Crew Coach: Watch for role models; they show up anytime

Feb 11, 2018 by Rob Gannon

Crew Coach: by Capt. Rob Gannon

Are you a role model? How about a mentor? Or let’s phrase it another way, a positive example? All three of these terms, although they could be defined a little differently, share one principle: being positive, and all good role models use it as their guide. To all the role models, mentors and positive examples out there, we need you.

Think about it. In your own life, was there a role model you clearly remember? Is there one now? Maybe a mentor could be of great benefit right about now because perhaps we don’t feel like we’ve had one. To be clear, this isn’t just aimed at the younger reader.

Role models, mentors and positive examples can show up at any time in our lives. Our task is to stay open, observant and aware so we do not miss the positive example that may pass through our lives. I believe in the old saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” A big part of being ready is being in an open state of observation.

I recall clearly when I was just getting started in the captain world more than 30 years ago, observing and taking note of the captains I thought were doing things the right way. They didn’t just do things; they had a way of being, of carrying themselves. I wanted to take the positives I saw in them and incorporate those traits into my routines and style. I believe it was invaluable to my development.

I learned along the way that it wasn’t about being popular as a captain and leader; rather, I discovered I could be respected – and yes, liked – by handling things the right way. Treating the people I worked with respectfully went a long way. I learned a captain can run a tight ship, but if there is respect, clear agreements and understandings, and some fun, crew wanted to stay around and were happy to work with the program.

As years went by, I started to notice that some of the young and eager crew I was taking on were watching me. I recognized that things kind of went full circle, and I was determined to be a positive example.

Part of our observation of leaders and co-workers along the way also involves recognizing how not to be. We may encounter the opposite of a role model: a negative example.

We know them when we come across them, and we must beware – they can be infectious. If our immunity toward their negative ways is not strong, we can succumb and start spinning in the wrong direction. The negative wave on board or in the workplace can start building. If left unchecked, it can turn into a rogue wave that can rock the ship. So watch out for the negative Nancys or Nelsons, and keep your power; never give it to them.

I can also say from personal experience that I have definitely observed positive examples in the younger and less experienced crew I’ve hired or been exposed to. Again, this isn’t all about the older showing the younger. Sometimes if we are honest with ourselves, an old salt can see the positive nature and disciplined routines of the young, much less experienced newbie and respect it  – and yes, even think some of their habits could be incorporated into our lives.

Let’s face it, if we do something long enough and attain a high level of competency, we can get a little flat, lose our edge a little. Sometimes an honest assessment is needed, and maybe our habits need to be tightened up a bit. It’s all good – that’s what a role model does.

The role models, mentors and positive examples are out there, so keep the eyes and ears open. They may show up in the obvious people and places, or in surprising and unexpected ones we could easily miss. If you get a chance to mentor, please do. And when you find a role model, take those mental notes, for they will serve you well.
Enjoy the voyage.

Capt. Rob Gannon is a 30-year licensed captain and certified life and wellness coach ( Comments are welcome below.