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  • Dealing with shocking events

    14/01/2015 | Abu Dhabi

    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.

    Following on from the start of the third leg, I’m together with Wouter Verbraak - navigator of the unfortunate Danish team Vestas Wind - talking to Umberto Tan at the radio broadcast of BNR Sport Affairs. Of course Umberto asks about Vestas’ ‘cliff accident’ during the second leg: How would you deal with that as a coach if this would have happened to Team Brunel?

    Vestas 1.JPG

    Understanding, attention and recognition
    The self-healing ability after a shocking experience is for most people larger than you might think. I would particularly let them talk, as much as they want to. It’s important to express yourself. Avoiding the whole subject or wipe it under the carpet is about the worst thing you can do. So Vestas and Wouter made a wise decision. Nothing is being hidden and just talked about.

    Listening, understanding, attention and adjudging everyone’s coping process is crucial at a moment like that. And making sure that everyone knows that intense emotions are normal reactions to an abnormal event. In that regard shocking events are very often repeatedly relived in thoughts or dreams, people are much more vigilant, scared and feel terribly tired. Logical, because huge emotions ask for loads of energy, but they are part of the coping process.

    Weird
    In the meantime I would keep an eye on how the processing develops. If you start to think ‘hey, this is really weird’, this usually is an indication that there is more to it. Partying exuberant all of a sudden, drinking or throwing yourself at other things just to not having to think about it, are for instance - especially when they become a pattern – important signals to do more as a coach. Or, when emotions are still as intense as they were after a couple of weeks. Sometimes people start to avoid having social contact – that’s not right either. Especially after a shocking event staying in contact is important, same as trying to continue your daily rhythm and making sure that you get enough rest and relaxation. For that reason I would most certainly talk to the families and social environment to offer them grip in what they can do to support the coping process and what will backfire.

    BNR AnjeMarijcke.JPG

    Is it allowed to make mistakes?
    Apart from the individual processes, a disastrous event like the one that happened to team Vestas Wind also pulls strings on the culture of ‘it’s allowed to make mistakes’. Within the sailing teams, with the sponsors, but also with everyone that is somehow related to the race, like spectators and the press. Does that always count or are there some boundaries to this? What do you do when a mistake is made that ruins the dream of the entire team? Is it still allowed then or do, all of a sudden, other rules set in? Is your good reputation as a navigator down the drain whenever you make a mistake like this? How does that work in other teams, in businesses and organizations? Does a leader, like a skipper, always have the final call and what does that mean? We know that, whenever you start managing to prevent any mistakes, you will not survive in a VUCA- world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous). Because then you will never take any risks, but you’re constantly controlling instead of creating. Controlling and handing over responsibility is a recognizable dilemma for every leader, whether you’re a starter or very experienced.

    Bouwe has a clear and basic view on this issue. “Everyone fears for the life of a Formula 1 driver, who makes a mistake and finds his racecar total loss at the guardrail. If he turns out to be okay, a brand new car will appear at the start of the next race. Now everyone is all over the navigator.” For the sake of our profession I think it would be great if Wouter would get back on board of the Vestas. Besides from whether this is possible, whether there is enough confidence. Because very few people expect that to happen. It will challenge  the discussion about learning, growth and performance.

    Links
    - Read more about: managing yourself, personal effectiveness, time management and managing teams 
    - Did you miss the radio interview of Anje-Marijcke van Boxtel and Umberto Tan (Dutch Radio)? Click here.
    - Check our new clip about "Creating High Performance Teams"

     

                      Tips: How do you help people to deal with a shocking event? 

    Do’s
    - Stimulate the other to express himself. Listen, acknowledge, pay attention and recognize his
       emotions. Intense emotions are a normal reaction to abnormal events;
    - Give someone time and space to cope with it in his own way. Continue to offer a listening ear,
       even if someone has told the same story for ten times. For one person a couple of weeks will be
       enough, while someone else will, even after a year, still need to talk about it. It slows down
       development if no one is open to that;
    - Ask questions in order to map the events. Organizing the events that have occurred will bring peace
       to mind. For example the fact that Volvo  interviewed all the crew members can give clarity should 
       work really well on the coping process of the guys and adds to  a learning organization.

    Don’ts
    - Downplaying events or emotions;
    - Making bad jokes;
    - Pulling the issue towards yourself
       (Oh yes, I’ve had an experience like that);
    - Avoiding the subject because you yourself
       have a hard time with it;
    - Start a debate about who is guilty.

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

    Update Team Brunel, January 14, 2015 
    by Anje-Marijcke van Boxtel, Director Coaching - Schouten Global
    Coach - Team Brunel in the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15

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