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  • Finding the right balance

    24/11/2014 | Cape Town

    In this 'Schouten Blog' Anje-Marijcke van Boxtel (director coaching Schouten Global and coach of Team Brunel) writes, among other things, about her experiences in the talent-selection process, the training sessions on Lanzarote, her presence in the ports of the stop-overs of the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-2015.

    Recap of Leg 1.jpgIn the debrief of leg 1 we focused on ways of further improvement. The crew has to deal with finding the right balance between preserving their great energy and connectedness, and daring to address issues that bother them. And the balance between racing at peak performance and sustainable development to preserve the continuity of the team.

    After my long individual talks with every crew member, bit by bit all the jigsaw pieces fell in place. That gave me a clear picture of what happened on board; what went well and where was room for improvement.

    Warm blanket risk
    The great plus is the crew members really feel connected, have fun together – even organize team activities in their spare time - and the energy is great. By no doubt crucial qualities of high performing teams. But this also includes the risk of ‘the warm blanket’. If, for the sake of preserving the good atmosphere, people avoid confronting each other and don’t address difficult issues, this affects the performance. You run the risk of sailing less aggressive. At all times the team has to stay focused on improving themselves and each other to get the results they want, to keep on battling and stay competitive. So we discussed the functionality of dealing with friction again. In any team it’s important to dare say unpopulair things. Because being too nice to each other slows you down and you definitely don’t want that in a racing team. Besides, if you start avoiding to speak your mind, conflicts lie in wait because small frustrations will start to fester.  

    Collaboration, communication and leadership are all important; feeling good as a team includes speaking up and talk to one other, also about performance issues! You have to take the performance into account, because  in the end  it comes down to the results. 

    Optimize the watch system
    We also improved the watch system. The guys take shifts of four hours and every two hours the composition of the team changes to preserve the continuity on board and transfer information. Based on the individual stories and performance data we composed a more optimal watch system. Our goal: allowing everybody to deliver peak performance by making sure there’s always a strong crew on deck. In such a way that we make optimal use of everybody’s strengths and form the most effective combinations. Therefore we looked at who performs best at what, under which circumstances and with whom. Translated to business teams; looking at what allows people to deliver peak performances often could use more attention.  

    Ambiguity
    At the same time we had to deal with the ambiguity that you want to put everybody in their power,  but for the sustainability of the team it’s also important everyone is competent at every skill to a certain degree. And the guys are eager to learn. You must to be able to replace someone if necessary. Besides, every specialists can have a bad moment. It’s great to hear that some had the guts to say: ‘I can’t do it good enough right now, could you take over?’ So sustainable development stays important, but at the bottom line, racing always precedes.

    _DSC3145.jpg3 reasons why speaking up is important: 
    1) If people are inclined to sweep an irritating issue under the carpet or take it on the chin, the matter will start to fester, which could create a phantom harmony based on a fear of conflict.

    2) Avoiding conflict can easily lead to 'group think': no one contradicts or questions assumptions, indirect communication increases, you are no longer open to alternative ideas and strategic opportunities are missed. This is regrettable for a team that needs creative and innovative ideas in order to win.

    3) Not addressing or recognising frustrations can also lead to apathy and disengagement. Team members start to withdraw and the enthusiasm and commitment starts to wane. People started moaning.

    The solution
    Talk about how you are going to deal with friction in the team. Make agreements on how you will communicate with one another when it becomes difficult and which behaviour is not acceptable. Look at your collective values and ambitions and decide which choices you can make to deal with animosity differently. Choices that will bring your team closer to its dream. As a leader be a role model in giving feedback and addressing difficult issues. A solid team that trusts one another can really take a beating. In fact, by discussing things openly, trust, your mutual connectedness and your appreciation for diversity will actually grow.

    Nothing from this blog may be reproduced without written permission from Anje-Marijcke van Boxtel of Schouten Global.

    Update Team Brunel, November 24, 2014 
    by Anje-Marijcke van Boxtel, Director Coaching - Schouten Global
    Coach - Team Brunel in the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15

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