How's your team working together?

Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 11.21.43.png

Your team. Work team. Family Team. Sports Team.

Things ever get a bit tough and crunchy?

Of course they do. We're human. Just the nature of how human dynamics work.

One of the biggest shifts I discovered in building teams and to get people working well together was to use appreciation. Find small details as well as the big things and tell people what they are doing well. Even better do it publicly so others know too. I used to give chocolate bars in my business at the same time as telling people what they are doing well.

We're hard wired to spot things that are wrong. It's harder to train ourselves to focus on what's right and tell people what they are doing well. And to do that consistently.

We all know this right? When was the last time you did it?

My Monday thought for you. Find one person today in a team you work in and just share a specific thing that you saw them do and why you thought that was great. The more specific, the better,

This was one of the cornerstones of how I built my businesses and sailed twice around the world. Over the past few months, I've been working with the excellent team at 42courses.com and have distilled down some pithy to the point lessons on team building.

It's recently gone live here: https://www.42courses.com/courses/superteams

If you know anyone who'd benefit from this please share the post.

Have an awesome day

Caspar

What a great session Caspar – and so well delivered.

You have a superb story to tell and you linked your personal ‘lessons learned’ to business leadership issues very skilfully.

You spoke with real credibility and you spoke to 100+ people in the same way as you would speak to 1 person – I always think that is the ultimate achievement for a presenter.
— Eric Pillinger - TACK International

5 Signs you have a winning team (and what to do about it if you don’t)

Your team. In business, at home, in sport, on an adventure. Does it click and you are flying along. Or does it feel hard, crunchy and that something isn’t working?

Over the past two months, I’ve worked with two very different teams. Both were in challenging, uncertain and changing environments. The setting. A 2,000 mile sail along the rugged and windswept North Pacific coast between San Francisco and British Columbia in Canada.

One crew, the “North” team (for the sail heading North) was a four strong team of men, three of whom who had barely met before. The second crew, the “South” team was my family team - my wife and three young children. We took on the challenge, we were safe, we thrived and the expedition was a success with both teams.

Now that I’ve been back on land for some three weeks, I reflect on what the two teams had in common. Some of the things that stood out to me as the hallmarks of a winning team, a happy team that can take on different challenges and thrive. 

They are the same signs you can spot in a business team. A team that is either thriving and doing well, or a team that needs a little help to get firing on all cylinders. These are some the things leaders at all levels in a business might take note of.

I share some of the things that stood out to me below. How many of these do you notice in your business or a team that matters to you?

1) People care about each other

On our sail North, one of the team had a bug for around 36 hours. Fever, high temperature and low on energy. No-one had to be asked to stand up and take his watch or his cooking and cleaning duties. The team just naturally did it. We all worked together. We look after each other. It’s just the right thing to do for the team. Similarly, Nichola, my wife was seasick for the first day on the South team. I and the children rallied round and looked after her.

At work. One team member has the project from hell and is pulling all hours to get it done. How do the rest of the team respond? Do they all pack up at 5pm and leave one person struggling on their own. Or do they pull together and help out where they can.

The question is whether your team genuinely care about each other and are looking out for them. Feeling cared about is one of the most motivating things a person can experience.

2) How does it feel to be part of the team?

On our passage North I had four very strong characters on board. Within a couple of days, you could feel the team had bonded and were working in sync. The energy was infectious. When people’s watches finished, they’d actively want to stay on watch to spend time with the other crew. Other signs were there. Taking a moment to read the log book (the ships document which needs to be updated hourly with position data, weather data and notes about the passage) and you’d see the energy flowing from the words on the page. On the South team, family mealtimes were always fun - lots of conversation and every afternoon, we played board games (all iPads and iPhones were switched off and we enjoyed time together as a family).

Walk into the offices of any business and you can feel it instantly. What’s the energy like? Is it infectious and something you want to be part of or does it feel tired and lacklustre. It’s something you just can’t hide. 

Great teams literally pull you in. I remember back in the late 90’s when I worked at KPMG. I was on a training course in the Welsh countryside. We were split into six teams competing against each other. Our team was just buzzing with energy and were having fun. So much so that one of the instructors actually decided to join the team and work with us. When a team of people create energy like that, it’s palpable.

3) People aren’t afraid to be themselves

The crew were just themselves and played to their strengths. The North team were just who they were. People just spoke their truths and we shared many things between us. As to the South team - well children have no issue in saying exactly what they think - it all just flows out.

Authenticity always has been one of the most powerful ways to communicate your message. Speaking honestly and openly from the heart.

I love the work by Ray Dalio, the driving force behind Bridgewater, the worlds largest hedge fund. He speaks of radical truth, radical honesty and radical transparency. Cutting out all the BS and getting down to the truth of each situation. Link here for his TED Talk on this.

I see in a winning team that people feel liberated to speak their truth and to be who they truly are. Trying to conform or be someone else is just plain exhausting and takes vital energy away from the tasks in hand.

Since coming back, one of the North Team has been helping me with one of my ventures. What I love is the honesty with which he can share things with me. He can speak the core truth of what he thinks and I know beyond any doubt that he is coming from a place of care and compassion. The increase in the levels of self awareness that this generates is remarkable as people say things they might not normally say.

4) Appreciation and Respect

Everyone brings something different to a team. Celebrating and understanding those differences is vital. The “standard boat rules” expect each person to do an equal amount of cooking, cleaning, driving the boat and sailing manoeuvres. 

With the South team, we encouraged the children to contribute what they liked doing best. My son would take a watch and keep look out. My oldest daughter would cook and read stories to the youngest. The little one loved to vacuum the boat and we made a game out of it.

