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  • Learning means communicating

    01/04/2015 | Auckland

    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.

    It was a troubled week right before the start of the ‘Kings leg’ towards Itajai, the toughest leg of all. Departure was delayed because of a looming cyclone, Laurent Pages suddenly had to resign because of a couple of broken ribs, they had to strain every nerveto find a professional within 12 hours, the welcoming of their new crewmember Dirk de Ridder, alias ‘Cheese’ and the eagerness to really score well this time. It was pretty challenging: absolutely a test case when it comes to agility and will-power of the team.There have never been as much meetings as in this stop-over.

    New crew member_DSC4357.jpg
    The Frisian Dirk is a hardcore professional. He sailed the Volvo Ocean Race before and worked with Bouwe and Capey. The same thing happened as it often does when a very experienced person starts out new at a company. An introduction about the processes and procedures; about the boat, this works like this, this is our work schedule/scheme, this is how we communicate within the team and this is how we see your role in that – none of the above. Just get started. Dirk doesn’t seem to mind. He just goes with the flow, gets started out of his own wisdom and isn’t afraid to speak up. Cheese is… different: very straightforward, very no nonsense. The nice thing is that he introduces new qualities by doing so. For one thing, he’s very transparent and clearwith his straightforwardness. But this balanced team that is so well attuned to each other and speaks up to each other very subtle by the use of humor, has to get used to that.

    A closer look at collaboration
    I’m sailing with them at the In-Port race. A couple of crewmembers asked for that at Sanya, in order to take a closer look at collaboration and communication. Isn’t that brilliant? A perfect opportunity to experience the communication of the new compilation on board up close. It certainly gives enough stuff to talk about at the debriefing. How do you react when someone works different from what you’re used to? When he takes over your work out of enthusiasm? Someone who goes right at it and yells all kinds of things within a team that is used to working together in near silence? Someone who interferes with tactics wholeheartedly? And how does the skipper react to that? It’s important to appoint these processes immediately. If you don’t, it will start to nag. You risk that the newcomer will getseparated from the team or starts to predominate and thereby invalidates the rest of the team. You want to prevent both from happening. Compliments for Bouwe who actually discusses this right away at the first team meeting with Dirk directly arriving from the plain, he points out the ‘bluntness’ of the Dutch guy. Cheese immediately opens up his ‘personal instruction manual’: “Confront me straight away if you disagree with me. Just say it. I know I blur out everything, give it back to me. Straightforward.’ It shows on all the men’s faces: big challenge!

    Keep on talkingimage3 (2).JPG
    There hasn’t been as much talking and sharing as during this stop-over. Reflection on ending up fifth again, finding and welcoming a new crew member, severe weather, trimming, the next leg and the smaller Practice and In-Port races that they want to sail really well. Their bleeding hearts over their fifth place at the former leg created urgency: it has to go better this time. ‘Explore’ new ideas and perspectives - also the ones that come from outsiders like the meteorologist and the trimming-expert - to find new solutions. To share and creatively use information and knowledge, is what I preach all the time. Knowing what the strategy and tactics are, in the context of the weather forecasts - even when these are not clear. Making sure that the guys on deck sail together with the guy(s) that push(es) the buttons down below. Being alert, eager and making use of all qualities: that’s how you increase mutual knowledge and skills, that’s how you create a learning team.* On the other hand, most leaders will recognize the tendency to ‘take charge’, instruct people and keep information to themself, especially when situations become tense. Before you know it, your men will feel like puppets on a string, do as they are told, qualities remain untapped and growth will stagnate. Keep on getting better requires focus at learning – during setbacks and success. As soon as you focus on winning exclusively, you won’t get ahead.

    For more information about Managing interaction, Managing Teams, Collaboration skills and Communication skills, click here.

    *Effective behavior by learning teams
    A learning team learns from setbacks as well as success. It comes down to communication every time: sharing information and addressing qualities in order to keep on growing continuously. In the heat of the moment it usually isn’t possible to deliberate, of course, but during preparation and debriefings it’s always good to look at issues to improve together, where everyone brings out his (own) perspective. That way, you will create a learning team that can manage itself very well in our complex and ever changing VUCA-world.

    Learning from setbacks

    • Inspire based on vision
    • Have a clear goal in mind
    • Know what your values are
    • Recognize and acknowledge individual and team talents
    • Share information and work together to optimize knowledge and processes
    • Be open the opinion of others
    • Stimulate new behavior
    • Focus on mutual learning continuously
    • Be confident and have confidence in the system

    Non-effective behavior at setbacks

    When things are getting tough, people tend to show non-effective behavioral styles. They:

    • freeze and lean back
    • keep information to themselves
    • aren’t open to different opinions
    • blame others
    • start to control and dominate

    Learning from success
    When everything is going just fine, people tend to lean back and relax, but right then you have the chance to grow:

    • Share information:
      o   What went really well? What caused it?
      o   What is learned, which new knowledge and skills are gathered?
    • Reflect on how you can utilize, strengthen and consolidate what you have learned (virtually step on it to reach for the next level).
      o   Where and how do you adjust targets?
      o   Which improvements/switches do you enroll in the process or method?

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

    Update Team Brunel, April 1, 2015 
    by Anje-Marijcke van Boxtel, Director Coaching - Schouten Global
    Coach - Team Brunel in the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15

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