The yachting industry is all about excellence. From innovative design and immaculate construction right through onboard operations, owners and guests expect nothing less than the absolute maximum standards of excellence, and well they should, as this kind of luxury comes with a premium price tag.
From an outsider’s perspective, working on luxury yachts looks like the most glamorous career imaginable: cruising throughout exclusive destinations, rubbing shoulders with the world’s rich and famous and living and working in incredibly opulent surroundings instead of slaving away in a boring old office like most ‘normal’ people.
But those of us who’ve experienced crewing first-hand know the reality is far from glamorous… as with all that opulence comes a tonne of responsibility; to maintain and care for those surroundings and guests with a level of attention to detail that often well and truly steps over the line into obsessive compulsive. For those of us working in yachting, excellence isn’t an option. It’s a mere baseline; a bare minimum or starting point from which we are expected to propel our performance into even more stratospheric heights.
Throughout busy cruising seasons we expect our crew to go above and beyond the call of duty repeatedly on a daily basis – whether it’s working well into the wee hours, taking time to redo things over and again until they are absolutely perfect, or sacrificing their own valuable downtime to create wonderful extras for guests like a fun movie or scrapbook of their time onboard. This is known as “discretionary effort” – the amount of time and work people are prepared to invest, over and above the basic requirements of their job description.
The thing is, not all crew have that intense zest for excellence already burning inside them when they first start out in yachting – they require the right kind of management to ignite their spark and fan the flames so they begin to appreciate and strive for those impeccable standards, willingly and eagerly. So what keeps crew motivated to keep pushing for better and better results, even at the height of the season when they are absolutely exhausted and running on empty? The answer is passion and enthusiasm.
Crew who continuously go above and beyond the call of duty actually care deeply and passionately about what they are doing. They take intense pride in their work and in a job not just well done, but perfectly done. They become almost evangelical about the standards they expect from their fellow team members and revel in creating a reputation for accepting nothing less than absolute flawless performance. But where does that passion and enthusiasm come from?
The secret lies in two of the most underused and yet most effective leadership tools at our disposal: recognition and appreciation. When crew feel appreciated, recognised and – in short – ‘cared about’, they are far more likely to increase the amount of discretionary effort and care they apply in their position. The simple fact is people don’t care about others unless they feel others care about them. Crew who are encouraged, mentored and supported to grow in competence and confidence are far more likely to evolve into enthusiastic, passionate leaders too, encouraging a positive cycle that gives everyone involved exactly what they want and need.
Smart owners understand the real secret of yachting excellence is caring for the crew who care for them, their guests and their yacht. Appreciated crew are far likelier to stay longer, invest greater effort in their duties and reflect their positive feelings towards the yacht and the guests – which manifests in better service and greater overall guest and owner satisfaction. And all of this results in better business for the yachting industry, which benefits everyone.