The reality on the North passage is we had two people who loved cooking, one who loved fixing stuff, two who didn't mind the cleaning and quite a few who loved the long watches on deck and sailing manoeuvres. So we flexed. Everyone played to their strengths. Each person appreciated the skills the others brought. There was no “why haven’t you cooked today, its your turn”, it was give and take. Everyone could see that each person was pulling their weight and making things happen.

In a business it’s exactly the same. I always look for the strengths of each person and get them to do more of what they love doing. You need a collection of talents and experience. It’s about cooking up the right balance.

One of the rituals I’ve enjoyed doing both on board a boat,   a business and in my family team is to regularly appreciate and talk about the good things that are happening. On the boat over breakfast every day, I’d hold a skippers briefing. Part of that would be values prizes. I’d share one specific thing that each person had done well over the previous 24 hours. Not everyone gets to see the contribution that each person brings so I see it as part of a leaders role to highlight the contribution that each person makes and to help others appreciate that.

I’ve yet to meet anyone who needs training to tell you what is wrong with a situation. This is about talking about good things. Things that are going well. Building on peoples strengths and building people. 

5) Humour, Celebration and time together

Nothing bonds and cements a team like fun, laughter and enjoyment. The South team despite some seasickness always found things to smile about. The North boys team found “toilet” humour within 24 hours (aided by two block toilets on board).

Back in my corporate days, I remember two different cultures I worked in. One where every week, we’d enjoy spending time in the pub together talking as people. And one where people would leave at the end of the day and wouldn’t socialise. It created a big difference in how much time people relished going to work and spending time as a team.

One of the key things I did in my last business Trovus was to set up a rewards structure for meeting targets. Money would go in the pot for us to celebrate and do things together as a team. One was a weekend for all the team in Amsterdam. Another was the silent disco at Regents Park Zoo. Another was creating graffiti for the office walls. Didn't matter what it was - it was that we celebrated and enjoyed what the team had created and achieved together.

I raced around the world in the year 2000 on the BT Global Challenge - called the Worlds Toughest Yacht Race. I remember a mantra at that time that a fast team is a happy team. The thinking was that if the boat was going fast, then everyone would be happy, and you’d push on to go even faster.

I actually think the polar opposite is true. A happy team is a fast team. Get a team playing to their strengths, doing the things that they love doing, raise the levels of self awareness through truth and honesty, talk about what is right and encourage the team to celebrate together. I think that if your team is buzzing and happy, then you will have a fast team that is a winning team.

What to do if your team isn't in that place? There are many places to start…

  1. Like and Follow my Facebook page where I post regular updates on interesting things I discover and enjoy sharing.
  2. I’ve just launched a course here called SuperTeams> it’s all about how to nurture and build your winning team. You can sign up and take the course immediately - its here.
  3. I work and coach leaders on how to build their winning teams. Contact me if you want to see if we’d be a good fit. 
  4. I deliver Keynote talks on Leadership and Teamwork. My most popular talk is one hour long and is called “Charting Success - 8 Steps to Navigating a Winning Team”. You can book me through my excellent speaking agents - both are brilliant: Dominic at Maria Franzoni and Tiffany or Chris at Unique Speakers Bureau.

Have an awesome day everyone,

Caspar

Family Sailing - Back to sea - Canada to San Francisco - Part 5 of the Great North Pacific Orca Adventure

GG.jpeg

As a family team, we’ve always found the first few days back at sea to be the hardest. Adjusting back to the “at sea” environment, changing sleep patterns to fit into a watch system, being back together in a small space and for Nichola handling sea sickness. This time is no different and after almost a year off the water, it’s the same pattern of adjustment. What helps considerably is the relatively benign conditions back at sea allowing us all to settle in the at sea routines without battling big seas and strong winds. 

In my last update, we were making our way West through the Straits of Juan de Fuca heading to the open water of the Pacific before turning left and heading South.

After we left Victoria, I was struck by the stunning scenery - the Olympic mountains on the Southern side of the Straits of Juan de Fuca were simply spectacular. The first time that Aretha has seen snowy capped mountains. The skies behind the mountains making for a good contrast, before the fog descended and shrouded us from sight of any land.

The Olympic Mountains.JPG

After 12 hours of heading West, we finally reached the open sea by late afternoon. Tatoosh Island close to Cape Flattery was left to port and we headed out to sea to get some 40 miles off the coast. The thinking was that in these foggy conditions, we wanted to be in deep water - away from fishing boats and fishing gear. In thick fog, you can spot the fishing boats by keep a very close eye on the radar and the AIS. The fishing gear and markers are much harder to spot so it’s easier to get out of the way.

Nichola and the children were adjusting to sea life by mostly sleeping and I was content with my own thoughts and enjoying the peace and quiet on deck. It’s always a great time for reflection - no devices buzzing away as by now we are out of signal range, no chattering voices. Just the sound of the sea and Aretha gently making her way South. We have the sails up to make the most of the light winds we have and are motor sailing along at 7-8 knots. By nightfall the wind has died and I drop the mainsail easily from the safety of the cockpit and furl the genoa. Columbus joins me on deck and and we spend an hour talking - making plans to go fishing in Devon and talking about the school year up ahead. Columbus sits on deck with his large mug of hot chocolate and we watch the phosphorescence in the wake at the stern of Aretha.

The seas are flat calm - Nichola and Bluebell take the next watch to allow us to get some rest.

By sunrise, the wind is up to 11 knots, sails are up and we are making over 7 knots assisted by current heading South. Bacon and toast for breakfast fills the saloon with the smells and sounds of breakfast.

