July 1, 2016 - what I learned - about communication


It's a holiday long weekend back home here in Toronto. I've had some time to reflect on my take always. Can I share some with you?  Me being a speech-language pathologist, it shouldn't surprise you that I thought a lot about communication. So let's start with that...

On ClipperTelemed+, we spent a lot of time on developing our communication habits. I think this contributed a lot to our success as a team and to achieving podium results.

For example, we had a ground rule of no griping. If you had an issue with an individual, you could discuss it wth that individual or with your watch leader. If it wasn't worth the effort of doing that, then it wasn't worth talking about at all (noting that on a boat, such conversations are easily overheard!).  This ground rule, of which we reminded one another as a group at "Happy Hour" from time to time, helped us enact our value of tolerance. 

We had "Any Other Business" each "Happy Hour" when issues for the group could be raised. This was a helpful policy, since it was a time when it was safe to share and discuss things as a group and clear the air. 

We had SOPs such as hand signals for sail trim instructions from the bow to the pit (worked better in the daytime than at night).  Also, since it's almost always noisy on a boat, with the wind and waves and all, it's important to face the person or persons to whom you are speaking (shouting). The wind carries your voice away if you look at the thing or activity you are trying to communicate about instead of to the person you are speaking to. "Look at those jumping spinning amazingly acrobatic dolphins!" ... Response: "What?"

And there was a "no chatting when on the helm" rule.  I got in trouble for that one. No one told me about that rule - I must have been on mother watch or something when it was implemented. Generally speaking (ha ha), that was my habit anyhow, needing to concentrate to do a proper job. But when watch leader Han, my "spotter" while I helmed and recently engaged, asked me my opinion on what makes a successful marriage, he perhaps didn't expect quiet little me to go on and on as I did. Up pops Skipper Matt from the nav station - "If you can't spend just one hour on the helm and not talking, then don't be on the helm!" (Or something like that).  "Right, yes, of course, absolutely!" I replied, and engaged my lip-zipped hyper-vigilant attention from there on.

We developed communication channels to be used during maneuvers ("evolutions") such as sail changes,  We agreed to have only "one voice" during evolutions. We got so good on some evolutions that eventually we didn't even need that one voice. One report was the cue for the next step...

A: "Handybilly made"  (never mind what a Handybilly does)

B: "Grinding halyard"

C: "Halyard made"

D: "Grinding Reef line" (etc.)

We achieved this high level of performance with thorough briefings before we started an evolution, making sure everyone knew their role and how it fit in with the rest of the action going on.  Then we debriefed, reinforcing what went well, and working out what could be improved for next time. 

Another SOP was employed, that being repeating back instructions.  For example, when setting up to put a reef in the sail:

A: "Ease halyard"

B: "Easing halyard"

A: "Hold Halyard"

B: "Holding halyard" (etc.)

These things become habitual, leading to efficiency of teamwork and reduced errors and misunderstandings.

Now, at home, my husband is sometimes startled to hear me reply to his requests with things like, "turning light off", and "putting a cork in it" (I think he was referring to the wine bottle, and not to my incessant chatter about my Clipper adventure, but I could be wrong).

More to come...