Camper and Nicholsons

Ask The Crew Coach – Our New Leadership Q&A column

4th Feb 2014

This month our Crew Coach talks with a Captain about the art of conducting effective performance reviews.


I’m thinking about doing some performance reviews with my crew and I was wondering what you recommend in order to keep the process positive. The last time I tried to do this with my team it didn’t go very well and it didn’t really have the positive motivational effect I was hoping for. What am I doing wrong?

Crew Coach:

This is an excellent question and holding regular performance reviews is a great way of checking in with each individual onboard to evaluate and optimise the current performance levels within your teams.

I’m not sure if this is what was happening when you tried this last time, but where people sometimes go wrong with performance reviews is that the conversation can become centred around the negatives, or the things the person is not doing very well, rather than focussing on what can be done to actually improve the performance of that individual.

Generally speaking, most people do want to do well in their jobs, and if they are not performing up to scratch there is usually a good reason for this. Focussing on what they are doing wrong doesn’t help the situation and strong criticism is likely to damage the person’s ego, which could leave them feeling unfairly treated and demotivated, rather than encouraged to resolve the issues that were raised.

In a nutshell, I find it helps to keep this formula in mind: Performance equals Potential minus Interference. Put simply, if someone’s performance is not matching up to their potential, there is something getting in the way of this. Your review should be focussed on discovering and removing the interference that is causing this performance shortfall, whether that is internal within the individual (a shortage of skills, knowledge or aptitude) or external (other people, resources or their working environment).

To apply this in practice and keep the review positive and motivational there is a simple process you can follow. First, frame the review with a positive foundation by identifying what the person is doing well and where they are meeting (or even exceeding) the objectives that were set out for them at the time of the last review (or at the time of joining, if this is their first review).

Some questions that can be helpful to ask to establish this positive framework include:

• What’s been great about the last few months?

• What’s worked well?

• What are you pleased with/about?

• What have you achieved/accomplished that at one time seemed difficult or unlikely for you to achieve?

Praise them for their successes and encourage them to feel proud of their achievements.

Next, ask them what’s not working so well for them. If done this way they should now be quite open about the areas they know they are underperforming in, and as long as you remain ‘on their side’ while you ask them to tell you more about this, you will find out everything you need to know about what is causing any performance interference.

At this stage, rather than jumping straight in and saying what you think should be done about it, ask them to come up with their own suggestions. By asking ‘What needs to happen in order for this to improve’ or ‘how/what could you do differently,’ you engage the person’s problem solving mindset and involve them in coming up with a solution themselves, which means they are more likely to buy into whatever that solution is.

Once all the options are out on the table you can both evaluate the best course of action to make the improvements necessary and jointly agree on the way forward from here. Use this as a basis to agree on the specific benchmarks you will be measuring their performance against at the next review, so it will be very easy for both of you to judge whether they are on track to reach their targets as they go along.

Before they leave the meeting make sure you are both very clear about exactly what is going to be done, by whom and by when, so there can be no confusion about the actions or steps that will be taken in the coming days, weeks or months. Use the SMART acronym to set Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound goals so there is absolutely clarity about what is expected of them.

Last but not least, round off the discussion by confirming you are there to support them in any way necessary to achieve their objectives and thank them for their ongoing commitment to helping make your vessel operate to the highest possible standards.

When you conduct reviews using this method you will create an atmosphere of positive, motivated individuals who are all striving towards common and agreed goals – and that’s a great recipe for success.

Camper & Nicholsons International provides complimentary leadership training and coaching including a private and confidential hotline for the Captains of our Managed and Charter yachts. For more information about our Crew Development Program and our Crew Coach please click here.

by Camper Nicholsons

More Crew

Holding regular performance reviews is a great way of checking in with each individual onboard to evaluate and optimise the current performance levels within your teams