Today is a special day. Its the solar eclipse - it’s the first total solar eclipse to unfold from coast to coast in the US in nearly a century. Between 10 and 11am, even despite the fog, the sky darkens and you can feel a small temperature drop. I’m on deck and I’m told that off the Oregon coast where we are is the place in the States where you can see the maximum amount of the eclipse. It feels like a special place to be for the planet to share a special moment with you.

As the hours and days roll forward, we settle back into life at sea. Its one of the things I enjoy most in this world. The distraction of devices drop away. We talk more as a family. We share family meals together. Bluebell and Columbus are content playing chess and dominoes together or reading books. All three are writing journals. Willow plays lego. Nichola and I talk and make plans for the future. We laugh, we talk. We play word association games and work our way through the alphabet naming countries and cities beginning with each letter. We play the famous person name game. This is family time as its very best.  We make mental notes to do this more often on land.

We are mostly motor sailing for the next two days, dodging the occasional fishing boat, spotting dolphins and a variety of birds circling Aretha. We’re fairly sure some of them are Albatrosses. One small brown bird hitched a ride for a short while perched on Aretha’s dinghy hanging on the davits at the stern.

It’s lovely to see the children clicking back to sailing routines. All three are happy steering Aretha, Columbus works the sails with me, Bluebell writing log entries and keeping Aretha shipshape. It’s as though we were never away. We run our daily values prizes and focus on what each person is doing well and how they are contributing to the team.

I’m re-reading favourite business books and re-asking myself questions like “what are the things I do extraordinarily well” and making sure that the things I am choosing to do now fit in this category and that things that I do but that I don’t do very well find another home. Good business books and the lessons they contain are worth their weight in gold - sometimes they just need to be brought front of mind again as with many things going on, good practices can easily fall by the wayside.

As Aretha easily rattles off the miles and we approach the Oregon/ California border, the wind is starting to build and the fog diminishes. Cape Mendocino ahead of us promises to have the strongest winds. The weather files show some 40-50 knots and big seas. I’m grateful we are heading downwind rather than the wind on the bows. In sailing terms this is the difference between flat decks and life at 30 degrees heeled over. It’s also a lot drier. If we’d had this heading North, it would have taken us a long time to bash to windward (reminiscent of the 5,000 mile passage from Panama to San Francisco).

By late evening on the 23rd August, the wind is now over 40 knots and as the big waves lift Aretha’s stern up, we hurtle down the face of the waves at over 14 knots like a big surfboard. With the right sails up, Aretha is perfectly balanced. Two reefs in the mainsail, a small amount of genoa and the staysail.  The seas though are short and steep and in contrast to what we are normally used to sailing trade wind routes. The short seas causes the occasional wave to break over the stern of the boat. It’s dramatic stuff with the waves frothing on the stern.

Aretha at Sea.jpeg

We spot another Yacht, Yacht Cayuse on the AIS (the digital tracking that all larger boats and some sailing boats carry). We call them up on the VHF and swap notes on weather conditions, routing, forecasts and destinations. Sailors are always a friendly bunch and they are no exception. As always as sea, we keep a careful eye on the AIS, radar and visually on deck for other shipping and obstacles. We spot several tankers and container ships and call them up for a chat if they are within 10 miles of us. 

The wind continues to build and we drop the mainsail and the staysail leaving just a small amount of genoa poled out. We are less balanced now and Aretha rolls on each wave. It’s uncomfortable and sleeping is almost impossible. All three children are now sleeping in Aretha’s aft cabin where there is least movement.

The fast rolling conditions are offset by the magic in the skies. For the first time since we set off we have beautifully clear night skies and the stars and moon are silvery lights above us. Nichola’s newly acquired sea legs have left her now and she is feeling a little green again. 

By dawn on our final day at sea, we are now less than 100 miles from San Francisco. It’s noticeably cold on deck and I’m grateful for the warm foul weather gear we carry on board. The wind is now softening and the swells are easing off. We hoist more sail and Aretha responds by settling much more comfortably into the motion of the ocean. She’s back in her groove after a bumpy 24 hours. 

I run the generator to give us hot water for showers and get a cooked breakfast underway. Over family breakfast I give out values prizes for the way the children have handled themselves over the past 4 days. We have some necklace pendants I bought way back in Cape Town which I use as prizes - Columbus gets the Love one, Bluebell, Abundance and Willow gets Joy. They have easily and happily settled back into life at sea and have thrived back in this environment.

The approaches to San Francisco are wide and we have to carefully navigate the shipping lanes making sure to cross them at right angles. The skies are clear and give us more opportunities to spot the whales and dolphins that frequent these waters. 

By late afternoon we are closing on the Golden Gate bridge. It’s the ebb tide and the current is flowing hard out of the Bay. The sails by now are carefully stowed and we are motoring the final few miles. With camera in hand I start to take a few photos of the crew. Rememberingthat we have a 12 year old on board, I chastise myself for even beginning to take a photo when we have a selfie expert on board complete with selfie stick. The pic below therefore courtesy of Bluebell. A good note to remember the talents contained in any team and of course that the Captain needs to be focused on the boat and safety.

By 1900 we are safely tied up in our marina berth and take time to celebrate another achievement as a family. It’s been a short but testing passage and we have worked well as a team and have thrived in each others company. As the Captain I can relax - it’s been an intense six weeks and as two different teams since leaving here back in July it’s been packed full of adventures and experiences. It’s time now for back to school, building businesses, inspiring others to be Brave and to planning our next adventures.

In my next blog, I’ll be writing and reflecting on what I’ve learnt over these six weeks with very different teams and what shareable lessons there are.

