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  • Writer's pictureMarkus Kovar

Sail into Success: Build Trust to Accelerate Your Team’s Transformation

In today’s fast-paced digital world building a cohesive, high performing team rooted in trust is more critical than ever. Traditional coaching and team building exercises often lack the engaging environment necessary for real growth and bonding. This is where SailingExperiences excels. During our recent four day sailing adventure, Robert Kovar and I were joined by fellow coaches and entrepreneurs Dr. Erika Maria Kleestorfer , Elisabeth Overbeeke (Liz), and Elisabeth Weghuber to witness firsthand the transformative impact this immersive experience has on team and leadership dynamics. Curious about our findings? Keep reading to learn more.


Why Sailing? - What a Difference a Day Makes!

SailingExperiences are more than just a recreational activity; they serve as an intense microcosm of the workplace. Liz aptly likened the environment to a pressure cooker that accelerates team transformation more effectively than traditional office-based trainings or workshops. The unique setting naturally fosters communication, trust, and collaboration—essential elements for team success. Participants were amazed by the depth of meaningful conversations and the rapid development of strong relationships achieved in just the first 24 hours. Erika noted at the end of day one, "It feels like we've known each other for years."

Under the guidance of the coaches Robert Kovar and myself, crew members fully immersed themselves in sailing; rotating through roles of captain, navigator, deckhand, and cook. This engaging environment provided a safe space where participants could test strengths, address weaknesses, learn from mistakes, and grow as a team. Participants also gained valuable insights into their individual goals, roles, and contributions within the team dynamic. It allowed them to directly apply insights to corporate dynamics—navigating challenges, managing responsibilities, and adapting swiftly to changing conditions on the water, enhancing their performance and cohesion upon returning to the workplace. 

The experience also highlighted the importance of leadership, particularly servant leadership, as team members switched roles and took turns being the captain. This role rotation not only allowed the team to reflect on their leadership style and skills, but also reinforced the value of supporting each other to achieve common goals.

While four days can’t resolve every problem, the engaging environment often reveals unaddressed conflicts, fostering constructive dialogue and mutual trust.


Everything Starts with Trust

Trust is fundamental to any effective team, a cornerstone emphasized in Patrick Lencioni’s model of high-performing teams. On a sailboat, trust among crew members isn’t merely beneficial—it’s essential. The confined space aboard demands open, honest communication, actively breaking down barriers. To ensure safe passage, crew members need to voice concerns, offer solutions, and resolve conflicts in real time. These interactions establish a robust foundation of trust, as each crew member demonstrates dedication to the team’s collective success.


Equally crucial is the mutual trust between the captain and the crew, embodying the principles of servant leadership. On a sailboat, the captain trusts the crew to handle tasks, while the crew trusts the captain’s guidance and leadership. As a servant leader, they focus on the team’s growth and wellbeing, fostering an environment where everyone can perform their best. When the captain successfully instills trust and trains the crew, the team becomes self-organizing and capable of tackling any challenge, even if the captain were to go overboard.

During maneuvers like docking the boat or tacking to adjust for wind changes, the crew’s skills and collaboration improved with each exercise, reducing the need for direct intervention by the captain. Crew members Liz, Erika, Elisabeth, Robert, and I rotated through roles, relying on each other to execute our respective roles effectively. This cooperation quickly fostered deep trust through mutual support and a common understanding of each role’s responsibilities and expectations.


Trust in the captain’s role was crucially tested and reinforced during these maneuvers. My key learning from my time as the captain was the importance of clear communication and direction given to the crew, coupled with diligent preparation before the exercise. Ultimately, a cohesive team hinges on a captain who serves the team’s needs, providing guidance and support. If trust in the captain is lost, well, let’s just say that mutiny isn’t just a figure of speech—it’s a real possibility on a boat! :-)


Conclusion

SailingExperiences offer a powerful way for teams to develop trust, collaboration, and adaptive leadership. By facing real world challenges on the water, participants gain essential skills that translate directly to the workplace.


The immersive nature of the experience ensures that lessons in communication and mutual support are deeply ingrained. Rotating through roles helps team members understand leadership dynamics and effective team management. Returning to the office, participants bring back a renewed sense of unity and the practical skills to navigate corporate challenges.


Ready to set sail towards a more unified and effective team? Get in touch with Robert Kovar or myself to join us for an unforgettable SailingExperience and watch your team excel.


For all German speakers who want to delve deeper into what a difference a day on the SailingExperiences can make, check out Erika's insightful podcast episode here.

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