Monday, 22 October 2012

So where does Leadership feature on your list of priorities?

Like any good business leader you give priority to goals, targets and objectives for yourself and your team. After all, setting targets helps ensure a healthy order book, helps fulfil those orders and helps you get paid -“doing the business” -  the lifeblood of any company.

Once you’ve kept on top of everything else like Management Reporting, Health and Safety compliance etc there’s probably little time left for Leadership. But what about the all important aspect of keeping everyone motivated and developing your people? Well, so you run an incentive to reward top performers and everyone gets an annual appraisal - so that should tick those boxes. You pay them to do a job anyway so it’s only right that they get on with it – right? Well yes.........and no.

Leadership is often an afterthought

In my experience “doing the business” takes top priority and “leadership” is often an afterthought. Leadership becomes either a vain stab at fixing things when they haven’t gone so well or a rather lame “well done” when it has gone well.

Sure, staying focussed on business imperatives will generate results. But without effective leadership it’s not enough to produce outstanding results.

But what if you’re not a natural born leader?

What if you lack the charisma to be William Wallace in Braveheart and can’t see yourself leading the charge for death or glory?

Then let me introduce you to Brendan. I met Brendan at the Southampton Boat Show this year. He’s a rather unassuming and humble kind of bloke – a nice guy.

However Brendan is also the skipper of Spirit of Australia, the yacht that won the 2009-2010 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. And he’s also author of ‘TEAM SPIRIT Life and Leadership on one of the Worlds’ Toughest Yacht Races’.

My mate who has just completed the 2011-2012 Clipper Race introduced me to Brendan and I bought a copy of his book. Later I read that as the youngest and least experienced skipper, in all honesty, Brendan wasn’t really expected to appear anywhere on the race winner’s podium.

However, Brendan did his homework. He interviewed all the skippers from the previous race and quickly realised: “being a race winning skipper was going to be about 20% sailing skills and 80% people-management skills”. Of course, he knew his crew of 44 largely novice sailors would need training on how to sail well enough to compete, but he made “Leadership” the top priority for his campaign. He quickly set about reading up on the subject of Leadership and came up with a set of values and a vision to ensure his crew were totally “onboard”. The values were around Pride; Energy and Support and his vision was based upon:

·         Communication

·         Crew Integration

·         Continuous Improvement

·         A culture of Knowledge Sharing

·         Effective Conflict Management

Having shared his vision he then set about empowering the crew with a rigorous development plan. They came to feel like valued and trusted members of the crew as he delegated as much of the sailing responsibility to them as possible. He also got them involved in daily briefings where they openly discussed progress and he sought out their views and opinions on how they (and he) could do things better.

In the background he’d also done masses of work on the technical detail under the heading of ‘My objective: To win the 09-10 Clipper Race through belief, teamwork, performance focus and continuous improvement’.

Combining the technical preparation, his vision and the onboard culture he created with a truly motivated crew that was prepared to go the extra mile for him meant they completed the 35,000 mile race overcoming hurricanes, equipment failure and experiencing many other adventures to become the overall winners, against all the odds. A truly remarkable achievement.

Now in terms of ‘leaders’ - Brendan isn’t a larger than life character. He didn’t have a corporate background either so hadn’t undergone formal management training nor had management experience to give him a ‘starter for 10’. He’s obviously an excellent sailor, but its’ clear that by prioritising Leadership within his campaign, doing his homework and by formulating a structured plan and taking a methodical approach  Brendan’s crew went out and “did the business” for him - and together they achieved outstanding results.

The next step

So if you already lead with leadership that’s fantastic - welcome aboard. But, if you think Leadership is a bit of a fluffy cloud or something to think about once you’ve done the business then do yourself a favour and get a copy of TEAM SPIRIT by Brendan Hall.

Or alternatively, join us on one of our sailing days or workshop/sailing based programmes. We’ll demonstrate what Leadership means and the difference it can make - both on the water and back in the workplace.

I hope you’ve found this of interest and would welcome your feedback. If you have any similar stories please feel free to share your experience.

David Cruddace is a professional yachtmaster and RYA Instructor. He facilitates sailing based activity aimed at enhancing business leaders Leadership & Management skills