As a final note, I’m also excited to announce that our book, Where the Magic Happens is now available for pre-order on Amazon [link here]. This tells our story of how we went from the seed of an idea to literally changing everything in our lives and enabling us to live adventures like these.

Have an awesome day everyone,

Caspar and all on board Team Aretha.

 

There’s always an element of pressure when it’s you that has introduced the keynote speaker for an important event. Unsurprisingly though, Caspar did not let me down. Having known Caspar professionally for at least 10 years , I felt proud to see how he has used his wealth of business experience and his phenomenal experience of circumnavigating the world with his young family in a 53 foot yacht!

What I found especially powerful was the balance between inspiration and practical points to takeaway. Caspar has cleverly crafted his talk to equate his and his family’s experiences and challenges, the highs and the lows, to a business context. Irrespective of profession, sector and experience, everyone in the room could relate Caspar’s talk to their own situation. From my own perspective I already subscribe to the critical importance of values, culture and behaviour and Caspar reinforced these messages powerfully and with humour and humility.
— Louise Gulliver Managing Director Institute of Directors

Sailing in fog....Captains Log - 22nd August 2017 - The Great North Pacific Orca Adventure - Part 4.

Kids on board.JPG

I think the technical term is a pea souper. The fog surrounding Aretha is so thick you can barely see 30 metres ahead of you. The salty air and the moisture fills your nose as you strain your eyes scanning all around. Back on land, you just make sure you are wrapped up warm and wait for the fog to lift. It’s another matter entirely when  you are on a small sailing boat and you are in one of the busiest shipping lanes on the West coast of America with huge 6 knot currents barrelling through here.

Its intense. My senses are dialled up to the maximum. Eyes and ears straining for the signs of cargo ships, fishing boats, fishing buoys, thick floating trees of kelp, submerged logs, rocks and local wildlife like Orca’s. I’m helped by the extensive electronics on board to identify what’s around us. They are devices to support instinct and good decision making and not a substitute. I have the foghorn on deck ready to sound to make other vessels aware of our presence.

It’s without doubt one of the times at sea when I’m at my most alert and the adrenaline is running. You are aware of everything around you - the slightest noise or sight or inclination warrants attention. The dangers of running into another vessel or a rock don’t bear thinking about. 

We are in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. It’s the 14 mile wide waterway that separates Canada and America in the North Pacific Ocean. International trade flows in and out of Seattle and Vancouver in these waters. When we arrived here some two weeks earlier we were a four strong team of highly experienced sailors. A fresh team that came together in San Francisco and bonded to form a cohesive, safe and playful team for the 1,000 mile passage North along the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington before making landfall in Victoria in British Columbia.

This time round I have a very different team. There are five very different experienced sailors on board. It is of course the original crew of Team Aretha - my wife Nichola and my three children, Bluebell, 12, Columbus, 10 and Willow, 5. It’s the first time they’ve been on an ocean passage for over a year now and we need time to blow out the land cobwebs and get used to being at sea again. Nichola in particular needs to rediscover her sea legs too as the ocean swells have welcomed her back to sea with a dose of seasickness. 

For now, I’m single handing Aretha whilst my team rest and acclimatise. The intensity of being permanently switched on is in sharp contrast to the relaxing that the past two weeks in Canada.

After the high in my last blog of joining the Symphony Splash in Victoria and a few days in the Gulf Islands, my first crew of Jani, Pete and Ellis headed home leaving an empty Aretha. It wouldn’t stay quiet for long. Nichola and the children together with my sister Jess were all flying into Vancouver to enjoy time around the stunningly beautiful and remote islands of British Columbia.

I’d last seen Nichola and the children some three weeks earlier. I’d departed from the UK to spend two weeks getting Aretha, our Oyster 53 sailing yacht prepared and ready for sea. That was followed by a week at sea with the boys crew heading North. Although Aretha had been keeping my hands full, I’d forgotten how quiet life is without three excitable children around all the time.

Nichola and the children hadn't sailed Aretha for close on a year now and the excitement levels were off the charts to be coming back “home” to Aretha. I set off to meet them as they arrived off the plane. I’ve always loved that line in the film Love Actually where if you want to see Love, go and spend a little time in the arrivals lounge in an airport to see the emotions of loved ones meeting again. I couldn’t be more excited to be seeing them again.

The day started at 5am with a taxi to Swartz Bay to get a ferry to Vancouver. These inter island ferries are a slick operation as they deftly pick their way through the islands to get to the ferry terminal at Tsawwassen. It’s well organised and efficient - great breakfast and wifi with the most stunning scenery of islands literally hundreds of metres away from you and the strong possibility of seeing Orca’s.

I had a few hours before they arrived and headed for the Vancouver waterfront - buses and trains popped me out by Canada Place where I walked the waterfront and explored marina possibilities for bringing Aretha into at a later date. Like everything else I’d experienced in Canada, it was clean, well organised and with super friendly and helpful people wherever you go. You can understand why lots of people I know hanker to come and live in Canada.

One of the most distinctive things you see in all the ports out here are the seaplanes. I’ve never seen so many of them in my life. The waterfront in Vancouver is no exception and there were lines of them neatly organised ready for the short hops to the surrounding islands. You become tuned into the roar of the propellers as they take off and land - especially as many of the larger anchorages have “runways” very close to where you are moored.

I got to the airport an hour early and enjoyed sitting in arrivals and watching the emotions whilst waiting. Flights were all running on time and when Nichola and the children came through the gate it was our wonderful family moment to all reconnect with 16 conversations all happening at the same time.

We headed back to Aretha via the same route of trains, buses and ferries and at Tsawwassen we met my sister Jess who had flown in the night before and who’d be sailing the British Columbia islands with us for the next 10 days. We had plenty of adventures ahead of us.

