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How to Build High-Performing Teams


Crew-Glue was launched to support captains and crew by expediting the team-building process to reach a high-performance team status sooner, giving you the very best chance of success when starting your season or launching your new build. As such, we’re frequently asked how we do this, and why. In this article, we hope to answer some of those questions for you.

“Team building is ‘nice to have’, but what’s the point of it?”

In Patrick Lencioni’s book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, he states that the foundation for all great teams is trust. Where trust is present in a team, conflict can take place without the team breaking down, meaning each member feels they can challenge, ask questions and even disagree without it causing damage to the structure of the team.

When teams can engage in healthy conflict, they naturally demonstrate higher commitment. Think about it - if you’re being heard and your views and opinions are valued, wouldn’t you feel more committed? I guess the litmus test is to consider how you might feel if the opposite were true and I certainly wouldn’t be engaged with something if I felt I wasn’t an important part of the system.

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Commitment creates accountability. Ownership of the job means genuine care for the safety and service on the boat, for the owner and for the guests and ultimately, that means results.

Team building events have been happening for many years and there is a reason for that. It’s not all about making rafts and falling backwards into your crewmate’s arms, and if you haven’t experienced a well-crafted team building session you may still have those pre-conceived expectations.

An example which really resonates for me to illustrate the power of team building is that of Humphrey Walters, who is best known for helping the World Cup winning England Rugby Team with their team development. He wrote a case study of the 1996 Global Challenge in which he took part, which was deemed as the ‘world’s toughest yacht race’. It was the perfect setting to study the leadership and team building factors needed for survival and high-level performance in difficult, changeable environment, and a study which can easily be transferred from competitive sport into today’s superyacht industry.

Humphrey drew together a crew of volunteers, many of whom had never sailed before, and set about building them into a tight and cohesive team with a code of conduct and agreements about how to live and work together as they undertook this incredible challenge.

And in his very own words: “When your "buddy" is, quite literally, your lifeline you don’t let him down.”

Humphrey drew direct parallels between his experience on the Global Challenge and the everyday happenings in modern teams, where success and survival depends on sound leadership and quality teamwork. He claims that the greatest lesson the race taught him was that teamwork is the key to everything.

And how did they do it? The crew started by learning about each other, how to behave within a team and that niceties such as punctuality, courtesy and knowing how to apologise can make all the difference. They developed a code of conduct, agreed how they would live and work together and they made it – they completed the race without losing a single crew-member along the way!

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“So, what is the return on investment for team building then?”

The benefits of building your team are indisputable. They include:

• High performance
• Safety consciousness
• Exceptional service
• Ownership & accountability
• Great time-management
• Harmony
• Engagement & enjoyment
• Retention

“Won’t my team just build and bond anyway from working together and having their crew nights out?”

We know that teams that do manage to stay the course for long enough will eventually go through the team development stages and reach high performance. That assumes that they do manage to stay together for long enough for that to happen, and will invariably take time, often time you don’t have. This is because we lose people along the way and without a firm understanding of what the expectations and rules of engagement are, each time you introduce a new crew member, you risk disruption.

“So how do you expedite the team building process?”

By building and bonding the whole crew to develop clearer communication, avoid misinterpretation, cultivate tolerance and reduce conflict. This is achieved through an awareness and appreciation of personality, culture, role and responsibilities in yourself and your crew mates. At leadership level, we deliver an understanding of the stages of development a team will go through and what the leader’s responsibilities are at each stage.

Everything we do onboard requires open lines of unbroken communication, and crew will benefit greatly from being given the opportunity to learn more about themselves and their strengths and talents, as well as developing a greater understanding of others and what makes them tick in order to foster an appreciation of the importance of keeping people informed, sharing information and challenging issues constructively.

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“But why do we need you for that?”

The science of teams and high-performance teamwork is a huge subject and is as complex as the different teams we work with on a daily basis. The hope is that you will never need to bring anyone aboard to deal with a fractured team - prevention really is better than cure!

The ideal scenario is preventative and proactive. If you can, then bring a team building expert onboard to facilitate a truly effective and embedded culture of high performance teamwork.

“Couldn’t I do that myself?”

If bringing in the experts is not an option due to budgetary constraints and you have the resources of people and time, then before you launch, return post re-fit or start your new season, there are some quick wins that you can apply on-board. Here are some ideas.

• Get the crew together and have a bit of fun. There are team building activities and ideas galore online, just apply the power of Google!

• Have a team social but make sure your crew don’t just gravitate to the usual cliques - mix things up or do something in teams.

• Create a set of actions and agreements for living and working together to go on your crew mess board.

Crew-Glue events focus on these and other aspects of your crew dynamic. We work with you on the things you can change, and our methods are tried and tested and have built some exceptional teams in luxury and lifestyle businesses, high-end hotel and resort companies and on-board superyachts.

Whether you buy in the expertise or do something yourself, team-building is a small investment for a big return. Positive change – for positive results!

Images: Pexels

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