Ask the Crew Coach - our leadership Q&A column
The Crew Coach gives some excellent advice on how to communicate expectations to enhance leadership skills.
I’m starting to build my team for the coming season and this year I really want to give my crew clear instructions about what is expected of them, so there can be no confusion about this and everyone is absolutely sure of their objectives and responsibilities. I have been trying to do this in the past but it doesn’t always work, so I’m wondering if you have any ideas for what I could do differently.
The Crew Coach:
This is a great question because communicating expectations is fundamental to good leadership. If crew don’t know what’s expected of them, how will they know if they are performing well or not? The thing to keep in mind when you are doing this is that communicating expectations is really about setting goal posts so everyone knows what they need to do and what they’re working towards.
Before you start setting goals for individuals, departments and the yacht as a whole there are a few important things to remember. Studies show that people are pre-disposed to rise to expectations. Goals set too low won’t get people to move out of their comfort zone and learn, and you could inadvertently be holding people back by doing this. Conversely, goals set too high can overwhelm people and create stress that impedes their productivity. In order to gain optimum performance, targets should be set in a person’s stretch zone, encouraging them to learn and grow. This is both motivating and effective, and in order to do this consider what they are currently capable of and then set the bar just a little higher.
It’s also important to retain a degree of flexibility about your expectations, as when circumstances change, expectations need to be adjusted accordingly. For example: If guest arrival dates have been brought forward from a week to a day away, it’s unrealistic to still expect the same level of detailed work to get done in just 24 hours. As a leader you need to help your heads of department evaluate what the most important tasks are and allow them to then delegate accordingly. If you communicate your expectations clearly and fairly you’ll help your crew avoid going into an unproductive panic mode and get much more done in a shorter time frame.
Finally when you set goals, use the acronym SMART. ‘S’ stands for ‘Specific’ and this applies to the actual description of what is expected. Detail is important as it clears up any grey areas, and the more specific a goal is the easier it is to visualise what you are trying to make a reality. For example, “I want everything currently in the laundry room to be washed, dried, folded, and ironed where necessary.”
‘M’ stands for ‘Measurable’, which helps to make the goal more specific. Ask yourself what the measurement criteria are that you would use to evaluate whether or not the goal has been achieved – and these will be the benchmarks that you need to use when actually setting the goal itself. For example ‘Do the laundry’ is a lot more fuzzy than ‘I want everything currently in the laundry room to be washed, dried, folded, ironed where necessary and back in the places it belongs.’
Next we have ‘A’ for ‘Achievable’ which means that it should be in the stretch zone rather than the comfort or panic zone either side. An achievable goal is one where the crew member thinks “Yes I can do that, even if it’s a bit of a stretch.”
Achievable is backed up by ‘R’ for Realistic. If a goal isn’t realistic it won’t really stick and people won’t be motivated to try and achieve it. Psychological tests show that people stop trying to solve a puzzle much earlier if they believe it is impossible, so it’s important that you check this with the individual rather than assuming they will have the same opinion about this as you. When goals are agreed as realistic, people will take ownership of them and make it their personal mission to achieve them.
Lastly, ‘T’ is for ‘Time bound’, which is another way of saying there must be a clear deadline, ie “I want everything currently in the laundry room to be washed, dried, folded, ironed where necessary and back in the places it belongs by the end of today.”
Adjusting or changing the S, M and T variables can alter the Achievability and Realistic aspects of the goal – so you need to experiment with these to come up with a goal that perfectly hits the stretch zone. For example, changing the deadline from “the end of today” to “in one hour” could catapult someone into the panic zone, or changing the specifics such as “I want it ALL ironed” or “everything currently in the laundry and all the additional crew laundry that hasn’t been collected yet”.
Ideally you want to liaise with your crew on a regular basis to ensure they are all working towards short, medium and long term SMART goals, as doing this will significantly increase productivity and improve communication all-round.
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