Trust in Teamwork to Provide Consistently Excellent Service


When working on yachts, we often hear about the importance of teamwork. One of my favorite annoying expressions is “There’s no “I” in team”, always delivered as a reproach when someone does something that someone else considers to be selfish, which is almost as popular as the old “That’s why they pay us the big bucks.”

Just what is teamwork all about?

We are in the luxury business, and “luxury” is transferred to people through people, an entire team of people. It’s our job to ensure that service is delivered universally so we can create a memorable experience for our guests.

The only way we can create the best benefits for each guest is to provide consistently excellent service. And in order to do this, we have to know that we can rely on each member of our team to do whatever it takes to get the job done, regardless of whether a particular task is directly linked to an individual’s job description.

The most important thing to remember is that service starts with me — every “me” on the team. To demonstrate leadership, senior crew must be just as willing to pitch in and do the frontline work as we expect our junior crew to be.

It’s all about lateral service and cross-training. If we all understand what our fellow crew mates’ jobs entail, we have greater empathy and respect for each other. Cross-training prevents departments from becoming isolated from each other. There’s none of that “not my job, mon” attitude. Everybody does whatever it takes to get the job done; and the job is to deliver a memorable luxury experience each and every day.

Along the way, it is helpful for senior team members to invest time in a mentoring process to develop the talents of other team members. It is a matter of combining technical skills with the unique philosophy of the boat, and finding a way to measure competency and determine how good each team member is at his/her jobs. Seventy percent of learning occurs on the job. Are the skills they learn delivered consistently to guests?

One of the biggest components of good leadership is recognizing each person’s individual talent in terms of their innate abilities and then giving them a little room to envision what they want most to contribute to the team. In other words, let them grow in the direction of their interests.

This is the tricky part, the trust part. How much trust is too much?

I recently worked with someone new to the industry who said she felt like she worked in a restaurant and lived in the kitchen. We tend to forget how thin our boundaries are in this industry. There is barely any separation between any pieces of our lives, and it is inevitable that there will be breakdowns. How supportive the environment is will determine whether you can stand the heat or should get out of the kitchen.

Trust flows from the top down. Crew need to trust leadership to create a workplace where they feel they belong, to believe their work makes a difference, and to feel good about contributing to the team.

This is no small task. Leaders are human, too, and as such we are subject to breakdown as well. But having a reputation in yachting for respecting and empowering people goes a long way. Honesty contributes much toward building trust.

It may seem that the truth is sometimes better withheld. (We all accept that sometimes we are on a need-to-know basis; if there is anything we need to know, someone will tell us.) But trust erodes when communication lacks honesty. A true leader knows how to balance this power.

Distrust destroys morale and impacts service. One bad mood can quickly ruin everybody’s day, sending some scrambling to figure what they did wrong and who is at fault. When leadership can’t be trusted to sort things out, co-workers often work against each other as a means of self-protection. Let the drama begin.

It pays to remember that we are all human and we will make mistakes every day. Empowering through trust instills a sense of pride. Crew members know that deep down inside they are respected and protected and that their particular talents have not gone unnoticed.

You can’t micromanage memorable outcomes. You have to step back and trust that through teamwork and with guidance, your crew will be empowered to use their talents and training to consistently deliver the kind of service that will create a luxurious, memorable experience for your guests each and every time.