I’m just back from an outstanding couple of weeks boating in Canada’s Pacific waters. Some awesome pics and a super fun waterfall video here.

These experiences always leave me with so much to write about – friends, food, scenery, wildlife – but I want to highlight one experience that was particularly satisfying to me as the skipper. It’s about team-building and because you’re a business owner, I know you’ll relate.

Six of us boarded our 50′ (15 metre) boat. None of my friends had any experience with a boat of this size. They had never tied a knot or set an anchor never mind charting, navigating or piloting. In fact, we started with a basic lesson on how to flush the heads (toilets).

The next lesson was on how to send out a distress call if the skipper became incapacitated. This is when they started to get nervous. They realized that they were completely dependant on the boat and me. Alissa asked, only half-jokingly, “Is it too late to change our minds about this holiday?”

Sound familiar? Sure – anybody who has grown a company has been here. Too much depending on one person. New people feeling uncertain, not knowing how to contribute. Everybody feeling a little apprehensive.

But, also, everybody feeling a sense of the potential, of the possibilities, of being at the start of something new.

It’s the skipper’s job – the business owner’s job – to take this goodwill and transform the newbies into happy, confident, contributing team members.

Which means letting go, trusting our crew, and sharing our knowledge in the best way we know. It means making mistakes, and forgiving mistakes, and allowing the natural good nature of people to surface. It’s less about what needs to get done and more about the way it gets done. With laughter, and encouragement, and fun.

Within a few days our boat had a crack anchor team that could properly set and weigh anchor. And who discovered a novel way of washing the anchor.

Our boat had an “away team” that could deploy the tender and do a stern tie (Mediterranean moor).

Several crew could manage the helm in open water or through very narrow channels.

And the galley produced meal after amazing meal, from omelettes to steaks to seafood paella. Which REALLY makes for a happy boat!

Not only is team-building the skipper’s job, it offers the greatest reward. Seeing a smile when a knot is well tied; hearing the crew take pride in a perfect docking; watching their pleasure at piloting a tight channel – these are gifts that I received from my friends this holiday.

And, from a practical perspective, a competent team leaves more time for the skipper to do other things. Like planning and charting. Oh, and fixing the aft head – yes, I was up to my elbows in a toilet bowl one day… 🙂

Yes, I’m sure it’s easier to do a little team-building on a holiday with wonderful friends. But the principles are the same for crew or staff. This was a great reminder for me (who is too often serious) of what’s really important. A reminder to enjoy the journey and share the fun as I build my professional team this year.

Thank you Alissa, Bill, Renata, Sandy and Susan for the skipper lessons and for a great week!

And if you, dear reader, ever want to holiday in a boat off Canada’s amazing west coast, drop me a line. I’d be happy to help you out.