How a cohesive team with well-defined jobs and clear direction wins a sailboat race, or gains the competitive edge for their clients in executive search.

By Russ Silvestri

This fall, the sailboat Niuhi, which I serve as Tactician, raced to victory in the J/105 North American Championship on San Francisco Bay, besting 27 other world-class competitors. The press called Niuhi’s win “crushing.” I call it a consummate example of teamwork.

Reflecting on this experience, I attribute the crew’s performance to a winning mindset consisting of three key attitudes:

Each crewmember brought skills that were critical to the boat’s success:

Being Prepared to Win

The crew’s goal was straightforward: get the boat around the racecourse as quickly as possible. The teamwork began with a collaborative discussion of strategy and tactics, then moved to share knowledge on the wind and tides, followed by understanding our competitor’s personalities, and finally, the racecourse, where we are always squeezing the most out of the boat. Each crew member’s responsibilities were defined and documented. Most importantly, the team committed to the playbook.

This process allowed everyone to mesh into a cohesive team with well-defined jobs and clear direction. We inevitably encountered the unexpected in the heat of the race, but we stayed focused on what matters. As Tactician, my energy was devoted to choosing the correct course and keeping the crew focused on execution.

With so many factors beyond our control – whether from competitors’ actions or nature itself – distractions are plenty. It is easy to become overwhelmed. But doing our jobs and focusing on the here and now helped shield us from distractions and kept us cool in tight situations.

Randy, the Skipper, had a laser focus by being continuously attuned to how the boat “felt.” This sensing, along with our instruments, provided a real-time feedback loop throughout the boat. The ongoing observations were oriented to our performance. Reacting quickly to what was not working, and going with the flow of what was working, was the mantra that kept the team on its game.

Applying Niuhi’s Playbook to Boyden’s Process

In competitive talent markets, a similar approach gives Boyden’s clients the edge. We have a proven search process that is well-structured but also flexible, and everyone commits to it.

»  Define the role: At the outset, we take the time to create a detailed job profile that clearly defines the responsibilities of the role and identifies critical factors for success. Getting this right requires understanding what all stakeholders need and how these needs relate to their job performance. This collaborative process sifts “needs” from “wants” in the team’s expectations for the role.

»  Use unbiased information: Data-based tools remove bias from the search process and support good hiring decisions. One example is the PROPHET assessment tool, which Boyden uses to identify work style preferences and build well-balanced teams. We have a predictive framework for evaluating the candidate’s future success in the role based on objective data.

»  Draw on experience: Boyden partners have decades of experience evaluating candidates and making successful hires. Just as a seasoned skipper can “feel” the boat, we are adept at pinpointing the skills and motivations of candidates early on, ensuring only the best are seriously considered. This makes the search more efficient and targeted, and provides our clients with a highly curated roster of candidates.

»  Defend your advantage: On Niuhi, getting the lead and staying there was all about focusing on the task at hand and having the agility to maneuver in fluctuating conditions. Boyden gains the edge through our process and technology. We preserve our lead by following clearly defined steps that allow us to make course corrections as we receive new data, and keep moving forward.

Another key element in Boyden’s success in executive search is our passion for placing people in roles where they succeed, and our clients reap the benefits. We are motivated to bring in top candidates by being the best we can be against world-class competition. Here’s to Niuhi’s victory, and to your opportunity to win championship-level executives.

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