I’m currently preparing to race across the Atlantic again and recently completed a training weekend with my skipper and afterguard (boat staff). The aim of the trip is much the same as the previous one; set sail from Europe and arrive in one piece in Bermuda. This time however, the team I’ll be sailing with is a completely different one, and I suspect the two trips will be very different despite the route taken.
The first time I crossed the Atlantic I knew we were to eventually arrive in Bermuda, and I knew we had to cross the Atlantic to achieve this. That was pretty much it. We had a shift pattern to stick to of course, but if you fell asleep on the night shift nobody really minded too much.
During a recent training weekend in preparation for the next trip, we had to get to grips with the boat and find out how we would work together as a team. This time, the way we will work is very clear – when we cross the Atlantic, racing and winning will be at the forefront of everyone’s minds; our aim is to cross the Atlantic within 17 days. I know exactly what is expected of me this time, and I’ll know how the members of crew under my watch shall be led. And I know that getting caught sleeping on the night shift will mean suffering the consequences this time around!
It’s not often you get exactly the same project come up again in the workplace, with the same goals, the same measures and the same plan. In this case the only difference is the teams. As a junior project manager and avid people watcher, it’s a fantastic opportunity to see the effect people can have on a task.
The differences in leadership styles have already set the tone for the trip, much like project managers can set the tone for a project. Even our kit list shows the difference in attitudes; washing detergent has been wiped from the list as we won’t have time to wash clothes this time around.
Observing the effect that our skipper has had on this next challenge has led me to think more about the role of a project manager and the effect they can have on the outcome of their work. It took us 24 days to cross the Atlantic last time, but with a different leader we’re aiming to do it in no more than 17 days. A determined, positive attitude can be infectious and can draw out the best from your team. But finding the balance is equally key. My role on the boat will be to ensure the skipper doesn’t put the desire to win ahead of the needs of the crew. Good work stream leaders will respect the tone set by the project manager and the team, but also have the capacity to challenge them if the project team is suffering as a result.
Written by Imelda McGrath, Coriolis Ltd