In May, The Crew Coach was asked by dockwalk to share their thoughts on cultural diversity and crew cohesion within the yachting industry. This is what we had to say…
Cultural Diversity includes and is not limited to; differences in nationality, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation and age. These all contribute to and influence our behaviours, thoughts, reactions, and expectations of self and others. The term ‘diversity’ is essentially an acceptance of difference which is facilitated through being self-aware, curious, respectful and empathetic. The term ‘Culture’ can be quite a difficult term to get one’s head around. To break it down, culture can have overt and covert characteristics; examples of overt traits include race, gender, physical ability whereas covert traits include personality, experience, education and training. Culture diversity is not a fixed concept it is rather dynamic in nature and requires ongoing work and commitment should it be embraced by crew.
In order for there to be true cultural diversity in a team, the team should be able to understand and demonstrate cultural competence. Cultural competence is an attribute that can change the way in which we lead and interact with crew and guests alike.
When working on a superyacht, one must not view cultural diversity existing solely within the team it should also be included in your dealings with guests too. Owners and guest come from varying cultural backgrounds, as such, you need to be culturally aware and astute to any cultural sensitivities they may have. I have personally worked with fijian clients who avoid eye contact when we are conversing with each other. In the fijian culture this is considered to be a sign of respect, however, in other cultures one could construe a different meaning.
Why Cultural Diversity?
For yachts to arrive at cultural competency they need crew to have developed the skills in cultural awareness, cultural intelligence and cultural flexibility which can be achieved through training and doing their own personal development. Once they have accomplished this they will be able to anticipate, identify and respond to cultural humility and cultural sensitivities.
Cultural diversity should not be taken lightly, it can have an enormous cost in terms of productivity, team work and effectiveness if it is not embraced. During my second season, we experienced a significant rift between crew members due to misunderstandings around cultural differences which culminated in 3/4s of our crew leaving the yacht. Heads of departments need to be approachable and allocate time to address cultural differences. Misunderstandings can occur so easily therefore they need to be discussed and resolved before there are grave consequences.
Teaching teams to foster inclusion and cultural competence is not easy and requires an openness and willingness to be vulnerable. It requires the courage to look at one’s own paradigm of thinking and challenge any thoughts that may be rooted in prejudice or bias.
At The Crew Coach, our training goes beyond just delivering information; we provide a safe space to explore existing beliefs and different ways of thinking, we look at our sense of self in relation to the other and it is only then that diversity “success” is achieved. Delivering the training and meeting the outcomes is a success in itself, the real work comes in challenging one’s own way of seeing the world and acknowledging how this impacts the ‘other’. Our programs are designed to take crew on a journey of self-discovery. The results are lasting transformation.
It is time for the industry to completely rethink the way in which they view diversity. I am ecstatic to say that there are captains out there, such as Captain Fraser Gow, who are championing this.
If we are truly committed to creating inclusive and culturally competitive working and living environments it is important that all are on board in executing this mission. I challenge crew to take a moment to reflect on what cultural diversity means to them and how they can leverage this quality to create a more cohesive team and harmonious working and living space onboard.