Attitude, leadership and communication
If our goal is to have officers and crew that have the necessary self-esteem, in an environment where everyone can freely speak their mind, contribute and participate; then leadership, human relations and communication must be a regular feature on the agenda.
Norwegian Hull Club’s latest training course is put together to assist our members in approaching these topics. The training course will focus on:
The course is tailor-made for Masters and Senior Officers and specifically addresses attitude and leadership skills. By including presentation skills and techniques in the seminar, the Master will be able to bring the message onboard, in the form of safety meetings, in a convincing way with verve and enthusiasm: using real cases, pictures and videos to illustrate how terribly things can go wrong. The presentation materials (PowerPoint) will be given to the participants during the seminar.
In the shipping industry we are all concerned about the number of casualties, unnecessary injuries, loss of life, and damage to the environment and vessels. Can we reduce or avoid these losses?
We are all too aware that a great number of these casualties are the result of human error, for it is a simple fact of life that people are prone to make mistakes. The bad news is that more mistakes are likely to occur in the future, and at a rate greater than that which we have previously experienced. Let’s look at some of the reasons for these occurrences.
Moving at a pace quicker than ever before, the entire industry is undergoing rapid changes and accordingly, we have to change along with it: vessels are more reliable and more powerful, technology and equipment are continuously improving and becoming ever more complex while simultaneously allowing less time to adapt and become familiar with the inherent changes they bring. With the increased amount of rules, regulations, audits, vettings, port state controls and surveys, the average workload has increased considerably while at the same time, manpower has been reduced.
In real terms, this means that today’s workload onboard requires more to be done in a shorter period of time, using less manpower with less experience. If we add to this the commercial pressures and the expectation from owners and stakeholders, we really should stop to consider what we have created: a stressful environment conducive to making mistakes. And in such a driven environment it is only reasonable to assume that such conditions will continue and probably even worsen.
In light of the understanding that mistakes will happen, our focus should be on means and methods of preventing mistakes before they occur and quite possibly result in a serious accident. We are normally unaware of the fact that we make mistakes (unless they are made deliberately), and if we were aware of any mistakes being made, we would surely take steps to rectify them.
Unfortunately, it is usually the consequences of our mistakes that make us aware of them, but by then it is normally too late to take preventative measures. The outcome can be put down to pure luck, but running a vessel on the basis of luck is highly unthinkable. It would be altogether better if we were informed about our mistakes when we were in the process of making them, thus allowing the time needed to make the necessary corrections before it is too late to do so.
It is imperative for us to pose questions such as: do we look closely enough at leadership and communication skills when promoting a Master, or do we pick the next in line? Not everyone is a born leader with inbred communication skills and one result of this can be that a successful Chief Officer can become a miserable Master when burdened with problems for which he or she is blameless. In point of fact, we should be blaming ourselves and commence upon rectifying such anomalies by providing the necessary training whereby the Master’s situation can be improved.
An old adage says that two eyes usually see better than one, and stretching this metaphor, we can also say that two heads are better than one. The chances of succeeding are better if we work as a team. A ship where everyone can freely speak their mind, and contribute and participate in the management process is a safer ship. It is our belief that if we can adhere and live up to this principle, we will reduce the number of casualties and the amount of damage sustained.
How can we achieve this goal and create a professional and satisfied team onboard? A good starting point could be with the Master taking time to review and reflect on his own attitude and consider some of the following questions:
How can we expect the crew to react in a positive way in the absence of a positive attitude? Will we lose the respect of the crew if we show a smile now and then? A crew that fears our authority may not communicate as well as it should and not share, for example, information needed to avoid a potential disaster. Good leadership is based on communication and human relations. So, what do we mean by the term “human relations”?
Human Relations definitely includes having a friendly disposition. People function and work better in a friendly environment. Such an environment can be created by regularly walking around the vessel to stay in touch with the team, allowing you to give positive feedback and generate enthusiasm. Remember that each team member has a name and, just like people everywhere, they will always respond positively to hearing their name mentioned. “A smile goes a nautical mile” is also something well worth remembering. By smiling, you are showing satisfaction. It is also important to be a good listener. By listening (really listening) to the crew, one is displaying genuine interest and respect.
Give credit where credit is due! By giving sincere credit, you are letting the crew know that their input is important. This will instil confidence and boost morale and selfesteem, and with heightened self-esteem comes enhanced performance, which is what we are striving for!
So far we have talked about making and correcting mistakes, teamwork and self-esteem, attitude, respect and enhance human relations. None of these can be achieved without good communication skills. By using what we have learned over the years, we have the necessary knowledge and understanding of the importance of this. We always need to improve our skills and attitude.
To put it plainly, it can be necessary to lighten up a little, but without compromising our authority. This is a task that is not entirely straightforward, but it is necessary nonetheless. It is imperative to be approachable, to be seen as positive, open-minded, outspoken, and maybe even disposed to telling a good joke once in a while. Such conditions can surely contribute to a positive influence on the crew, and a ship with a positive crew is a safer ship.
The seminar lasts for one day (similar to officers’ conferences such as those presently held by the Club). When practicing presentation skills (techniques), we will use PowerPoint presentations based on real casualties in which the human element was a triggering factor. All presentations will be given to participants and can be used onboard.
Achieving our goal will not be possible without committed involvement from top-level management ashore. It is also necessary here to take time to reflect on and question our own attitude in relation to the issues discussed.
Initiate, motivate, and organise the training course
Participate in the training course with senior onshore staff
Provide guidelines for the onboard presentations, and provide follow-up
Provide the necessary tools to carry out the presentations onboard (computer, LCD projector, speakers, screen etc.)
1. Dec. 2007