Crew Management

Setting Up Team Goals

8 July 2020 By Kylie O'Brien
notebook with smart goals

Kylie O’Brien has worked on some of the world’s most magnificent vessels with amazing people for more than 13 years. A graduate of The Australian College of Applied Psychology, she is the author of Crew Wanted, The Stewardess Bible, The Chief Stewardess Bible, The Inside Job, and has been a monthly contributor to Dockwalk magazine for more than five years.

The great Albert Einstein once said, “If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.” For me, setting professional goals was more of a coping mechanism, especially when I was working on busy charter yachts. Simply put, goal setting was about achieving everything I needed to in the day without the stress, which of course added to my overall happiness. However, setting goals for a team can be challenging, and when it comes to the superyacht industry, it can be 10 times harder due to the industry standards and the environment in which we work.

You may start the day off with the best of intentions and an enthusiastic team with diligently written goal lists, but how do you deal with an ever-changing environment? The answer is simple: Set goals that are realistic, adaptable, and most importantly, achievable.

When working aboard yachts, it’s important to work smarter, not harder. You also need to set work-related goals for you and your crew if you’re going to be the most efficient you can be. When working hard, you must also work smart. The SMART acronym, first published in 1981 by George T. Doran, is as follows:

S = specific

M = measurable

A = achievable (or attainable)

R = relevant

T = time-bound

So, when you are planning any goal, keep in mind the SMART goal system to help you measure your success.


Your goal needs to be specific. You can use the following questions — who, what, when, where, and why.


You need to figure out a system to measure performance and be able to know if the goal was achieved or not. An example may be to do a detail clean of the cabins within 30 minutes with guests on board. That is to say, decrease the time spent in the cabins but not the standard of cleanliness. To achieve this objective, you may need to incorporate extra training or use new materials and tools that will enable you to accomplish this goal.


When you set up the goal, make sure it will be achievable, otherwise, it could harm your team’s future endeavors.


Every goal must be relevant. Ask yourself, why did you choose this goal? Is it aligned with your values? What are you looking to achieve in the long term? Will this goal contribute to the greater good?


You must define a specific timeframe to be able to evaluate performance and to see if you will succeed, and if not, why? Make adjustments every time you see a specific goal has not worked or been achieved and provide constant feedback for improvement. This is an important and valuable tool when it comes to team engagement and could be decisive in completing your objectives.

To help you achieve your objectives, first of all, you must set up a general common goal and work towards it. It’s vital that every single one of your team works towards the same goal, which needs to be realistic and transparent so everyone can be on the same page without any surprises.

Break it down into different steps so it is easy to comprehend, and make sure everyone has a role assigned so that they can perform efficiently. Once you establish the main goal, communicate the details with your team simply and concisely.

Each established task and position are of equal importance and they are to work together as if they were a piece of a large jigsaw puzzle. Your knowledge of your team’s strengths and weaknesses come into play here. You can allocate each team member to their strongest position and incorporate training where needed.

The next step is to be realistic. One of the main reasons why a goal is not reached is because it was not realistic from the very beginning. Be aware of the resources available to you, the location (are you at anchor or in port?), and how much time you have available to achieve the goal. Don’t forget to celebrate even the smallest of victories. One of the hardest things to do when you are managing a team is to keep them motivated, consistent, and moving forward in a positive manner. Celebrating every small achievement will help you to always engage with your team and keep them energetically driven towards the goal.

For instance, say you’re hosting a gala event at the Cannes Film Festival. This occasion may be out of the ordinary for the yacht, which requires all hands on deck to deliver a successful event. As chief stewardess, you’ll be front and center, working to maintain regular duties, managing crew rest periods, dealing with outside suppliers, recruiting the help of other departments on board, making sure that the chef remains cool, all while maintaining your sanity. Clear objectives, concise communication, and well-planned details will ensure you achieve a successful result.

By using the SMART acronym to plan your goals, you’ll be able to focus on what is important, prioritize tasks, and deliver objectives more efficiently. Furthermore, goal setting can promote teamwork, deliver exceptional guest service, and create memorable interactions with the guests.

This column is taken from the July 2020 issue of Dockwalk.


More from Dockwalk