Plain Sailing

I’ve been away. I’ve been sailing.

It’s the best holiday I’ve had in years; everything was very different from my normal life – including the sunshine.

I was learning to be a ‘competent crew’, which was fantastic – you learn skills but you don’t have to make any decisions. The other students were doing their ‘day skipper’ course, which is the next step and you’re required to navigate the boat, make decisions and command a crew (ie; me!). They each got to be skipper for a day.

We’re all so highly trained to be part of a team, and to discuss all options before making a decision but there’s no time for that if you’re under sail. Someone has to make the decision and the crew needs to follow orders. On a training boat you have to switch between being the skipper (leader) and the crew (team-member), and it was essential to be flexible on which role you were going to have.

For everything we did communication was essential – timely, clear and SHORT instructions worked best. For a number of maneuvers – mooring, anchoring and man overboard (practice) –  it was not always easy to understand what was happening in the cockpit when you were at the bow. So short communication lines were best.

Our trainer coached us on all aspects of sailing including how to behave on a boat, one of the things he drilled into us was not to “keep calm and carry on”. He pointed out that if we were in a real emergency getting panicked and shouty will make your crew feel more concerned, less safe and more likely to make mistakes.

So I went away from work for a break, but actually some of the things I learnt apply to work;

  • be flexible
  • be prepared to lead, and to follow
  • communicate clearly
  • keep your head – particularly in tough times, particularly if you’re leading a team

I came back rested and refreshed, ready to enjoy work again, with new energy and new ideas.

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