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  • Dealing with change

    26/05/2015 | Newport

    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.

    The stopover in Newport U.S.A. was again eventful, testing the flexibility of team Brunel. That victory was out of sight was now inescapable. Two changes were made to the team and responsibilities were reallocated. Now everything depends on resilience and the drive to compete.  The team must  deal with each new situation as it presents itself. This calls for a mindset to meet the challenges brought by change - a mindset of constantly searching for new opportunities.

    Team Brunel can look back on a well-sailed 6th leg - in which they often held the lead. But there were also setbacks - the most dramatic being the shark that speared itself on a rudder, causing them to fall back by 9 miles -  and only make 3rd place. The team responded with professional sportsmanship. 'It's just good to be on the podium', was their response to the media. But it didn't come from the heart. Something had changed. This placing seemed to have finally driven home the realization that winning the Volvo Ocean Race was now something that lay outside their control. Team Brunel could now only win if the current race leader ran into a problem. This was apparent in the words of their skipper, briefing the team before leaving Itajaí: 'Let's be realistic: we are now going for second place, all the boats are  possibly in  second place now.' To which one of the crewmembers reacted: 'Not me. I'm going for 1st.' There was almost no reaction from the others, at the time. And now the notion seemed to take root, with noticeable effect. You can feel it, it's present when they come together. They are quieter, more withdrawn.
    Again, we're talking about small differences,  measured in terms of a few minutes. After 22 days of ocean racing these boats finished closer than if they had sailed a local North Sea race.  
    However, 'It is what it is'. And seeing them move from disappointment to acceptance was an experience. The following days overflowed with discussion of the many issues and included intensive, three-man meetings. The conversations became more searching. Limitations were being explored,  and pushed back. Now that the end of the race is in sight the interplay between team members is, indeed, intensifying - something I had not earlier expected. And so the new vision emerges - a place on the winners' podium in Gothenburg.   

    A new teamDSC00959.jpg
    This constant adaptation to changing situations is necessary in our dynamic world. Because it does rapidly change. As does the composition of a team. For Javi de la Plaza it's hugs all round, combined with some more than enthusiastic shoulder-slapping. His welcome contribution to the team on the past leg will now be provided by Adam Minoprio, 29, who has just arrived in Newport. Only a third of the stopover time now remains. Now it's time to regenerate energy, relocate the reserves of resilience and confidence - and focus on the next leg. On racing together. On going all out, again.
    Then the next setback arises. The leading bowman, Gerd-Jan Poortman, can’t sail. He has an inflamed elbow. He won’t sail in leg 7. And Timo Hagoort will replace him.
    The next day there was an on-board briefing. Looking around I notice that half of team Brunel now consists of under 30s (Louis, Rokas, Adam and Timo).

    A different perspective
    Gerd-Jan's absence has suddenly pushed Rokas, the 2nd bowman, into a far more senior position. It feels like a big increase in responsibility.The skippers advice is brief: 'Don't worry. You can do it.' And also Gerd-Jan is totally confident: 'You've got enough training and experience to handle the position.' For Rokas it means a lot. We first talk about the obstacles. I am there to keep the conversation flowing. Pablo, the watchleader is there  to deal with any obstructions to peak performance. As expected, the conversation deepens. We cover which of his on-board functions now have to give way to this new responsibility. And then the drift of the conversation suddenly changes. Now it's all about what stands before him, about how to organize his work. Suddenly he's taking ownership of the role. He talks about his new information needs. How he will prepare himself. Being first bowman requires a different perspective. This includes mentally constructing the scenarios that may arise, in advance of the action. It means having plans ready for what happens at the start, when rounding a buoy - what gear must lie ready for use, where, and on what side of the boat.
    The change reflects in his expression, his energy, his attitude - he is growing his mental agility, to be able to switch instantly from dealing with a problem to all out delivery of peak performance, from being reactive to being proactive, in an instant. A couple of hours later I see him walking by. Tall, alert, confident. At the In-Port Race briefing he’s active and his questions are focused. We have a new leading bowman!

    A whole new game_DSC5064.jpg
    And so the constant flow of change and adjustment continues - and they handle it, every time, at every setback, at every change. Dealing with the situation as it presents itself, in the moment. First the practical arrangements - visas, clothing, changing the watch roster. And then, also, the importance of standing back for a moment, of considering, of not blindly rushing forward: Where do we stand? What does this mean for everyone, for the functioning of the group? What are the obstacles - what new opportunities do they create? And how do we again approach this as a provocative challenge? Four crew are under 30 - and two are relatively new to the boat. Where's the spark, the opportunity to fan these embers into a blaze of enthusiasm? We could be despondent. It's easy. We are faced by an enormous challenge. In the boat, after the briefing, I suddenly realize how this can also be an enormous boost: 'It's a whole new ballgame', I conclude. Of course Bouwe always has the last word. He grins broadly: 'It's also just more of the same old game.' 

    Click here for more information on Managing interaction, Managing teams and Managing change.

    Click here to see the article the 'Frankfurther Algemeine' wrote about Anje-Marijcke.

    Tips: Change requires resilience and optimism

    -          Be realistic. Tell it how it is. What resources can you bring to the fight?
    -          When faced with a setback:
    o   First organize/arrange the practical necessities.
    o   Then, don't rush forward, don't follow your fixed pattern. Create a moment of introspection. Pause. Examine where you now stand and what this means in terms of organization, process and emotions.
    -          See the glass as half full. Which opportunities does change bring? How can you translate them into new advantages? This generates a different form of energy than merely aiming at damage control.


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

    Update Team Brunel, May 26, 2015 
    by Anje-Marijcke van Boxtel, Director Coaching - Schouten Global
    Coach - Team Brunel in the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15

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