Crew Advice

Ask Captain Kelly: How Should I Deal with Being a Young HOD?

13 April 2023 By Staff Report

Have a tricky onboard situation you’d like an outsider’s perspective on? Have a burning career question? We can help!

Welcome to Dockwalk’s Ask Captain Kelly advice column, where we post your questions and get insight from a current captain, Capt. Kelly J. Gordon. Capt. Kelly currently works aboard M/Y Freddy but grew up in a small town in Indiana. Her path into yachting began in Beaufort, North Carolina, where she now claims as home base. She’s a former chemistry professor and loves to teach — while she takes pride in her ability as a motor yacht captain, she has a soft spot for young adults, especially those that come with questions.

This week‘s question deals with a tough situation on board — how to handle a leadership role as a younger head of department?

Q: I’m 23 and I have accepted my first chief stew position. I realize I’m young and many may think I can’t possibly be a chief stew at this age. How do I approach the second stew, who has been on the boat for some time and is quite a bit older than me?  She seems to not like that I’m young, new, and now her department head. She seems to want to critique everything I do, and she does not want to be part of my team. How much of this is me and how much of this is her?

A: Congratulations on your new position! That’s fantastic! And, yes, you are young, and many will be skeptical of your ability simply because you are young. Frustrating, yes, but put yourself in the shoes of those who have been doing this for a long time. I’m speaking of the ability to be EMPATHETIC. It’s one of the most important skills of being a leader and that is exactly what you are now — a leader. So, you will need to take a step back and focus on how to lead effectively and if this means reading books on leading, watching YouTube videos on leading, and reaching out to your mentor, you should do exactly that!

Let me get back to your question — how do you approach your second stew? The fact that this person has been on the vessel longer than you and is older than you is a huge blessing! You have someone who knows the boat better than you. You have someone who can help you hit the ground running, and you have someone with more life experience. 

This is all fantastic and you need to tap into this. How you approach them is all about your mindset. So, listen to them and make this person feel appreciated. It may take a bit as I have seen some stubborn ones, but don’t give up! You have the potential to make a great team. And ask this person to be open minded to try some things with you that you’d like to change and also be willing to try some things they would like to change. 

Really, you must go into this with the right mindset and let this person know how much you appreciate them and lean on them. It will make a huge difference! (PS: You should never stop studying to become a better leader — I still do.)

If you want to get her advice, please email and you could see your questions and her answers featured here. All personal information will remain anonymous.

More related  
Ask Captain Kelly: How Should I Deal with a Captain Drinking on Charter?
Ask Captain Kelly: Being a Woman on Deck
Ask Captain Kelly: How Do I Handle Witnessing Racism?
Ask Captain Kelly: How Do I Best Get Started in the Industry?
Ask Captain Kelly: How Should I Deal With Guests That Cross the Line?
Ask Captain Kelly: How Should I Deal with Conflict in the Crew?
Ask Captain Kelly: Advice for Handling Crew Dating
Capt. Kelly Gordon: From Chemistry Professor to Superyacht Captain


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