A Win Requires Strength at the Helm

Last month, while attending Volvo’s sustainability conference in Miami, a select group of editors had the chance to visit the race village for the Volvo Ocean Race (www.volvooceanrace.com). For those unfamiliar with the race, it is a grueling nine-month trek around the world in Volvo Open 70 racing boats. Brief stopovers such as the one in Miami allow the crews time to recharge, repair damage to their boats (and in some cases themselves) and accumulate more points by competing in in-port races.

The race village gives spectators an opportunity to learn more about the race, the crews and the sponsors. In addition to presentations and videos highlighting the rigors and hardships the crews face, we were treated to a rare visit aboard one of the racing boats. (View images at www.Facebook.com/EquipmentToday.) We were also given a behind-the-scenes look at the “camps” housing the support teams. These teams are responsible for continuously feeding information back and forth to the race crews and managing logistics during and between the various stages of the race. Once the boats arrive in port, it is the support team’s responsibility to repair and maintain the equipment, re-stock supplies and ensure the boats are fully prepared for the next stage of the race.

One thing that stood out throughout our tour was the emphasis placed on the leadership skills of the captains of these vessels. Their ability to guide their crews across a vast expanse of ocean, communicate objectives and put together and maintain a cohesive team have proven critical in this year’s event, as well as races past. The captain who commands his vessel most effectively is the one who will lead his team to capture the cup once the race concludes early next month.

Clearly, there are vast differences between a construction business and a sporting event such as this one. Yet, there are some comparisons that can be drawn, as well.

For example, managers at all levels in a construction firm must oversee projects for weeks or months at a time, ensuring that each stage stays on time and on track and crews continue to work together as efficiently as possible. Effective communication between managers, workers on site and those back in the office is essential to ensure each project stage is successfully completed. Equipment must be regularly maintained and repaired to reduce the risk of downtime at a critical point in the project. And careful coordination is required to manage the complex logistics and requirements of the job and any potential risks along the way. Success in this endeavor depends on the strength of your management team. Their ability to lead crews effectively for the duration of a job is paramount to achieving your company’s profit goals on each of the projects you take on.

Take time to evaluate the performance of managers throughout your organization. Learn their strengths and weaknesses. Be sure to solicit input from their subordinates. Then ask that all-important question: Do they have the leadership skills needed to achieve “victory” — in the form of a greater profit margin and/or completion bonus — once the job is done?