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The Vulnerable Captain: Making Better Hiring Decisions

Simon Harvey 140

How do you find crew?  Do you use crew agencies, social media, word of mouth- or a combination?  Some find CV’s on job posting boards, or draw candidates from the ever-growing pool of dockwalkers.   I even recently saw a ‘Help Wanted’ sign on a passerelle in Majorca. 

Whatever your strategy for finding crew, the steps of interviewing and conducting reference checks are frequently time-consuming, complicated and costly. 


How do you find the best candidate for your boat?  Even if you ask ‘tricky interview questions’ as some seem to think is the secret, it’s still imperative to have a clear understanding of the basics.

Some recent articles by The Crew Coach on OnboardOnline bring up vital points about the hiring process- as she says, “knowing how your yacht operates and what your yacht culture is” is central to picking the right crew to match it. 

The worst scenario is hiring crew without serious forethought, only to find a major crew issue emerging during a busy season, or when the boss is about to arrive.  It is then up to the captain to address the issue where they can, or perhaps fire crew, only to have to go through the hiring process again. 

While turnover is a part of all industries and a certain level of turnover is inevitable (and some might say healthy), it still comes at a cost. 

In the yachting industry, the people most affected are the owners.  After all, it is their money that pays for the uniforms, agency fees and repatriation flights, and it is to their detriment when they return to the boat to find that their favourite crew have gone, replaced by unfamiliar faces. 

Hiring and firing is never easy, even with experience.  However, there’s an old story that gives an insight into a common hiring mistake. 

searching for keys under lamppostA policeman comes across a man crawling under a street lamp. 

“I’ve lost my car keys, he explains.”

The policeman tries to help the man find his keys.  After a few minutes of searching he asks, “Where exactly did you drop them?”

“Down the street, next to my car.”

Puzzled, he asks, “So why aren’t you looking over there?”

The man replies, “The light is better here.”

The point is that many people prefer to look for answers where the light is better, where they feel more comfortable.  Yet if you want results, you have to be willing to look where the light is not so bright, and yes- it can feel uncomfortable.

However, if you’re prepared to put the hard work in of challenging your hiring habits, results will come your way in the form of a healthier crew dynamic.  That means better performance, more engagement and lower turnover, therefore equalling less hiring and lower running costs.  Ashore this is called ‘organizational health’, a phrase best-selling business author Patrick Lencioni coined so well. 

Organizational health in yachting terms is ‘crew health’.  It’s not a certificate; it’s not a requirement: it’s a work of development. 

‘Crew health’ requires the basics that are achievable by all: courage, leadership and a commitment to change.  Where do you begin? 

This may sound a little scary: you begin from vulnerability. 

I know what you’re thinking.  ‘Vulnerability- that’s weak!’, ‘Vulnerability doesn’t belong in leadership’, or ‘Vulnerability isn’t courageous’. These are all common reactions to being told that vulnerability is a starting point for good leadership.

But don’t just take my word for it. Author Dr Brene Brown says that her research over 12 years has shown that ‘To declare oneself ‘not vulnerable’ would be inauthentic and leave a leader living in a perpetual state of denial and stress.’

Vulnerability dowloaded shutterstock

It is important to realise that vulnerability is not weakness, and it is not about letting it all hang out- which is not an option for those in leadership positions.  Vulnerability, rather, is about leadership- it is about uncertainty, risk and exposure.  Vulnerability must start with you. 

As Dr. Brown puts it, vulnerability is “the ability to be in uncertainty, to lead people through it, and take risks while managing your exposure.”

Which is not a terribly different definition to that of leadership, when you think about it.

With leadership comes uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure, and it is here that innovation and change live.  Vulnerability- the management of uncertainty- asks for trust.  Trust requires vulnerability, and these things together are the building blocks of a healthy crew. 

Crew need trust:

  • Trust to enable crew to be honest with each other

  • Trust so that crew can engage in unfiltered, constructive debate

  • Trust to create an environment where crew can offer opinions, and are more likely to commit to decisions

  • Trust that crew will hold each other accountable

  • Trust that roles and responsibilities are known, conflict is healthy, and that there is commitment to accountability and results.


Vulnerability and leadership build trust, and with trust you can develop and build a great team.  If you want the results your owners are waiting for, then organisational health is imperative. 

As Patrick Lencioni puts it:

“There is just no escaping the fact that the single biggest factor determining whether an organization is going to get healthier or not, is the genuine commitment and active involvement of the person in charge. 

So perhaps it's time to move away from the streetlight, change your ways and welcome some vulnerability into your leadership style.

*For more articles by this author, read Kill Cords: Lessons from the Milly Report and Bridging Communications
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After working on superyachts for nine years, Simon Harvey moved ashore and applied his captain skills in the corporate world. From both sides of the yachting industry, Simon noticed a gap in the skills required, and the training being offered. Today, with N2 People Skills, Simon brings the science behind building great teams to the superyacht industry by offering a range of tools to improve recruitment and selection, management, team development and leadership.

Simon is published in ALERT!, A Nautical Institute project, sponsored by ‘The Lloyd’s Register Educational Trust’, is a licensed MBTI facilitator, is trained in DISC, and he is a 2013 ISS board member.  

Use the 'Contact Author' button below to contact Simon directly.

N2 People Skills logo

 

From both sides of the yachting industry, Simon noticed a gap in the skills required, and the training being offered. Tools for recruitment and selection, career advancement, management, leadership, and team development were standard ashore, yet few of these were available to owners or captains aboard. With crew size and accidents growing, the time was right to offer these. Today, with N2 People Skills, Simon brings the science behind building great teams to the superyacht industry by offering a range of tools to improve recruitment and selection, management, team development and leadership.

Simon is published in ALERT!, A Nautical Institute project, sponsored by ‘The Lloyd’s Register Educational Trust’, is a licensed MBTI facilitator, is trained in DISC, and he is a 2013 ISS board member.  

For more information please visit the N2 People Skills website or use the message button below to contact Simon directly.

Mobile (UK): + 44 (0) 7824 557 129
Mobile (US): + 1 434 202 5901

N2 People Skills logo 

- See more at: http://www.onboardonline.com/industry-article-index/bridge-2/bridging-communications/#sthash.FMDrcLYx.dpuf

From both sides of the yachting industry, Simon noticed a gap in the skills required, and the training being offered. Tools for recruitment and selection, career advancement, management, leadership, and team development were standard ashore, yet few of these were available to owners or captains aboard. With crew size and accidents growing, the time was right to offer these. Today, with N2 People Skills, Simon brings the science behind building great teams to the superyacht industry by offering a range of tools to improve recruitment and selection, management, team development and leadership.

Simon is published in ALERT!, A Nautical Institute project, sponsored by ‘The Lloyd’s Register Educational Trust’, is a licensed MBTI facilitator, is trained in DISC, and he is a 2013 ISS board member.  

For more information please visit the N2 People Skills website or use the message button below to contact Simon directly.

Mobile (UK): + 44 (0) 7824 557 129
Mobile (US): + 1 434 202 5901

N2 People Skills logo 

- See more at: http://www.onboardonline.com/industry-article-index/bridge-2/bridging-communications/#sthash.FMDrcLYx.dpuf

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