We arrived back on Aretha late afternoon. The children were besides themselves with excitement climbing all over Aretha, in and out of the hatches, on the mast and into the boom, and rediscovering their treasures and toys in their cabins. Nichola’s words were simple and to the point “I feel like I’m home again”.

The previous day I’d reconnected with some friends we’d last seen in Grenada - Leo and Karin on their Oyster 62, Bubbles and we’d arranged they’d come over for evening drinks. The perfect way for Nichola and Jess to kick off their holiday - drinks on deck with great conversations on our different sailing adventures since we’d last seen them. The setting sun in front of the Empress hotel in the centre of downtown Victoria watching seaplanes landing provided the ideal backdrop.

With limited time and so much to do and experience we wasted little time heading out the following morning. We slipped lines from the marina and motored out past the colourful ferries that dance every day choreographed to music - as Willow calls them - the dancing boats. We kept strictly to the port side of the channel - the seaplanes regularly landing and taking off are the reminder why!

Flat seas, sunshine and Orca’s were waiting for us as we rounded the harbour wall and we set a course for Poets Cove on Pender Island. It doesn’t get much better than this - especially when you want to re-introduce the family to sailing and plan more adventures for the future. The Orcas have three modes we spotted, the first being the blow holes, the second being the fins, straight in the air moving at speed and the third the spectacular leaps out of the water. Just stunning.

Sailing these waters takes very careful navigation. Hazards abound and you are regularly reminded of these as you have the VHF on Channel 16 in the background with boats needing assistance. Strong currents flow between the islands - get it right and you are speeding along at 11 knots. Get it wrong and you are grinding it out doing 4 knots. 

The tides races between the islands are powerful - with no wind and still waters they are so distinctive. You can see the turbulence on the water as you approach them and as you enter the rough areas, you can feel Aretha being thrown to port and starboard as she gets bounced around. 

These are waterways you only sail by day. By night you won’t be able to spot the deadheads. The submerged logs floating vertically that you really don’t want to run into or the large clumps of kelp that float between the islands. 

We spent two nights at Poets Cove and connected with long lost family whilst here. My Dad’s older brother Wilf emigrated to Canada when we was just 17 and who I was now meeting for the first time with his wife Lin. Together with his daughter Celene who I’d met in the UK some 20 plus years earlier and her lovely family could not have been more welcoming and we made plans to visit them again and spend the day with them. I knew this adventure would a journey of building different teams and experiencing a raft of different adventures. I didn’t know it would a journey of family discovering and learning more about my past and forebears. A true unexpected highlight and we’re all looking forward to coming back here and reconnecting again. 

We moved to Port Browning and anchored in the most idyllic setting away from other yachts. From here, we could lie on deck at night and watch the stars complete with shooting stars and clear skies. By day we explored by dinghy motoring the channel between North and South Pender Island. We saw a family of otters, countless birds as we spotted Eagles and explored Medicine Beach - an archaeological site dating back some 5,000 years. We collected drift wood and with Jess to supervise, the children made carvings and pained Aretha boat signs for us to keep on board. Port Browning also provided a pool for the kids to play in and the opportunity to meet Wilf and the family again. We swam in a fresh water lake and were made to feel very welcome at Wilf’s home where he showed us his workshop where he makes clocks.

The days flew by. We visited Prevost Island and Ganges Harbour on Saltspring Island. We barely scratched the surface of what there is here and have been planning future trips. Our minds were now starting to turn to our trip and to preparing both the team and Aretha for a fast 5 day sail South with strong winds expected on the way. Safety is always my number one priority on board. Our rig checks - with Nichola going up the mast identified a problem. One of our spreaders needed repairing as the pin securing it was coming out and bent. The spreaders are the part of the rigging that come out at right angles to the mast and hold the rigging wires in place. If a spreader fails, the rigging will fail and the mast is likely to come down. This is stuff to take seriously. With a rough 1,000 mile passage ahead of us, whilst we could have made a fix, we wanted an expert to do the work. Better to have found this now that 1,000 miles out at sea!

We headed ashore for wifi to research where we could find a rigger. Nichola researched local riggers online. I contacted David who we’d met in Victoria at the Symphony Splash and who was previously commodore of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club. Within an hour, David had replied and Nichola had done her research. All roads were leading to Brent at Blackline Marine in Sidney - a 2 hour sail away. I contacted Brent who responded immediately and starting working out how to fit us us. We headed off shortly and by the end of the day, we were in the first Van Isle Marina and Brent’s rigger had fixed the problem. Canadian efficiency and customer service as its very finest. What could have been a big issue quickly resolved. 

Our time was now running short. Two days back in Victoria for some day preparation, provisioning, a little sight seeing and we are ready to head back to sea again. Our final evening was a wonderfully civilised affair. Kathryn (from Symphony Splash) and her husband Read invited us over for drinks and supper with David and Marianne. We sat on their balcony looking out over the Gulf Islands in the most perfect setting with red wine, a beautifully cooked rack of beef and flowing conversations. It left us all with strong reminders of the warmth and generosity of the people we’ve all met in this scenic paradise. 

We slipped lines the following morning, waved goodbye to Jess and headed out into the Straits of Juan de Fuca, ready for the sail South. The next part of the adventure was just about to begin. I have my usual Aretha team of Nichola and our 3 young children - now aged just 12, 10 and 5. We have a lot of sailing ahead of us and we need to be in the zone to be safe and happy. This next passage is no walk in the park.

Team Aretha sailing the Straits of Juan de Fuca, Out.

Aretha Sunset.JPG
Your talk really was superb and I have never heard so much positive feedback from our teachers regarding a presentation.

