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  • A sudden crew switch: how to deal with that?

    24/03/2015 | Zaltbommel

    Just imagine, one of the crew members suddenly has to quit. Foto Beide V2.png
    In a split second you (temporarily) cannot count on your colleague anymore. It happened to Team Brunel at the Volvo Ocean Race. In this sail race around the world there isn’t any time to search for a substitute and calmly prepare him for the job. Even worse, Team Brunel had to get an experienced ocean sailor on board within 48 hours. In Auckland, New-Zealand, on the other side of the globe. Very well experienced, but not orientated within the team. Imagine something like that would happen at work. Is it possible to prepare someone to fit the team within two days? That’s a challenge, especially when you have to work very closely 24/7 at a very small workspace, like a sail team does.

    At a daily work practice it will not be as extreme as it is during the Volvo Ocean Race, where they have to carry on because the next leg doesn’t wait. However, as a manager and a team you can learn from that. In a regular working environment you may need to deal with unforeseen drop out or change of staff. In that case it’s important for you and the team to make sure that a switch within the team doesn’t cause problems. The biggest risk is to carry on without paying attention to emotions. It takes more than just one conversation. You have to take time to recover, so the team will be able to carry on fresh and renewed. At the same time a leader has to set clear goals for the team. It’s alright to float for a while, but don’t delight in sorrow, fear or uncertainty because of a change. As a leader, you have to find balance. By expressing emotions and setting goals, you will also notice whether everyone is ready or not.

    A new team member also means that a new team is formed. It’s not right to say that someone will be added. The lines between the team members have to be submitted. In order to prevent a cultural shock, the team has to prepare itself. Who is this new colleague? As soon as the new colleague arrives, the team has to gather. As a team, you have to be open and vulnerable, be clear about expectations and ‘precepts’. Talk about things that you expect to cause trouble or conflict, so it is dealt with even before it actually happens. That way, you can confront each other when it does happen. Finally, the team has to inform the new colleague about the goals that have been set. Ask yourself: “Are we willing to really say yes to our goals? Or do we need to set new goals?” Only when everyone can say yes to the ambitions and goals, you can carry on as a renewed team. It still is Team Brunel’s goal to win the race. The next few weeks at the Volvo Ocean Race we will find out how this team’s switch will turn out.

    Marjo Louwers is senior consultant at Schouten Global/ advisor talent development Dutch Team Volvo Ocean Race 2014/2015.
    Marie-Jose Cremers is senior trainer and coach at Schouten & Nelissen.

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