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Poor leadership is very common within the industry; I often hear reports of crew in leadership positions abusing their power and mistreating crew.

The Problem Defined

Recently, I heard of a Captain making a stewardess sleep in the yacht’s tender as there was not an available crew cabin for her onboard. In addition to the unsuitable accomodation she had to sleep with her uniform on top of her  as she was required to be dressed in full uniform as she made her way to her designated toilet in the middle of the night.

From my experience, Crew members who have to endure this sort of bullying do not usually feel comfortable approaching the perpetrator nor the assigned Yacht Management company to voice their concerns. This is largely due to their a lack of confidence in Management or Heads of Department in being adept in successfully dealing with such matters, a further reason is they fret that if they do reach out they risk losing their jobs or putting other crews’ jobs in jeopardy.

Yacht Management companies are finding it increasingly difficult to manage the number of interpersonnel issues occurring onboard. Yacht Management companies have a lot on their plate to contend with on top of the owners’ needs being their highest priority. (understandabley!) Hence it doesn’t come as a surprise that interpersonal crew difficulties may not carry a high priority on their agenda.

It is apparent that a number of crew who are finding themselves in these position (being unfairly and poorly managed) are stuck between a rock and a very hard place. It is time the industry takes leadership very seriously and trains crew in soft skills to be able to effectively self-regulate their emotions and manage working relationships professionally. There is a significant gap in these learning areas, however  through leadership coaching and training this gap can be closed.

The Crew Coach suite of services include a consulting services to Yacht Management companies where we assess the existing issues onboard and address them appropriately and professionally. It is advantageous to have a third party,  who are experts in dealing with human behaviour, to be able to mediate the situation and prevent any further abuse of power.

The biggest challenge is getting those in leadership positions to recognise that their leadership style is not conducive to a healthy onboard culture, often Heads of Departments are so ignorant to the fact their leadership style is the cause of a high crew turnover. It takes courage and self-awareness for a leader to recognise that they need support in adjusting their behaviour in order to rise to the challenge of becoming an even better one.

The Solution

To be an effective leader, you need to be able to master the art of having difficult conversations, communication, inclusiveness, conflict management and most importantly to develop the skill of listening and being open to feedback so that you can correct behaviours that are not proving to be helpful. 

My advice to crew who are having difficulties with Heads of Departments is to build a positive support network with co-workers and choose to disengage from the unhealthy dynamics they may be experiencing. They may not be able to choose a different leader  –  however, they can control how they choose to react to him or her. They shouldn’t be made to feel angry or frustrated, they need to recognize that they have full control over their feelings and therefore can control their own emotions. Our emotions stem from a thought we are having, therefore, if we can change our outlook we will subsequently experience more positive emotions and feel more empowered rather than suppressed.

Conflict tends to arise from a lack of understanding of the other and is exacerbated by poor communication and an inability to self-reflect. Life onboard is forever evolving and adapting; it only takes one new crew member to change the dynamics on board. This is why ongoing professional development should be a prerequisite should a Captain or Head of Department want a healthy onboard culture and believe me if you don’t, the guests will be able to pick this up very quickly.

The Crew Coach has curated onboard workshops focusing on crew cohesion and morale. It also offers coaching which provides an intimate approach to building a leader’s skill set so that they become an emotionally and socially adept leader. I would highly recommend investing in professional development, it will not only save you time and money (crew turnover) it will minimise crew grievances and help build a more harmonious team which in turn, will reflect on a far greater guest experience on board.

The Crew Coach has also discovered a smarter way of recruiting which involves assessing crews’ natural behavioural style within a workplace setting. It has invested in this tool after making a careful assessment of other tools being employed currently by yacht training centres. The tool has proven to have had successful results in getting an accurate assessment on a crew member’s personality profile within a work context. This detailed assessment is invaluable when it comes to identifying personal strengths and areas for development.  It provides strategies to assist crew members to moderate workplace behaviours to achieve better results as well as providing management with action plans relating specifically to improving the person’s behavioural styles.

Recognising crew leadership and management issues are key.  Implementing solutions by way of leadership training and scientifically evolved crew selection programmes are a huge step forward in making a postive change.