Sara Ballinger is the managing partner of Crew-Glue and has spent years training teams in luxury industries.
As I have worked with some of the most exclusive hospitality companies, and luxury brands servicing the world’s most discerning customers - there are several identifiable factors that are evident in the teams that have the biggest success.
Interestingly, these are also found in our greatest sporting teams and in the strongest and happiest of crew on sailing and motor yachts of all shapes and sizes.
What does make for a great crew? Competence is a good place to start. If you all know how to do your jobs, are technically trained and experienced, it goes a long way to delivering a competent level of safety and service. But even when that is the case, things can go wrong, competency alone is not enough. What you want for your crew is for them to feel they are working harmoniously together and supporting each other as a whole crew in order to be the very best they can be and to feel engaged, fulfilled and happy.
For that to happen they need to share five key things.
In a family, we will often have conflicts of interest, misunderstandings and petty arguments but we also know that we have each other’s backs if things go wrong. We have love and we have trust and that means that we will always forgive, move forward and get on with it. Sure – in some families there are rifts which are so long standing they seem impossible to heal, this is usually where trust is gone.
It is similar for crew working together in close proximity with long hours and high expectations from their owners, guests and senior crew as well as from themselves.
Can you develop trust where it has never existed or has been lost? Yes - and that is the foundation stone for a high performing, happy and engaged crew.
We each have our own personal life and career goals, and they will often be our absolute focus. What we do with crew is help them to take those personal goals and knit them into the overall shared objectives for their department, their boat and their captain. This means that crew work toward a communal vision, while developing themselves toward their own dreams and aspirations.
When you all have the same destination, you all pull together to get there.
How do you instil confidence in a crew? I have always thought of confidence as a brick wall. Each time you do something successfully and/or you get some great feedback, it places another brick in your wall of confidence. When you are young or inexperienced, your wall is often low and that means that it doesn’t take much to knock it down. One bad experience can really put you back a long way.
If you have plenty of opportunities to grow your wall tall and strong, it is much harder to knock it down and you can bounce back much more quickly.
It is so easy to get lost in the day job and forget why you chose it in the first place. Reconnecting with your personal motivation is one thing, working with a crew to develop a shared motivation is another.
Engagement and motivation are subtly different. Think of motivation as the reason to get started and engagement as the reason to stay there. We need to be able to use both to keep ourselves going through those long charters and weeks of high activity. And even more so during those periods when we are sitting in the refit yard, waiting for something to happen or crew feel frustrated by their roles.
The final piece in the puzzle is not as commonplace as you might think. Crew often start with a new boat with a huge swell of pride, happy to tell anyone who will listen that they work on this boat and in this role. Over time if the crew are not firmly aligned, that changes. They lose that sense of shared pride.
These five factors contribute to the sense of family, which carries crew forward through the season, stronger than ever.
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