Team Resilience in the Clipper Race

January 07, 2022

by Management Dynamics

The Round the World Clipper Race is a bi-annual sailing endurance event that pushes team resilience to its absolute limit.

The teams set off in 12 identical boats, and compete in 6 stages over 12 months, sailing all around the world for periods up to 50 days at a time.

With identical boats, resources and crew size, it is down to the crews alone as to whether they are victorious or not.

How can these teams remain resilient in such a constant and high-pressure environment?

Ashridge Business School delved into this question in 2013 and found that successful teams excelled in 4 different areas:

  • Emotional intelligence – the most effective teams understood both their own and their crewmates emotional states. This enabled individuals to manage personal relationships effectively and facilitated the team working cohesively.
  • Managing conflict – with 16 people on a boat in cramped conditions and sometimes gruelling circumstances, conflict would inevitably rise. Successful teams made this a constructive process by enabling people to have the psychological safety to express how they felt.
  • Being flexible and adaptive – strong routines were key for structure, but the ability to change these routines when needed was key to ensuring high performance despite the unpredictable conditions.
  • Re-energising, recharging and sleep – the most effective teams were able to carve time for re-energising even in the most extreme and intense conditions. Accepting others could share the responsibilities on the boat both developed individuals on a personal level and helped foster strong interpersonal connections, greatly increasing overall team resilience.

While (hopefully!) your working environment is not as extreme and strenuous as being on a racing boat, there are still valuable lessons that from the Round the World Clipper Race that can be applied to any team. Indeed, Resilience is one of the “R’s” that make up the Dynamics of High Performing Teams. Learn more about The Dynamics of High Performing Teams here.

By Rowan Page

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