I recently had the opportunity to speak along with The Triton’s Stew Cues columnist, Chief Stew Alene Keenan, at the Triton Expo. It was an interesting and informative session, though not what we set out to give. One reason for that is because the audience was not mostly newbies looking for advice (as it had been in the past) but, rather, veterans of the industry.
Our “presentation” turned more into a discussion, and it was good.
Alene gave her perspective as a veteran stew. She has a lot of miles and experiences in her wake and is a valuable resource. I gave my view on crew dealing with each other with emotional intelligence from my perspective as a captain and life coach. We both changed it up on the fly a bit due to the make-up of the audience and opened the room up for discussion. There was a lot of knowledge and experience in that room, and both Alene and I wanted to let it flow.
Besides the veteran captains, there were a couple of leadership experts and they all tended to agree that changes to the way yacht crew are trained and to the way captains lead are needed in yachting and, indeed, on the way.
Change to any industry tends to move slowly. It usually doesn’t take hold until that critical mass, that tipping point number of people, are in the discussion. I think the ball has begun to roll but I wonder, will enough people want to get on board?
Let me first say that I believe better yachting-specific training for crew and captains and those in leadership roles can only benefit the individuals and the industry. The majority of complaints we hear today from leaders and non-leaders could be greatly reduced, leading to a better work environment.
People who do what they enjoy and feel good about the way it’s done produce higher quality results. Here’s the thing to be careful with and to ensure enough folks buy in: are the new training programs mandatory or are they encouraged and rewarded?
I could see a combination of the two being successful, but I would be careful with how much is made mandatory. There may be enough mandatory hoops to jump through right now and certainly more out-of-pocket expenses for training before you even have a job might make it difficult financially for many.
We could compare yacht training time and costs to other careers and it may come in cheaper and less time consuming, but let’s not compare. This industry is unique and attracts a different breed. It always has and I hope always will. Do we really want to drive the adventurous, free spirits away? Professional is what’s important and how we develop them is the issue moving forward.
I would like to see this industry start to encourage and reward additional optional training. A big way to move that forward is for owners and management companies to understand the benefits and get behind this. There should be yacht-specific training, seminars and coaching made available. Owners should encourage their crew to partake in it and should seek out those crew who are willing to improve themselves. The results would be less turnover plus a more knowledgeable and stable crew, which leads to fewer crew issues for owners and management companies. These accomplishments should be respected and noted on a CV. That could help drive more folks to the training and that is an important factor in all of this.
There is a big difference in what someone takes away from training depending upon whether they were forced to be there or they really want to be there.
There are more yacht-specific training opportunities already being discussed and created. I believe the creativity and quality of programs will improve as more interest is shown. I also believe more interest will be shown when further optional self-improvement is encouraged and valued in the industry. That kind of culture will steer more and more toward growth and development.
Rob Gannon is a 25-year licensed captain and certified life and wellness coach (www.yachtcrewcoach.com). Comments on this column are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.