High Performing Teams

I’m here in the Golfe de St. Tropez at the International Maxi Association championships . We have three days ( Sun , Mon , Tues) of inshore races before the main event – the Offshore Race from St. Tropez to St. Remo – a distance ( relatively short for these boats) of 245 miles . There are over 200 raceboats in the event and we are defending last year’s win of both inshore and offshore events .
Normally the crew gets together for two days of training in advance of the start of each event . During this training we rehearse for and undertake all possible manoeuvres , situations , mistakes in advance of the championships . This time , however , we could only train for one full day before the event . The team is full of incredibly talented individuals – many are America’s Cup sailors , many have completed in round the world races , all have years of experience under their belts . On top of all this , we work well together and live well together – a great team .
The first race took place on Sunday . Without doubt we would have liked better external conditions ( race course , weather , race committee decisions etc) but we did not race well – we came in fourth . We took it on the chin – had a meeting after the race , looked to the positives and sought to learn from our mistakes . Today ( monday ) we won .
I can’t help thinking that if we had trained together for 2 full days before the event , we would have been better able to react to events on sunday . It’s certainly not the only reason but I know that , even with the best team , you cannot take anything for granted . Performing well together comes from training , practicing and working well together – it always does . I feel honoured to be part of this team .

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Ultra- Marathon Running

I’ve enjoyed a great bank holiday weekend here in Kinsale . We had a glorious saturday and sunday and spirits were up amongst all . I did take a day out and travelled to Castlegregory with a few surfboards on the roof of the car . There were small waves but we , (Marcus Spillane and Padraic O’Giollain) enjoyed two sessions ( one in the morning and another after lunch) of small mellow waves . It was great to hang out with mates in the water .
Padraic O’Giollain is an interesting guy . He holds a senior position in the private banking sector and is extremely good at what he does . But he does have an odd hobby – he runs Ultra Marathons . What are ultra marathons ? Well , you know how so many people run the NY , Dublin , Cork Marathon ! Padraic thinks these are too short . He runs distances well in excess of this . In 2008 Padraic won his age group in La Trans Aquitaine , a race of 230 kms over 6 days – on top of this , he had to carry his gear and the race was over rough terrain .Sitting just off Stradbally beach , Padraic told Marcus and I that he had decided to enter the Dingle 50 ( 50 miles that is ) next september . “You’re mad !” was our immediate response . Padraic said – “well I need a goal to keep focus , to have something to aim at , so I can work towards a certain target . If I didn’t have an end goal in mind , I simply wouldn’t do the training “.
Have no doubt , Padraic will achieve the Dingle 50 – he’s very modest so he didn’t say what I’m going to say – he’ll probably top his age category .
I’ve read about and talked about the benefits of goal-setting for a long time and I’m still delighted when I meet people who do practice the technique – it always works !
On top of all this , the guy can catch a wave or two !

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Haiti – Haven Build It Week 2010

I’m delighted to say that I’ve been accepted to take part in the next Haven “Build it Week” . This will take place between 23rd and 30th October 2010 . I have followed this great charity since it started just a couple of years ago . The Haven Partnership was founded by Leslie Buckley and his wife Carmel in order to address the extreme poverty in Haiti . Leslie had occasion to visit Haiti on a number of occasions in his role as co-founder of the Digicel Mobile Phone Company .
Needless to say , the work of the Haven Partnership has become much more urgent and important in light of the horrific earthquake in January 2010 .
So , I’m off to work there in October . To be part of this great group I have to raise some funds !
I have decided to do something a little different to raise the funds – I’m going to row 1,000 kilometres between now and then . Ok , I’m not going to encounter waves , rain , wind , currents etc as I am going to do it on my Concept 2 Ergometer in the back garden of my house . It will , however , be very painful . I possess such an instrument of torture and have used it occasionally over the past years . To do the 1,000 kilometres is quite a stretch for me as I have been a great procrastinator when it comes to using it .
I have set up a page on mycharity.ie . Any help would be greatly appreciated : Click Here
Thanks a million

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The Importance of the Team (2)


I continued my conversation with Francesco de Angelis on the final day of the Rolex Capri Racing Week . Just a few of Francesco’s achievements : 5 Times World Champion , 3 Time Italian America’s Cup Skipper , Admiral’s Cup Winner and , most recently , tactician on Alegre , last week’s winner of Rolex Capri Racing Week .
On top of all this – Francesco is a quiet spoken , modest guy who takes time to talk with all his team and colleagues .
Talking about the challenges associated with forming a world-class team , Francesco chatted about handling the different levels of abilities and , in particular , the egos that come with the highest performers in this professional sport . He said that his main “tactic” in getting the team to work most effectively towards the main goals was to get the better guys to “give up a little !” . What ?? Get people to pull back !
Francesco explained that his main objective is to form a highly effective team that works towards one common goal . Yes , the boat , it’s sails and investment in design is of huge importance BUT all of this is to no avail if you don’t have a committed group of talented people working together towards the main goal .
So , get the main performers to give up a little , explain why this is happening and watch the rest of the team bring up the overall performance . Monitor , track progress and continually engineer better performance .
Then , look at the results .
For a while , I felt that we had been talking about a business unit !

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Preparation – or is it all just Luck ?


