“What is the magic formula” for creating an excellent team? As I was laying awake one night wondering how to create the best teams, ACT popped into my head in near finished form. The importance of teamwork to sailing, and indeed most organisations, can not be overstated! Three simple ideas create teams that can do great things.

Attitude, Communication, Teamwork

Since that fateful night, this poster has been fixed to the bulkhead of boats I am captaining, and to the walls of conference rooms where I am leading. What does it mean? In it’s simplest form, it means that if we get these three things right, the work will (almost) do itself.

In any complex and collaborative project, it is so easy to focus on the skills. When someone asks me where sailing skills sits on my list of requirements for Co Leaders at Sailboat Coaching International, it is an easy answer. Skills are forth. Skills are complex, and take time to teach. Compared to Attitude, Communication, and Teamwork though; skills are the easy part.

If someone is an Olympic level sailor, and a world class coach, will they be welcome on our team? That depends, if they are also strong in priorities 1, 2 and 3, absolutely!

The same holds true of something like making a movie. You have a team of ~200 people who are all working to create the same vision, which keeps changing and adapting personal competence very quickly becomes a really small part of how WE come together to create the science which will render the art. But don’t you want the best specialists? Sort of. You want the best specialists you can work with.

What does Attitude, Communication, and Teamwork actually look like??

ATTITUDE: When you sail long enough, and far enough, something will eventually go wrong. One day someone made a mistake, and emptied the holding tank overboard… into our dingy. (The holding tank is the boat’s is where all of our sewer waste is stored until we get to a place where it can be emptied responsibly.)

SHHhit! Everywhere! Did they blame, delay, or complain? Nope. They immediately assumed responsibility, and said, “It’s my mess, I’ll clean it up.” It would be hard to find a clearer example of the right attitude than this. It not about never making a mistake, it is about taking responsibility, and ensuring that your mistakes don’t become everyone else’s problem. There is always SOMETHING to complain about, but unless there is a solution, complaining just wastes your, and everyone else’s energy. Attitude is about more than positivity, although that is part of it. It is about taking responsibility for your actions, your words, and your IMPACT!

COMMUNICATION: The first thing you can do to earn my trust on a boat, is be willing to ask when you don’t know. There are some people, and it is surprising how often they are business owners, who will come back to me and say some version of “Here is the obstacle I encountered in learning how to do the thing that you asked me for, and this is how I handled it.” This is really asking 2.0.

Communication has many components. Brene Brown says that clear communication is kind communication. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and don’t use “I was just being honest” as your excuse to be mean.

Clear is Kind. Brene Brown

TEAMWORK: There are many times when I could literally sail the boat single handed. Getting everyone involved, and doing it together makes it more fun though! And sometimes the jobs are really simple. I’m just going to hold this, and pass it to you when you need it. Just like on land, two people can cook a meal, and two different people can volunteer to do the dishes and clean up.

Oh, AND, ACT spells act. Whether the thing you are trying to do, whether it is building a building, creating a movie, or racing a sailboat, the act of doing is made up of Attitude, Communication, and Teamwork. In many ways ACT…ion is a stronger word. Will there be an I O N added to this system? Stay tuned!

Does Attitude, Communication and teamwork mean you’ll never have to work again? Probably not, but give it a try, and let me know how much easier and more fun your work is!

*My research has shown this idea not to to have been borrowed from any known sources. If in fact Brene Brown or Shawn Achor said it first, I would love to know where!