Trusting Your Team

I recently had a chance to take a river cruise on the Rhine in Europe. Although low water levels impacted the tour as planned, the teamwork that was demonstrated is some of the best I have ever seen. There were multiple types of staff on the cruise, and the service was impeccable.

By far, the most impressive teamwork I saw was that of the crew who sail and pilot the river boat. This boat is 600 feet long and houses 120 passengers plus 50 crewmembers. To sail from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland, the boat needed to pass through numerous river locks. Locks allow a boat to go upriver, as water comes into the lock to raise the boat to a higher water level.

Traversing locks is a specialized, dangerous and difficult process. It takes all sailing crew on deck and available to assist. The captain of the boat relies on his crew members’ feedback to adjust the position of the ship. There is only 5-6 inches of wiggle room on the side of the boat entering the lock, so it is a very precise procedure.

As the captain stands next to the steering mechanism for the ship, there are crew members present in the front and rear of the ship. The person in the front tells the captain which way to turn the shift and how to utilize the thrusters that move the boat forward to enter the lock. The captain gets constant feedback by radio from the crew in the back and front of the ship, and adjusts the dials, joy sticks and dynamics accordingly, but he cannot see the ship move, except from his place in the middle of the boat.

The captain must trust his guides to tell him the changes to the ship course and direction. He doesn’t question or argue about their directions. He acts on them and make the requested adjustments. They see where the ship is going from the front and rear, but he cannot.

This process is the ultimate test of trust. This crew did this procedure 15-20 times during this 7 day cruise. It was an incredibly well coordinated ballet of behaviors by several crew members at the same time. No one argued, questioned or did their own thing. When was the last time you and your team worked like this crew?

Posted by Susan Odegaard Turner – MentorRN

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