One of the secretaries said she wished you could ring her once a week just to re-iterate your positive messages!!
— Stefan Anderson, Principal at Tring Park School for the Performing Arts

Captains Log - 8th August 2017 - The Great North Pacific Orca Adventure - Part 3.

Aretha.JPG

1430 Local time, 48 44 North 123 13 West

The only sounds are the waves lapping against the side of the hull and occasional distant hum of an outboard motor. The hatches are open and the lightest of breezes fills Aretha with the scent of the nearby pine trees. Jani and Pete are both on deck reading whilst I sit at the saloon table writing.

We are at anchor in the most peaceful idyllic bay. It’s called Poets Cove nestled in between North and South Pender Island in British Columbia. We arrived here 24 hours ago and after nine days of intensity in many forms, its truly relaxing to be stopped in one place.

We have learnt much as a team over that time and have created many memories. Tomorrow I will sadly wave goodbye to my current crew and in the evening couldn’t be more excited to welcome my family crew back onto Team Aretha. More of that shortly.

In my last blog, we were off the Oregon Coast and motoring North. Bouncy Tigger Ellis was threatening to scale the mast, our tough Hungarian was treating us to the finest tuna dishes and our Wayward Seaman Pete was entertaining us with his dry sense of humour.

The final four days of the passage were filled with laughter. There was much to laugh about. 

Some of it was aimed at the blocked heads (the sailing word for toilets). Not just one head, but two heads. The looming prospect of the bucket and chuck it system provided sufficient motivation for three of the crew to get their hands dirty. Firstly bailing out very full and stinky heads and then dismantling and blowing through pipes to clear it. This sailing stuff - its all glamour and gin and tonics on deck right? Who mentioned this pipe clearing nonsense. Special resilience award to Jani who went beyond the call of duty to clear the pipes.

The schoolboy humour continued. When our Media Industry Captain went for a shower, the rest of the crew thought it would be funny to switch the water pumps off and throw buckets of cold water in through the deck hatch. I have no idea what the Scottish expletives meant but I don’t think he was very happy! Three crew on the other hand were laughing so hard they only partially videoed the naked Scotsman fully lathered up. 

You get the picture. It’s been a proper boys sailing trip.

The days and nights cantered through. Stunning orange and purple sunrises and sunsets. Calm seas with barely a whisper of wind as Aretha motored steadily Northwards. The fog around San Francisco gave way to sunshine as we stayed some 20 miles off the coast. The weather gods continued to smile us on giving us unusually benign conditions.

The fishing fleets after Halibut, Red Snapper, Cod and Salmon along this coast were out in full. Easier to spot by night being lit up like Christmas trees as very few fishing vessels out here carry AIS to emit a digital signal letting you know of their presence. I’m sorry to say that we did actually snag two different sets of fishing gear with our propeller by night. The tell tale was the clonk of the floats which I could feel under my bunk in the stern quarters. Thankfully both were dealt with by stopping the engine and going into reverse and the rope cutter by the propeller did its job.

Many deep and engaging conversations flowed on deck - by day under the sun and by night under the starry skies of the North Pacific.

This trip was called the North Pacific Orca Adventure for a specific reason and expectations for Orca’s were high. So much so that what we know now as Dall’s Porpoises (with a distinct white underbelly) were called out as Orca’s. Admiral Pete scoffed. They’re not Orca’s. They’re dolphins.

One day later our patience was rewarded. As three huge fins came cutting towards us at high speed, the shout from on deck was clear “Whales”. Admiral Pete left us in doubt “now that’s an Orca”. Huge. Powerful. Fast. Coming clear of the water and letting us know who was the boss. Wow. Just wow. They weren’t so keen on posing for the camera’s so here’s to the next crew getting better snaps of them.

In the early hours of the sixth day, the flashing lights off Cape Flattery were spotted. Two flashes every twenty seconds. Unmistakeable. The current helped accelerate us towards the headland giving us at around 8 knots over the ground. The chart plotter was now filling with commercial vessels and the upcoming Traffic Separation Scheme as vessels coming into Vancouver and Seattle and then heading out around the world ply this channel. It also happens to be the location for one of the US Navy’s largest shipyards.

We entered the Straits of Juan de Fuca around 3am and as the light started to rise after 6am the sides of the channel were shrouded in fog. We still had some 60 miles to go to reach Victoria and for the first 5 hours with current against us, we were barely making 4 knots. When the current turned, 4 knots turned into 9 knots. As the sun burnt through the fog, the spectacular treelined coasts became visible and the rising sense of excitement and anticipation across the crew was palpable. 

For the final 10 miles, we were treated to more Orca’s and we think humpbacked whales too. This place is a nature lovers paradise.

The breeze picked up and with sails up we closed the final miles to Victoria at 10 knots in flat water. 

Sails down. Mooring lines and fenders out.  

A buzzing sound reminded us of what we had read in the Pilot books. The harbour as well being the shipping entrance is also the runway for the seaplanes that regularly take off and land here. This is a new experience watching the air as well as the sea. We debate who has right of way and then get over the side out of the way whilst one lands right in front of us. Best not to argue with a plane!

We clear into Customs Canadian style. That’s self service. Pull up to the customs dock. Call on the telephone. Give them your details. You get a clearance number and you’re in. That’s it. Canadian efficiency. Love it. Huge contrast to flying into San Francisco last time and spending 3-4 hours waiting to pass through customs.

We refuelled and then briefly docked on the fishing dock before a celebratory beer and heading into town.

As luck would have it, the following day, the Sunday was one of the biggest events of the year in Victoria, the Symphony Splash. A live orchestra playing from a barge moored in the inner harbour and watched by some 40,000 people and live streamed over the web and on TV. Our timing could not have been better.

