and more productive. Good luck.