Don’t motivate your crew RESPECT them instead

Jun 9, 2014 by Paul Ferdais

There seems to be a lot of talk nowadays about motivating crew to get the most out of them. Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion about what exactly motivation is and how a leader can create it.


The general consensus is that if a leader offers a reward or prize to encourage a particular behavior from followers, motivation is created, and followers will behave differently forever. Sadly, this idea is incorrect.


While it is true that offering a reward is a form of external motivation, studies clearly show they offer no long-term benefit for either the follower or the organization.


External motivation is recognized as a form of reward or punishment in exchange for specific actions. The motivation may include the tip at the end of the charter, an employee-of-the-month program, or conversely, removing some perks for poor performance.


External motivation does not create a long-term change in behavior. Behavior changes only as long as a reward or punishment is being held ransom for behaving a particular way.


The best crew are self motivated. Internal motivation comes from within and has to do with the joy or fulfillment that a certain job or task gives the person. Internal motivation can also simply be the personal satisfaction derived from doing the activity, or an internal drive to accomplish a certain goal.


Studies show that the behavior of an individual will only change through their own conscious decision. This means leaders can only have indirect influence on the motivation of others, rather than direct control over how a follower behaves.


Establishing engagement in followers creates the conditions where people become internally motivated. It is through the indirect method of creating engagement that develops motivation in others.


Fortunately, Dr. Paul Marciano has developed the R.E.S.P.E.C.T. model of seven behaviors that leaders can display to engage others. Putting the model into action will influence an employee’s internal assessment of the respect they feel directed toward them and their subsequent level of engagement in an organization.


Recognition. Individually recognize crew members for specific achievements they have made to the yacht and program. Recognizing a group for a job well done can actually dismiss the contributions of individuals.

Give recognition publicly so others see praise being given. Public praise lets others know how they should behave.

Empowerment. Leaders must provide followers with the tools, resources, and training to succeed. Empower individual crew members by letting them make decisions and encouraging them to take risks. It is up to the leader to make sure they will succeed.

Supportive feedback. Leaders should provide followers with timely, specific feedback in a supportive, sincere and constructive manner. With feedback, we want to reinforce and improve behavior, never to embarrass or punish it. Providing supportive feedback lets your crew know that you care about their performance and success.

Partnering. Treat the crew under you as partners in your efforts and encourage their participation in decision making. When you do, they become truly invested in the program and their jobs.

Expectations. Leaders must ensure that all goals, objectives, and priorities are clearly laid out and communicated. That’s the only way crew will know how their performance is evaluated. Studies show that the most common reason employees fail to meet expectations is because they were never made clear in the first place.

Consideration. Leadership guru John Maxwell said, “No one cares what you know until they know how much you care.” Treating employees with consideration impacts their feeling of being respected and their subsequent engagement in numerous ways. Supervisors who demonstrate high levels of consideration build loyalty, which reduces turnover.

Trust. Leaders must demonstrate confidence in their crew’s skills. Followers must trust that their supervisor will do right by them. Leaders must be the first to extend trust in order to grow trust. One way to so that is to keep their promises and commitments.

Remember, R.E.S.P.E.C.T. is one way a leader can behave to change the culture onboard from the top down.


Paul Ferdais is founder and owner of The Marine Leadership Group based in Ft. Lauderdale and Vancouver ( He has a master’s degree in leadership and spent seven years working as a deckhand, mate and first officer on yachts. Comments are welcome at