Gurra Krantz: Swedish Leadership Expert

Just another Day at the Office

Sailing is just another day in the office but its more condensed, its more drama, it has more changeable ingredients in relation to Mother Nature but it’s actually the same ingredients as any company.

If you want something to happen, it will happen.

If you have the right people around you, you can achieve any goals. If you have a clear path and you know exactly what you are going to do, your goal is achievable. On the other hand, if there is no vision, there will be lots of confused people and you won’t have any success in the immediate and long term. 

No room for Negativity

When sailing around the world the track around the world is 39,500 miles, 9 stopovers, you race for 9 months and the whole project time lasts roughly 3.5 years. There are 6 hour live positioning reports. Once we made a tactical decision to be the furthest most western boat in 4 days. How easy it is to think ‘what if this doesn’t work?’ and it only takes 1 crew member to think this sentence, and the whole thing cracks.  They don’t even have to say it; just thinking is enough to tip into negativity. You will change your behaviour; you will pitch your voice in a different way. You could read the other person cos it’s such dense, small environment you will definitely pick it up and then the whole system cracks. Whether that decision is right or wrong doesn’t matter, you must decide and then have complete positivity around that decision.

Sometimes you may have to re-evaluate & adapt to a new situation quickly

Sometimes a position report will tell you that the wind in the direction you’re heading is after dropping and so you and your team have to assess the risk & reward, re-evaluate and adapt to the hoof. You must keep moving forward.

Hesitation never pays off.

We have a saying that uses the bikini principal when building a boat. ‘The more we pay, the less we get’. The boats are made for speed, not comfort; we have basically nothing inside the boat. But there is one area called the galley where the food is cooked and less than half a meter away, you have the toilet seat. No walls, no curtain as these would use up space – you have to minimise everything.

The first time you must go to the toilet you are a bit self-conscious ‘why am I degrading myself to this level of exposure’ and then you think ‘ah the boat is faster cos there is no curtain – I have a really fast boat. This will also lead to team building as the person on the toilet can chat with the cook at the same time!!!!

A clear decision

You need a clear decision from day one and then we go about business.

Preparation = build a ‘no excuse to loose’ situation.

Surround yourself with a great, multi-talented team.

Despite the fact that we know we have one contender out there that is always stronger than ourselves ‘the ocean has its own way of showing who is in charge’.  To overcome such strength we have to have the right constellation of human beings around you and they need to have different talents.

Diversity is Key

If I have a team of 10 people with the same qualities as me, this will be a total catastrophe. Variety and diversity is what makes it possible to overcome strong forces of resistance/difficulty along the way.

Mike Tyson said ‘all my opponents had a plan, until I punched them in the nose’.

Understand that you have to rely on the people around you.

How many times have you marched in somewhere with clear plan on this is how we are going to do it and then bang, change of plan. If you don’t have a plan you have nothing to divert from. Your team’s qualities should be as diverse as possible so you can cover all bases. If we are open minded enough to recruit ‘for strength rather than comfort’ i.e. people who are slightly different to ourselves rather than the people who seem familiar and comfortable to us. . That’s all it takes. There is no way of avoiding an iceberg other than diverting your course. You cannot call anyone and ask them to please move the iceberg. Instead you have to adapt to the situation.

Trust Your Team

You need to know that your WINGMAN IS STRONG, standing by and not taking off in another direction to you. He needs to have the same motivation and same focus so he won’t leave their job as sometimes your life will depend on it.  And if we have someone up at the front of the boat where it’s really dangerous, wet and miserable and if that person says ‘oh no not another sail change, I did it last time’ this chatter wastes time and energy. It should be a very quiet, fast maneuverer. And if you are happy with your role and want to do it, your role should come easy to you.

The recruiting process is very simple. Fill up the grid with different types of people. Having the knowledge, the drive, and the stamina to understand that if we are too much alike it’s not going to work. Diversity is where the strength is.

 ‘For a person with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail’

Whatever happens tomorrow it’s not going to be the same as today so diversity is the key in an ever changing, competitive environment.  It’s really where the strength is.

Goals and Visions

It takes 5mins to establish a goal i.e. to win the race. The next issue is much more complicated and takes a lot more time, which is validating that goal.

‘It’s important to have a clear goal. Goal to strategy to commitment to within the crew’

Do you have the commitment?

Am I committed or not? Am I there for the right reasons? Can I actually deliver the energy to that group in the way that they expect me to? Can I actually take a step back and open up the space for someone else without feeling pushed away or having lost prestige?

The commitment defines the value of the goal we set.  If not, the goal is only worth the flipchart on which it is written.

NO risk, no development.

No development leads to stagnation and stagnation will never win anyone a race.

The only way to handle risks is to have diversity and commitment in the team.  ‘Taking a risk- entitled to make a mistake’.


Leadership in these cases is very simple – you have a mature group of people who don’t need to be told what to do. They should only need to be motivated, especially if we just won one of the races. We call this a crisis situation. Why? Because

‘What ever took us to the lead…won’t keep us there’

Fat and happy is never going to motivate us to be in the lead again. You have to understand that whatever motivation took us to the lead, the same thing won’t keep us there. The wind will increase, decrease, shift to the left, shift to the right, and if we are not on our toes, acting, taking risks managing the risks and having the diversity in the team and the commitment we will be passed out left right and centre.

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