A successful leadership development strategy must be aligned with the business goals of the shipping company. If the shipping company is paying for its officers to attend a leadership course, does the shipping company have a plan for how that is going to benefit the business? If leadership development efforts are not tied to a strategy, there is no telling whether they will help the shipping company in the long term.
So, my first task as a course facilitator is to connect the company strategy to the leadership development strategy, only then will the participants understand WHY it is important for them to attend.
The flight from Manila to Delhi was delayed for 6 hours and when I finally arrived at my hotel I felt the first indication of an aggravating stomach infection (I suspect this to be an aftermath of the vegetarian lunch in the airplane). As I’m still affected by the 7 hour time difference from Copenhagen I would prefer to go straight to bed. However, the show must go on as 16 senior officers’ are stand-by and ready to attend a 3-day leadership training session. It is the fourth and final course I have scheduled for this Far East roundtrip, so instead of going to the room I proceed directly to the conference room, connect my laptop, test the sound and prepare my handouts. I am ready.
Slowly the participants start entering the room. They greet each other and have their morning tea. The atmosphere is good so far, however, at the same time it is not really uplifting and I can understand why. When you have spent several months on board it is obvious that you prefer to spend your time ashore with your family and not in a training room far away from your home. As an ex-seafarer I know exactly where they are coming from.
As a facilitator I have learnt that the initial 10 minutes of a course is very important for the end result. During these 10 minutes the course participants must get an idea of WHY the company has decided to launch this leadership development course and WHY they have been selected to attend.
After having introduced myself I start doing my usual recap of how it all started two years back. Back then the management created a vision of having an ongoing programme for all employees where the Safety-I’s behavioural principles should be embraced and integrated.
A vision is a realistic, convincing and attractive depiction of where you want to be in the future. Vision provides direction, sets priorities, and provides a marker, so that you can tell that you’ve achieved what you wanted to achieve.
Next initiative from our side was to launch a global safety maturity assessment. I explain how this assessment involved a desktop analysis that looked at the company policies, visions and strategies. We also did an anonymous online survey and conducted in-depth interviews in the offices and with seafarers on board in order to have an impression of the general perception of the applied safety practices. The assessment provided us with a starting point for understanding the ‘typical safety practices and mindsets’ of the company.
Finally a comparison of the actual practice versus best practice offered us a solid basis for defining a safety development programme for the company. The programme involved, among other things, a revised company safety standard, a new, safety based, appraisal system and the Safety Delta concept (in short, Safety Delta involves and supports processes and activities that help the crew to build and maintain a proactive safety culture based on continuous crew evaluation, dialogue, reflection and development).
“So gentlemen, the company has set the direction for you, and now it is up to you to grab the baton and set the direction for your subordinates. Leadership is about mapping out where you need to go to ‘win’ as a team or an organisation. Yet, while you set the direction, you must also use soft skills to guide and motivate your subordinates to the right destination in a smooth and efficient way. This is why you are on this course; I’m looking forward to introducing you to this new company mindset and a set of supportive soft skill tools…”
The core message of this article is that shipping companies must establish why they want to develop their officers. Clear business objectives are pivotal, whether it is about improving LTI or vetting statistics, implementing new programs, improving the safety culture in general or something completely different.
As budgets for leadership headcount and development tighten, it is more critical than ever to demonstrate a clear line between investments in leadership and desired organisational outcomes.
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