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Crew management is no different to running a business

by Tracey Johnstone on 8 Aug 2010
David Eickmeyer at Variety Splash Victoria 2010 David Eickmeyer
Regattas mean bringing together a diverse group of personalities, asking them to work well within a competitive environment and often also staying in the saying in shared accommodation.

On water the pressure is on to perform as a team. On land the frustrations from the race track can continue into the beer tent and then into the crew accommodation. Just how does a boat owner deal with all of this stress along with getting their boat to the start line and back to the berth without having a world war on the foredeck ?


Down in Australia, Quantum Victoria managing director, a veteran of 17 Hamilton Island regattas and crew boss and mainsail trimmer for the Victorian boat, Scarlet Runner, 45-year-old David Eickmeyer, shares his experience in how to manage crews competing in a week-long, intensive, highly competitive event.

What is the defining point when it comes to managing teams at regattas ?
You can’t treat every different personality the same. The key is break out the different personalities and to treat them differently. Whether it is in business or family life or sailing or any team sport, you definitely need to break out the different personalities of people and treat them individually.

What are those different personalities ?
In business coaching personalities are classified into four different types. Firstly there is D or dominance. This is a person who is to the point, decisive and bottom line orientated. These people tend to be independent and results driven. They are strong willed people who enjoy challenges, taking action and immediate results.

The second type of personality is I or Influence. They are optimistic, outgoing and tend to be highly social. They prefer participating on teams, sharing thoughts and entertaining others.

The third personality is S for steadiness. Empathetic and cooperative, these people tend to be team players and supportive and helpful to others. They prefer being behind the scenes working in consistent and predictive ways. They are often good listeners and avoid change and conflict.

The last one is C for conscientious. They are concerned, courteous and correct. These people are often focused on details and quality. They plan ahead, consistently plan for accuracy and want to know how and why.

Can you have a cross-over between personality types ?
Yes, definitely. To put all that in perspective, For me, when I walk into a shop, I want to know how much it is, I want to know how many colours it comes in and when can I have it. I am a high D which is a dominant person where I know my wife is an S.

When she walks into a shop she wants to know how many different models. She wants to know was it built in Australia, how many colours, does she have to wait long for it, what are the individual parts made up of and where do they come from.

Different people have different personalities and different approaches towards different things.



Where has your experience in different types of personalities come from ?
We have business coach who coaches here at work. This is part of knowing our team and part of dealing with the different personality types we have at work. We fill in a 26 question and answer type arrangement and it gives you,, based on the answers, their DISC report which basically gives you guidance on how you need to treat them. Some people respond to money and some to praise. Some people are just happy to have a job. Look at sporting teams – AFL, VFL teams – they are use this type of thing to work out how their team players respond to different types of coaching.

How long have you had business coaching at Quantum ?
At Quantum Melbourne we have been involved in coaching for a couple of years. Our business is changing and everyone needs to think outside the square. We are all trained here. We are good at sailing, we’re decent at making sails, but how many of us are trained at running and managing a business ? We are all happy to pay for sailing coaches or sport coaches, but how many people think that the one thing that makes you the money should run by itself.

How have you taken this business coaching to your sailing projects ?
It is something that has worked hand in hand for a long time. It is really on the last couple of years where the business coaching and how to deal with different sorts of people and personalities we are now bringing into our sailing. There are some people who are highly strung on boats and others who are just happy to be a part of a team whether that is sitting on the dock with an esky waiting for the boys to finish their day’s racing. Others need to be involved in the day to day running of the boat or tactics or steering or trimming. Everybody has a different role on a boat. Different personalities fit different roles better.

Your in Hamilton Island and about to step out on your boat for a week-long event. Your owner says, ‘geez, we have a real bad situation here with the mix of people we've got. They are all good people technically, but the personalities don’t look like they are going to work. Where do we go from here’ ?

I think the key is to be open and out front and basically have a team meeting. If it comes to a team meeting situation then you need to be honest and say ‘right oh boys, you and you have a clash, you and you don’t. You and you should pair up better in a room’.

Regattas are definitely at the top end for the rate of attrition so you need to pace the team and you need to be quite involved with the team and manage them, no different to a business.

Basically you can say the skipper or owner of the boat is the leader. He’s the business man. He’s the boss. He really needs to manage his team, his crew for the week. Whether using a ‘Sandra Sully’ curfew at night or whether that is giving the boys a free run at night and saying ‘go for it, but make sure you don’t come to the boat in the morning hung over’; different people respond in different ways.

I have done 17 Hamilton Island regattas and I always ask the owner, what is our key for this regatta ? Is it to have fun or is it to get results ? If it is to have fun, well, we need to structure our week in a different way. But, if it to get results, we need a team meeting to say this is our plans for the week so people can plan around that whether we are having dinner at 7pm every night or a drink at the room at 5pm or whatever it is.

The team need to be briefed on what they can expect for the week. I then organise crew dinners just to keep people together and keep them out of the pub, keep them out of trouble. Some people in a team have too much fun then others have to pay for it.

How do you manage a 'problem child' on board ?
For someone causing a disturbance within the crew there needs to be a leadership role created. At the start of the week, John, for example, is appointed by the boat owner as the crew boss for the week. If you have a problem, take it to him. He will then take it to the owner and together they will sort it out and they will give you a response.

Generally, I will say there is going to be a crew boss for the week. Take all problems to the crew boss, not to the owner so that the owner can have fun and can concentrate on dealing with what he has to deal with because there is plenty of stuff. The crew boss can basically settle the person down, quiet chat with him and basically deal with the problem.



What is the best kind of person to be a crew boss ?
I think an influential person who is quite social and quite to the point, but can deal with problems in a nice manner and a way that won/t just be pushed aside. A guy that is going to follow up and monitor the situation.

What is your worst experience with managing crews ?
One experience I had in past years was where there was really no structure set up in the crew, that is, there was no crew boss, nobody really leading the team. The crew were living together and some of them got quite upset and starting making a disturbance among the others. So the bad feelings spread throughout the crew.

In hindsight, if there had been some sort of structure set up such as a crew boss, they could have nipped it in the bud on the first day and the crew would have lived happily and harmoniously ever after. But it left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths. The fact that (a) it happened and (b) it wasn’t dealt with.

Reflecting on that, it is important to have some people management job roles among the crew for the week

On the first crew briefing of the day, appoint your crew boss. If anyone has issues, whether it is lack of fun or too much fun, they can go to this person and say look I have a problem –someone to go to help deal with a problem.

Your final words of advice ?
A regatta is no different to running a business. You have to set a set of goals with the end in mind then work back from there. It’s about sticking to the plan and the result will be what you wanted.

T Clewring CruisingInSunSport - NZNorth Technology - Southern Spars

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