Third day of racing here in Capri and a very successful one for the 68 Foot Maxi , Alegre on which I am very lucky to be a crew member , one of 21 . During today we talked about our victory in the 2009 Middle Sea Race (see photo above). This race is from Valetta , Malta , around Sicily and it’s off-lying islands , close to Northern Africa and finishing in Valetta and is one of the world’s classic offshore races
. It was a particularly tough race as we all experienced very strong winds and big seas . Many boats have big equipment and people failures , a number of boats lost their masts and very many didn’t finish the race .
When we finished a number of people said “you were very lucky that you didn’t break any equipment !” One of my colleagues replied – “Luck had nothing to do with it !” . My immediate reaction was to think – wasn’t he very arrogant to say such a thing !
Upon further thinking I realised that he is absolutely right . Our boat owner ( Andres Soriano) ensured that we tested all our equipment a number of times , brought our mast and rigging to SWL limits and prepared ourselves and our clothing so much that I thought we had overdone things . The boat was absolutely ready for anything that might happen . Our team had every eventuality prepared for and we all knew what to expect – so , nothing broke and we went on to win the race .
So , plan , prepare , plan , prepare and go do it !
I’m reminded of one of my favourite quotes – “One of the nice things about NOT planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise and is not preceded by long periods of worry and doubt !”

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The Importance of the Team


Still here in Capri racing onboard Alegre . Had a great chat with Francesco de Angelis over dinner last night . Francesco is racing onboard Alegre this week and is a very experienced professional sailor who has raced in many high level campaigns including a number of Americas Cup Campaigns . These campaigns last a number of years and involve high levels of investment in design , coordination and team work . I asked Francesco what he felt was the biggest element in such a campaign – “teamwork” ! How can this be , I asked – so many millions are invested in boat design and all the other elements of a racing campaign and it still all comes down to the people . He went further – it’s better to have a committed group of amateurs working together towards a common goal than having millions more to invest on speed modifications etc . This , he said , is the main attribute that he works towards on a campaign . Yes , he said , you must have the right boat , it must be fast – but after that , the single most important aspect of a campaign is the team . It always has been the area I focus on above all others .
Alegre had a good day yesterday – three races , three wins . A good boat and a great team !

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Thinking in Ink !

I’m currently on the beautiful island of Capri in the Bay of Naples . I’m taking part in the Rolex Capri Racing Week from 26th to 30th May onboard the 68 foot maxi Alegre . I’ve been fortunate to have been on the racing crew of Alegre for the past 18 months and this is our second campaign to win the World Maxi Championships – we won last year and are now defending our title .
As you can imagine , many of the boat owners are incredibly successful in their businesses and I was reminded this week of a particular technique that served one such boat owner very well . Otto Happel , owner of Happel Industries , is the owner of Hateiros , a classic sailing boat approximately 120 feet long . Otto steers the boat around the race course and is very accomplished at this task . He does do one “odd” thing throughout the races . While we are racing he has a special table close the his helmsman’s station on which he has a couple of note-taking devices – each a different colour . As he is steering and an idea comes to his head , he immediately writes it down – different colours for different categories of ideas .
Now , it would be very wrong for me to say that he owes his considerable business success to simply writing his ideas and goals down on a piece of paper ! But there must be something in it !
Writing goals down gives focus , prompts action , aids visualization , avoids conflict and increases your chances of achieving them . The worst that can happen when you write your goals down is that nothing will happen . So , give it a shot , write your goals down and , above all else , take action .
Think In Ink !

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Haven Build it Week 2010

I’m delighted to say that I’ve been accepted to take part in the next Haven “Build it Week” . This will take place between 23rd and 30th October 2010 . I have followed this great charity since it started just a couple of years ago . The Haven Partnership was founded by Leslie Buckley and his wife Carmel in order to address the extreme poverty in Haiti . Leslie had occasion to visit Haiti on a number of occasions in his role as co-founder of the Digicel Mobile Phone Company .
Needless to say , the work of the Haven Partnership has become much more urgent and important in light of the horrific earthquake in January 2010 .
So , I’m off to work there in October . To be part of this great group I have to raise some funds !
I have decided to do something a little different to raise the funds – I’m going to row 1,000 kilometres between now and then . Ok , I’m not going to encounter waves , rain , wind , currents etc as I am going to do it on my Concept 2 Ergometer in the back garden of my house . It will , however , be very painful . I possess such an instrument of torture and have used it occasionally over the past years . To do the 1,000 kilometres is quite a stretch for me as I have been a great procrastinator when it comes to using it .
I have set up a page on mycharity.ie . Any help would be greatly appreciated : Click Here
Thanks a million

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I Am What I Do !

Received a great reminder from my good friend Paul O’Mahony last night at Smarter Egg of a great saying – “I am what I Do ” . Not what I intend to do , not what I want to do , not what I might do , not what might happen to me some day !
What do you want to be ? – then simply do it !
“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do” Henry Ford

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Smarter Egg

One of the very positive things about our little slowdown is that I’ve had the chance to get involved in self-development training . I enrolled in a training course with Aodan Enright of Smarter Egg called “Break from the Pack” . The course was run over a number of weeks and it’s main objectives were to facilitate participants in enhancing their presence online .
To say that Aodan has prompted me to think and act differently is an understatement . In addition to learning a great deal about this “new” business world we live in , I have put real life action steps into practice and these steps have lead to better results for me and my business .
As if all this isn’t enough , the group ( 10 people ) was great and I’ve developed great relationships with people from a whole range of different businesses .
You know , it’s easy to say that it’s the wrong time to get engaged in training and development , what with economic troubles , business concerns etc etc etc . It is , in fact , the very best time to get involved in training and development . It sharpens the mind and gets you to think and act differently – now is precisely when I need to think and act differently .
Can I wholeheartedly recommend Smarter Egg ( no affiliate links – just a genuine referral) as a means to help you to think and act outside the box .

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