When the going gets tough the tough get going. It’s easy to crew on a boat on a sunny day with small waves and little wind. It’s hard when its 3am in the morning, the waves are big, the wind is blowing hard – and you are just on the edge of “crashing”. One needs to develop a crew one can understand and trust when the going is hard – and this takes time on the water and time in tough conditions. Everyone starts out with different skills – and everyone has different learning needs. Prior to the race, several other races are needed to evaluate the crew’s strengths and weaknesses , place crew in positions that leverage their strengths, and teach people new skills that make them a more effective and flexible crewperson. This is also very much about a crew that when they going gets tough, they are more supportive and sensitive to the strengths, weaknesses and feelings of their fellow crew members. Everyone is different and have a crew that really knows each other deeply is an important success factor. It’s also important to insuring people are enjoying the race. If you don’t trust your fellow crew, you are not having fun and the rest of the crew can feel it (all these people in a small uncomfortable space for near two weeks). Last, it only takes one “insensitive I know better” crewperson to make the whole crew miserable and turn what should be fun into a not fun experience – not something you want to discover 2 days out with 11 days (locked in a small uncomfortable room) in front of you.
As in business you need to know your team strengths and weaknesses, develop your team through time working together and training, and build up a deep trust in other team members to do their job well (enabling you to focus on your job and do it well too). Sailing very much teaches you everyone needs to focus on their job – and not someone else’s job. On a sailboat, it only takes a few minutes to recognize crew that are spending more time focusing on someone else’s position – invariably leading to both their playing their position poorly and the person in the position they are trying to get involved in getting seriously annoyed with them. One needs to play one’s own position first and foremost and it’s the skipper’s job to step in and provide direction if someone is not doing their job right (not one of the crews job). That said, if you are a very emotionally skilled crewperson with deep sailing skills, you might be able to get another crewperson’s permission to give them advice. If you see a problem with one of the crew, you talk to the skipper about it on the side. Most times the skipper is already aware and doing something – but if not your feedback will help determine if the skipper needs to do something or your view needs re-alignment. As on a boat, the same goes at work. See the happy crew at the finish – a sure sign of success!