We wandered to the inner harbour and inquired as to the chances of a berth. It wasn't looking likely. Someone however was smiling on us that day and we were offered a berth right next to the stage. We couldn’t believe our luck. Without wasting a minute we ferried back to Aretha in the small harbour ferries that look like something out of Disney and guided Aretha into the tiniest of spots. Our neighbours told us they have been waiting to get a berth here for the last 20 years during the Symphony Splash. 

The next 24 hours flew by - drinks, food, a polish up for us and Aretha and flying Aretha’s dress flags. We met so many welcoming people who exuded warmth and generosity to include us. The CEO of the Symphony looked after us and I got the pleasure of going back stage to meet the Conductor, Christian Kluxen and the 8 year old Chinese child prodigy, Felipe Jiang who played piano. The setting was spectacular - a water based amphitheatre with people lining the walls and the water filled with kayaks and paddle boarders all nudging close to the action.

As we shared glasses of wine on deck with our neighbours and enjoyed the music and fireworks to the 1812 overture, andthe bagpipers playing Amazing Grace, the memory of broken boat parts and ocean sailing felt a million miles away.

Ellis finally got to scale the mast (it was too rolling at sea) and watched the last 30 minutes from the first spreaders and captured the beauty of the moment on camera.

My team on Aretha for the first part of the Great North Pacific Orca adventure has been absolutely first class. The way the whole team has come together with humour, with energy and pride has been the strongest memory.

This team now head home - Ellis had a call to return to business at short notice yesterday and Pete and Jani fly home tomorrow. 

My next team - my wife Nichola, Bluebell (12), Columbus (10) and Willow (5) fly into Vancouver tomorrow with my younger sister Jess. I couldn’t be more excited as I’ve not seen them for three weeks. It will be a very different team and we have many more adventures ahead of us.

Team Aretha in British Columbia, Out.

Captains Log - 3rd August 2017 - The Great North Pacific Orca Adventure

1115 Local time, 44 29 North 124 33 West

Four men are sitting in the cockpit. One man declares if he catches another fish he will be completely unbearable. Another man dryly comments that he already is unbearable. The undulating seas off the Oregon coast are filled with laughter from all four.

What happens when you take four men with vastly different backgrounds and experiences and form a team to tackle one of the reputed toughest stretches of offshore sailing. Four men who are largely new to each other as a team.

This is an expedition that will take the freshly minted team North from San Francisco, sailing underneath the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, turning right and then heading North along the California and Oregon coast before turning right at Cape Flattery and heading to Canadian Waters around British Columbia and Vancouver Island. This is an expedition of some 1,000 miles and 10 days at sea

The team is thus:

Jani - a tough resourceful Hungarian man with a kind thoughtful nature and an easy sense of humour. He also happens to be a brilliant chef and a brilliant engineer.

Pete - a man with the driest sense of humour and a twinkle in his eye as he pulls your leg. Resolute, stoic, resourceful and who also happens to be a vastly experienced sailor who has spent his whole working life on the sea as a high ranking US Naval officer.

Ellis. Think Tigger. Then 10 x it. Enough energy, enthusiasm and humour to make anyone smile. A captain of the media industry who has spent a lifetime working the rich, famous, glamorous and influential.

And your writer, the Captain on Team Aretha, For this expedition heading North to some of the most stunning cruising grounds in the world, I’m privileged to be joined by this team of wonderfully diverse people.

For two weeks before the team arrive, I have been head down on maintenance work to get Aretha ready for this expedition. It has been a year since she has been sailed on a testing passage and much needs to be done to ready her. Whilst I am head down in work on Aretha, my wife Nichola is working equally hard arranging life raft servicing, identifying customs clearance procedures and satellite communications whilst we are at sea.

Jani and Ellis arrive 36 hours before departure and after a meal and a good nights sleep join me in the final preparations. Engine and generator servicing, filling propane gas bottles and other boat maintenance jobs fill the day. Pete arrives in the afternoon and the team all meet for the first time. 

We head out for supper at the local Italian and to allow the team to get to know each other. I am the common link. Jani I have sailed with for the past 15 years. He has met Pete and Ellis just once before. Pete was on his own yacht, Wayward Wind when he sailed the World ARC at the same time as me and has not met Ellis before. Ellis and I met only recently and is planned his own family sailing adventures.

We hit our bunks early - we have a big day tomorrow and want to be well rested and ready to go. 

We all wake early and make use of the hot showers and final bits of work using wifi and the few remaining boat jobs. Jani cooks an omelette and over breakfast I introduce the team to the concept of our values and hand out the first values prizes and begin our daily questions routine. Ellis kicks us off with the question: “What am I grateful for”. The answers flow easily and thoughtfully.

We have final safety briefings at 0900 and by 0935 we slip lines and are waved off by my good friend Neil who has lovingly looked after Aretha every week we have been in San Francisco and who was here to take our lines when we arrived last year.

It is a bright morning. The California sunshine is warming the blue skies and we motor out of the marina. Just past the marinas in Sausalito, we hoist the full main and unfurl half the genoa. We can see the breeze line ahead of and we head towards the City, with Alcatraz Island to our port side. The Golden Gate Bridge comes into sight marking the start of our entry into the Pacific ocean. We sail to the City side of the Bay and tack giving us a clear run under the bridge under sail. With iPhones and Facebook Live capturing the moment, Jani steers us under the bridge and out to sea. We are officially at sea and it has begun.

Our expectations for seeing wildlife are high. Reports over the past few days from local friends have told us about the many whales around here. For the first hour. Nothing.

