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Ask the Crew Coach - our leadership Q&A column

30th Jun 2014

This month our Crew Coach gives advice on how to keep the atmosphere onboard upbeat and friendly, and discusses tried and tested ways to resolve conflict.

Captain:

We’ve been pretty busy the past few weeks and tempers are beginning to fray onboard. What can I do to prevent disagreements and arguments from blowing up into full-scale conflicts and how can I encourage my crew to be more tolerant of each other?

Crew Coach:

We certainly are entering that point in the season when tiredness can begin to erode the patience and tolerance levels of crew onboard, making people a little more short tempered with each other than they might normally be.

Although this might be a bit unsettling, rest assured that this is a very natural reaction to a heavy workload – and in fact it would be pretty unrealistic to imagine a yacht where conflict absolutely never happened. The important thing is managing people’s attitudes towards it, as conflict can be healthy if viewed from a positive standpoint. As their Captain you set the tone for people’s attitudes towards one another, so if you embrace conflict as a natural occurrence and encourage people to learn from their differences, they will soon begin to follow your lead.

There are three main ways we can gain from conflicts:

The first is through Learning: Can a different approach be created by one or the other party that might work more effectively? Perhaps there is merit in listening to the other person’s perspective and trying a new approach. And what can we learn from this conflict that could create a better future situation? Where could we make changes to prevent this from arising again?

The second way we can gain from conflict is through Connection. In a conflict situation we are usually on opposing sides – but by working through the conflict we can build bridges and gain a deeper connection with the other party than might have existed previously. Can you relate to the views of those who are opposed and try to accommodate those views in how you approach the conflict? Encouraging and respecting other perspectives is very effective for teamwork.

The third way we gain from conflict is through Insight; in other words learning about ourselves. Once embroiled in a conflict we can sometimes become wholly focussed on the other person and not on ourselves, convincing ourselves that they are simply ‘wrong’ and everything would be alright if they would just change they way they are or what they are doing. By turning the spotlight on ourselves we can look at what changes need to be made within us, that are within our control to change. This lessens the tendency to a competitive approach and opens the door to a more collaborative approach to resolving the disagreement.

Keeping these three points in mind and encouraging your crew to see and recognise these will not only help pave the way to more effective conflict resolution, it will also help prevent minor disagreements from escalating into full scale conflicts. Differences of perspective and opinion are part of the rich fabric that makes life interesting and choosing to learn and gain from differences is a far more constructive approach to adopt for teams and individuals who work in such close quarters.

For more information about Camper & Nicholsons International's in-house crew coaching programme and leadership training click here.

by Camper Nicholsons

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