Crew Management

How a Good Attitude Starts at the Top

20 May 2021 By Janine Ketterer

When it comes to keeping your crew happy, a positive attitude is contagious...

“Attitude reflects leadership, captain” is a now-famous quote from the movie Remember the Titans. While this movie is about American high school football, the sentiment remains: a good, or bad, attitude comes from the top down. Think about it, if the boss is having a bad day, then all underneath him, inevitably, will be having a bad day. For this reason, regardless of what is going on in captains’ personal lives – if they’re fed up with all of the crewmembers, sick of the vessel and have had it up to here with the owner – captains must keep their wits about them to ensure that the rest of the crew follows suit.

It’s the trickle-down economics effect on productivity, moods and general – well – attitude. But this is much easier said than done.

Joe Noonan, who provides teambuilding and leadership training, says “Attitude is key; we fool no one if we say one thing and feel another. A captain finding simple ways to shift [his/her] attitude during a stressful time is a powerful way to transform [his/her] energy and ultimately the energy of the entire crew.”

It is imperative for a captain to know how to deal with the stress of a tough charter or challenging situation without becoming frustrated when handing down orders to the crew. “It’s one thing to lead a crew when the sun is shining and the owner/guests are happy and content; it’s entirely another when the waves are pitching, the winds are howling and the owner and guests are miserable,” says Noonan.  The perception of an event has the ability to dictate the reality of it. Noonan maintains, “One simple strategy we can use when we’re coming short of patience is looking at the bigger picture. Simply remembering that every situation is temporary is often enough to give us breathing room and [get us] back to our senses.”  “Another way to shift our attitude is with a compelling sense of purpose. In Man’s Search for Meaning, author Victor Frankel illuminates the fact that when we have a compelling sense of purpose, we can survive most anything,” says Noonan. “Our goal, our vision, our personal sense of purpose can lift us out of the most challenging situations.”  Noonan recommends, “Have a personal mission such as ‘This is the best yacht and crew in the Med’ or ‘We want every guest to rebook before the end of the charter.’ These may sound like simple words, but when we put these goals/missions into action in challenging times, they literally come to life and activate the infinite patience and resourcefulness within us.”

All too often we take pleasure in complaining, but complaining only makes us more miserable and righteous. Noonan says calling attention to the positive aspects of a situation is much more rewarding. “A simple shift in perspective renews attitude. It’s the captain’s job to do that for [the] crew as well.”  Part of what makes a captain’s job stressful is that s/he has no one to complain to. Truly, the buck stops with the captain. It’s his/her responsibility to take the stress s/he feels and transform it.  Noonan offers these tips to captains for managing stress and not taking it out on the crew:

  • Physical activity: This will literally “burn” the stress out of you.
  • Having a good “bitch” session, during which everyone voices their rant, used to be popular, but be careful as this also can be detrimental in a number of ways.
  • Finding a way to laugh at a predicament is powerful way to transform stress.
  • Comparison: No matter how sorry for yourself you’re tempted to feel and regardless of how difficult the situation may seem, remember there’s always someone who has gone through worse.
  • Inspiration: One of the most powerful ways to shift attitude is through being inspired by others.

Noonan says, “One way or another, we are all captains of our own ships. As William Ernest Henley so succinctly reminds us in the closing lines of his famous poem, Invictus, ‘I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.’” Keep this in mind when you’re feeling stressed and remember that only you can control your own attitude. A positive attitude is contagious.