Crew Life » Career & Training » The Crew Coach: Building Onboard Relationships for Success

The Crew Coach: Building Onboard Relationships for Success

AlisonRentoul 1 LR18

When you’re working your way up the yachting career ladder, particularly once you have reached a leadership position, your ability to manage relationships with people around you directly impacts the amount of influence and respect you command.

This means that getting along with people is more than just a ‘nice thing’ to be able to do, it is absolutely fundamental to your success.

As a leader you are in the centre of a complex set of relationships.

Above you is the Owner, management company, Captain if you are a HOD or owner’s representative who you report to. Front facing you have the clients or guests you interact with, either side are your industry colleagues and associates, behind you are the suppliers and providers you liaise with, and below are the crew reporting and looking up to you.

Protecting and nurturing these relationships is extremely important, and the consequence of not doing this should not be underestimated.

givereceiveUnderstanding the possible causes of relationship breakdowns can help you identify and pre-empt potential relationship problems before they arise.

Relationships, whether they are professional or personal, can break down for many different reasons, including the following:


  • Feeling let down - if one person feels that the other person has let them down the foundation of that relationship can cause damage to the relationship.

  • Loss of respect – this can happen if one party claims a level of expertise that isn’t true, is disrespectful to the other person, or if there is simply a lack of mutual respect.

  • Breakdown in trust – trust is extremely important in relationships and if broken it can have a very damaging effect, putting the security/suspicion balance out of kilter.

  • Communication problems or misunderstandings – this is one of the most common causes for relationship breakdowns and can often be solved by simply sharing information and clarifying what was really meant.

  • One way relationship - if one person feels that they are doing more work to keep the relationship going, it won’t last long. Be aware that you need to put into the relationship as much as you are getting out of it.

  • Arrogance – This can be called the ‘me/I trap’, in other words focussing egocentrically in conversations instead of being interested in what the other person has to say, e.g. people who turn the topic of conversation back to ‘me/I’ all the time.

  • Envy and jealously – these usually stem from a fear of a loss of status, which can happen if the situation of one person has changed and the feels they are not as important anymore.

  • Judgmental – Be aware of how you communicate your opinions so you don’t come across as judging the other person in the relationship.

  • Obstinacy – If people in the relationship refuse to maintain a level of flexibility it can be very damaging. Often the root cause of obstinacy is fear: of loss of status or even change.

Any of these factors can cause relationships to break down and as a leader these issues can undermine your effectiveness. Keep these in mind and keep an eye on your crew to maintain an awareness of your relationships with them and also their relationships with each other, so that if one of these causes starts to raise its head, you know how to deal with it before it escalates and causes more serious problems. What are your thoughts about managing professional relationships onboard – we’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below.


Alison Rentoul is ex yacht crew with 15 years of yachting experience, and a professionally trained personal development coach working with crew worldwide, helping them realise their highest potential at every level. See for more information.

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