Much more than a felicitous metaphor: looking at yachting can be an exciting source of inspiration for team development.
Wind-driven towards the horizon – sailing conveys a feeling of infinite freedom in harmony with the elements. At the same time, it can also be regarded as a wonderful metaphor of how we achieve our goals together. A crew that – hand in hand – navigates the boat through calm and troubled waters has a lot in common with a well-oiled team: both need to set, and hold on to, clear goals – agreeing unequivocally on how they will achieve them. Once the goal is set, the members need to coordinate their actions, listening to, and showing consideration for, one another: they need to be able to fully rely on each other.
Those who sail together show respect for each other, subdue their ego when appropriate, and make quick and accurate decisions even in stormy weather. The safety of the crew members always comes first. The situation is similar in a team that regards the intrinsic value of each individual member as essential to achieving common goals. A protected space like this provides room for ideas which may seem crazy at a first glance, but which later turn out to be just brilliant. The width of the horizon can be balanced out together. In business development, this is precisely how new ideas appear on the horizon.
Sailing together does not just mean making good use of existing skills, it also means embarking on something new. As they cruise the waters, each crew member develops and gets a chance to test their prowess. The skipper defines the tasks for each of them, all the time focusing on where they want to arrive. A leader building a team does something similar – and that makes sense. For it is only as a team that you can move boats, run projects or solve tasks.
When it comes to sailing, the ability to work in a team is most important. Here, nobody can just do their own thing without the boat listing. Showing respect for each other has to be a matter of course with people living together in such close quarters. This also means that – whatever the social position of a crew member on land – each and every one has to be able to obey without arguing or complaining, to ensure the safety of all.
And there is one last parallel: To sail together with others, you don’t need to have sailing experience as long as the skipper knows how to navigate and gives clear instructions. Everybody who is open-minded and willing to learn is welcome to the crew. For a team gains from talent that hails from the most different backgrounds. The technical term for this is “diversity”. He or she who fails to think of a well-versed cook in putting together the sailing crew forgets that only a well-fed team is a happy team.
And how do you put together your crew?