“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.
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!
How does the end of the industrial economy effect life purpose? Just like Industrialism brought massive increase in employment diversity over the agricultural economy, so has Post Industrialist economy exponentially increased our vocational options!
Perhaps it is early to start speculating about what the time we now live in IS, but we are starting to see what it is NOT.
The time for complaining about the “good manufacturing jobs” being shipped overseas has past us by. Those jobs won’t exist for much longer anyway. Before we know it, most of us will be in careers that haven’t been invented yet. This revolution of vocation has happened before, and each time it happens both sooner and faster.
Very long ago, humanity made the shift from a hunter gatherer economy to an agricultural one. We still have hunters and gatherers among us, and I were to hazard a guess, I would say they make up between 0 and 2% of our labours.
By the time of my Grandparents, 60% of North Americans made their living farming. Any guesses what that number is now? 2%. At least twice in history (that we know of) we have set 98% of people free to pursue vocations that did not previously exist. And it is happening again. People who are alive today, will live to see 98% of all humans working in ways that had not yet been imagined when they were born.
So what does all of this mean? It means that vocation has changed. What we look for in vocation also needs to change. We have been sold a bill of goods. Let’s call this the industrial package. You finish school, you go to work, you retire. And I’ll tell you, if my job were to work 92000 hours on some assembly line somewhere, I’d be excited to retire too!
All of this is coming to end, and when it started coming to end was by best guess 1974. It is hard to say exactly, since I wasn’t alive during the industrial era, but all my research points to the mid 70s as the tipping point.
So why are we still giving out advice that revolves around a bill of goods that is evaporating underneath us? Whether we call it the information age, the gig economy, or post industrialism, we are now more likely to create our own “job” than to find one. Our imaginations for what life could look like can also change in ways we have not yet imagined.
So open your imagination, if you retired from your industrialist job today, how would you spend your time? What matters to you? What space would you love to create and occupy? What is your purpose has gone from multiple choice to long answer creative. What purpose do you imagine for your life?
How many REALLY good life coaches can you name? What sets them apart from the thousands of other coaches out there? What do you love about your coach?
A friend of mine is fond of saying, “In Vancouver, you could throw a rock in any direction and hit a coach.” Please do not try this at home. The point is, with coaches seemingly everywhere these days, how do you distinguish between the good and the bad? More importantly, with so many options available, how do you determine the best fit for YOU?
Does your coach have relevant training? There are coaching “Schools” which are handing out “Certifications” to anyone with a mere weekends worth of training. The flood of under qualified people into the industry is not doing anything to help the credibility of the field. The top institutions offer programs that a year or more in length, and some of them are backed by major universities.
Is your coach credentialed by the International Coach Federation, or other recognized body? If they are, it means they have documented their hours, have undergone live coaching exams in front of a panel, and are bound by a code of conduct.
What relevant life experience does your coach have? I mean, no one is saying that there isn’t at least one coach out there who is 20 years old and whose first job is coaching. For my money though, I’d rather bet on someone who has had time to have more than one job, start another business, and has tasted failure at least once.
How have they helped other clients? Were you referred by someone who has been a client? How were they helped?
Are you looking for a coach or a consultant? It happens so often that someone is looking for a “coach” with a very specific set of experience in their vertical. You know, someone who can help me integrate my custom software systems… Rule of thumb, if you are looking for someone who has more specialized knowledge in YOUR own field than you do, that is a consultant. Consultants tell. Coaches ask.
Is your coach offering an experience that is unique to YOU? So many coaches offer the same brand of over-the-phone sessions. Now I am not saying that this industrial style can’t be helpful on some occasions, but as the industrial age draws to a close, less clients are looking for an experience that is efficient and easy, and more are looking for an experience that is effective and personal!
What is the difference between planning and preparation? Planning is rule based, preparation is principle based. The easiest place for me to apply this is this is as a sailor. Above you will see a rough itinerary for our recent trip to Greece. Everything at sea is subject to wind, and if there are three parts to setting ourselves up for success:
Just an Idea
Success Secret 1) Is having realistic expectations. The boat can only travel so far in a day, and how far that is depends as much on the wind as it does on our ability to make use of the wind.
Success Secret 2 Is proper planning. If you take a train in Switzerland, all you need is planning. Do you know someone who is always late because “traffic” How many times do you have to encounter traffic before it ceased to be unforseeable, and becomes something you prepare for by leaving yourself a few extra minutes? The other part is the preparation and setting ourselves up for success. We have multiple harbors which could end up being our final destination for the night. We have done our homework. We know what we would like to accomplish, the likely hood of that happening, and how to pull it off.
Success Secret 3 Is proper preparation. In sailing it is important to delineate between planning and preparation. A plan is, we think we will be in port at Ithaka on Wednesday around 1800. Preparation is the having enough food and water that we will be comfortable if we have to anchor somewhere less civilized. Perhaps a storm blows in, and we can shelter it out in a quiet cove, because we were prepared. It is the decades of collective sailing experience we have which will keep up us from getting in trouble with weather, or rocks. It is understanding what can go wrong, and knowing what you can do to prevent it.
In writing, as with many creative pursuits, I am convinced that MORE is MORE. What I am not saying is that more writing always equals better writing. What I am saying is that more writing makes a better writer.
When I was taking classes in grad school, the professor told a story that forever changed how I value the creative process. An pottery teacher split her class down the middle, and graded one half on the quality of their best work for the year. The other half was to be graded based on the …this part is a little hard to believe but stay with me… the weight of what they created. What shocked me about this experiment, and what still rankles my inner perfectionist today, is that MOST of the best work was on what I’ll confess I think of as the sloppy side. The students concerned with volume, were free to experiment, to learn, and to play.
It was disconcerting for me to learn that artistic creativity was not a place where the old expression “LESS is MORE” applies. Old habits die hard, and I am still working to waste less and less of my energy taking refuge in the perfectionist idea that I’ll share it when I am “finished” writing it. Or that I will begin writing when I am “finished” thinking it through.
In her book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott writes:
Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head
This too, is part of my lesson to learn while moving, rather than sitting and waiting for the answers to come. And if I share along the way, I open myself up to all kinds to readers messaging with unique contributions, insightful questions, and helpful suggestions.
Even as I am writing this, I am battling against the idea that I can post this without first learning the name of the pottery teacher. But I have reached out to Loren Wilkninson, who first told me the story, and perhaps HE will remember.
My challenge to myself and to you for this year, is to write everyday, or at least everyday that you can. I am not expecting that all of my work will be award winning, but I am hoping to write more quality on volume than on perfectionism. Let’s find out!