How to Avoid Setting your Team up for Failure

My expertise lies in helping individuals in becoming emotional intelligent so that they can excel in their personal and professional lives. Emotionally intelligent individuals have a deep understanding of themselves and have an ability to understand and influence others.

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Not many people realise the potential of developing their emotional intelligence and how it can positively impact their lives; the lack of emphasis placed on soft skills in our industry is setting up our leaders for failure. Without emotional intelligence emotional safety seizes to exist. Therefore it is of utmost important we up skill crew in developing their emotional intelligence.

Why does Emotional Safety build greater teams

According to Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson; she defined psychological safety as “a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.”

We can’t deny that we have all been classified as green crew as we jumped onboard our first yacht. Being ‘green’ can certainly be overwhelming for some as you learn to navigate your department and responsibilities as well as finding your place within your new team / yachting family. 

As a Greenie you would of either been exposed to influential leadership or poor leadership and this would of naturally influenced your own perception of leadership as you made your way through the ranks.

Last year, I interviewed Gemma – The Yacht Stew where we discussed bullying and the disruption it can cause within your personal and professional career. Gemma shared for the first time publicly her experience of being bullying from a HOD, which gave her severe anxiety. Gemma fortunately realised that this sort of behaviour from her Chief Stew was unacceptable and wisely resigned before her mental health got progressively worse. 

I think we can all agree that Safety is a fundamental component of our job onboard no matter our rank or title. Without completing your mandatory STCW95 you are unable to secure a position onboard. What the industry neglects to consider is that psychological safety goes hand in hand with physical safety. When a culture supports dysfunctional attitudes and behaviours it directly puts the crew’s physical safety at risk.

Research studies have found that where psychological safety was absent in the workplace the occurrence of accidents increased due to the employees’ inability to ask for help as such they had a propensity to take more risks. 

This goes the same for yacht crew. If there is no tolerance for making mistakes the crew are more likely not to reach out for support and will engage in risky decision making (with the hope that the outcome will be positive). It is crucial to promote a learning culture onboard, where mistakes are embraced rather than criticised. Interestingly, Amy Edmondson and Google both found in their respective studies that the teams which made more mistakes were in fact more successful.

Creating an environment in which people feel comfortable to take risks is key to fostering innovative workplaces. When workplaces encourage learning through failure you are likely to see an overall improvement in crew wellbeing, morale, engagement and productivity. The Crew Coach offers an online membership program to assist crew in building a positive onboard culture and thriving workplace.

Defining Emotional safety

Emotional safety is having the freedom to be vulnerable an example would be to be ok with asking for help when you may not be confident on how to execute the given task. When you have a high degree of safety within your work environment you are more like going to innovate, problem solve and build positive working relationships.

Based on their research findings on successful teams, the Google team came up with a list of the 5 key dynamics that make great teams successful that of which included: psychological safety, dependability, structure & clarity, meaning and impact.

While all five were needed to create a successful team, psychological safety stood out as the most important factor. 

Another interesting finding, is that what Amy Edmonson and Google both found in their separate studies is that the teams which made more mistakes were actually more successful. Creating an environment in which people are not fearful of being shamed or blamed when making a mistake is likely to lead to innovative workplaces.

If you create this sense of psychological safety in your own team starting now, you can expect to see higher levels of engagement, increased motivation to tackle difficult problems, more learning and development opportunities, and better performance.

Steps to foster psychological safety in your workplace:

Lead by example

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from your peers to gain insight into your blindspots – The Crew Coach offers coaching around this in our membership program as we know it can be quite confronting to do.
  • Acknowledge your mistakes – by acknowledging your mistakes you are actually gaining respect as a leader – it teaches your team members to rather be the bigger person and take ownership for your mistakes rather than blaming others.
  • Make an effort to take on board opinions that differ from your own. Sometimes we have a tendency to think that our way is the right way; be open to explore other’s opinions as this is going to facilitate team building, problem solving and innovation.
  • Be approachable – have an open door policy. Your peers should feel comfortable to approach you with whatever concerns you may have. If you are approachable you will build a culture that promotes transparency and supportiveness and are likely in a better position to manage underlying conflicts before they blow up.
  • 2 way communication – This communication style includes and opportunity for both the receiver and sender to engage in feedback and evaluate the communication which can thereby enhance the communication between the two parties.
How to Avoid Setting your Team up for Failure

Encourage active listening

  • Leave phones at the door during meetings
  • Show understanding by summarising what the respondent has said
  • Encourage people to share more by asking open questions
  • Treat members of your team equally and manage the differently personalities in the room so that everyone gets a say.

Create a safe environment

  • Provide guidelines on how you expect your team to communicate with each other and treat each other.
  • Don’t judge behaviour rather seek to understand it
  • Never place blame or publicly shame
  • No idea is a silly idea – this encourages creativity in the work place as well as leads to effective problem solving.

Develop an open mindset

  • Help your team become comfortable receiving feedback from each other. This is effectively achieved through running professional development workshops with your team. The Crew Coach provides tailored workshops to suit your team and their developmental needs.
  • Encourage them to listen, reflect and then respond to input from others 

The Crew Coach offers coaching and online workshops in supporting individuals and teams in weaving this all into practice so that crew can reap the rewards of teams that are highly engaged, collaborative and productive.