Ellis spots something on the water. Our eyes all swivel to where he is pointed. It takes a while to focus on where he is looking. It’s seaweed. Pete casually comments “ you can look at the seaweed over there if you like, but I’m going to watch the whales jumping over here”.

For the next 6 hours until the light starts to fade we are treated to the most spectacular displays as these huge giants of whales play around us. Some ambling on the surface within 50 metres, some leaping clear of the water, some with the classic shot of their tails pointed towards the skies. It is breathtaking and we can barely leave the decks. They are interspersed with their smaller friends, dolphins and sea lions.

The weather forecast for the passage is the best it can be. This section of coast normally has 30-40 knot winds tearing down from the North making for tough upwind sailing. Our passage looks to have either very light winds or Southerly winds with light downwind sailing. The first evening is damp as the heavy fog that San Francisco is famous for shrouds Aretha and reduces visibility to some 100 metres at best. We have our lights on, radar watch and a constant look out on deck. We are running a watch system of 3 hours on, 6 hours off for the crew with me being available whenever needed.

The first night at sea is a calm one as we motor sail North and by morning time, the smell of fresh coffee and a cooked breakfast by Jani gives us the best start to the day.

The next four days all blur together woven together by an array of highlights and the masculine camaraderie of a fresh team bonding together. Some highlights in no particular order….

  • Jani and Ellis catching a huge blue fin tuna. Estimated at some 18 pounds, Ellis was reluctant to bring it in initially as he thought it was a shark. Once we established it wasn't going to eat, us, we landed it and within minutes the testosterone levels went through the roof as we carved and ate fresh sashimi on deck. Later in the day, Jani and Ellis engaged in healthy competition to see who could make the finest fresh tuna dishes. Pete and I were the undisputed winners benefiting from the taste and flavour explosions created by our wizards in the galley. By Day 4, we’d add to the fish tally with a 3 pound Oregon salmon. Sashimi followed as before and I think I have the cooking honourslater today for this king of fish.
  • Enjoying the wildlife and seeing huge albatrosses soaring low over the water and around Aretha.
  • The wind and sea has been remarkably kind to us and we have had extremely benign conditions and have been steadily motoring our way North and expect to round Cape Flattery in two days time.

The undisputed highlight though has been the camaraderie and banter between these remarkable individuals. There are no ego’s on display - simply stories, shared experiences and laughter. The bonds that have been created in such a short space of time have created an environment where we are all sharing stories, challenges and opportunities for the future - helping and supporting each other. The daily questions written by my daughter Bluebell feature morning and evening - last nights one of “How have I invested in my future today” opening up many avenues of conversation.

We have much ahead of us still and the next instalment will no doubt be rich with tales as Ellis is keen to scale the mast in the rolling 6 foot swells. Video and photos will capture the moments.

Being a boat, we aren't without our boat issues. We snagged some fishing gear this morning on our propeller and thankfully managed to clear it without having to dive under the boat. Our inverter (which turns power from the batteries into your usual household power to charge iPhones and iPads) has stopped working. When I shared the news with the crew, Petes dryness brought humour to the situation …”Well Captain Cook and Columbus didn't have an inverter and it worked out ok for them”!

From a happy freshly minted team onboard Team Aretha, Out.

Welcome to The Great North Pacific Orca Adventure - July & August 2017

37 52 North. 122 29 West

It's time to build to build a new team and head off on a fresh ocean adventure.

Imagine a perfect Californian afternoon. Blue skies, steady breeze keeping the temperature down and Spanish music playing as I’m sitting in the Seahorse restaurant catching up on emails on their wifi network.

I’m 2 minutes away from the KKMI boatyard where Aretha, our 53 Yacht has been out of the water for the past 6 days. The boatyard has been my home in that time. Living 10 feet in the air and climbing up a ladder to get to and from home is a reminder of the different places we’ve been hauled out of the water - Portugal, Fiji and South Africa. There has been a steady cross wind blowing and although Aretha looks steady in the supports holding her up, she still wobbles in the wind. Its been very peaceful staying here - just the odd Mosquito for company in the evening (at least until I re-discovered our stack of anti-mossie kit on board).

It’s been a year since I’ve sailed Aretha and she has been in need of some TLC to bring her back to ocean ready state. We have some expedition ahead of us for the next month and she needs to be in fine form. The plan is an estimated 2,000 mile round trip sailing to British Columbia and back for the month of August. British Columbia an area that I’ve heard a lot about and is meant to be stunningly beautiful. Sailing through the San Juan islands, Orca’s, Eagle and snowy capped mountains as a backdrop. A common thread I’ve heard is that I won’t want to sail back down afterwards!

I have a brand new team to build for the sail North which will almost certainly provide the toughest challenge for us. We don't have long to gel together as a team before we hit the rough stuff so we'll be straight into how do we work best together. We have three strong and very different personalities. First up is Jani - not only is he great company and a brilliant sailor. He also happens to be a fantastic engineer and an amazing chef. Next up is my good friend Pete - he has more sea miles than anyone else I know from his time in the US Navy and we’ll be in his back yard as we sail up past Newport, Oregon. Pete was the Captain on Wayward Wind, one of the boats we sailed on the World ARC with and I’m looking forward to my first time actually sailing with him. Last and by no means least is Ellis - a man on his own mission to sail the worlds oceans with his family and an experienced sailor with an unquenchable energy and enthusiasm. 

The passage North from San Francisco has the potential to provide a baptism of headwinds and heavy seas making for a wet passage. It will be a wake-up call for all of us. Looking at the forecasts, it looks as though the weather gods may be smiling on us for the first few days and providing some benign conditions as we all find our sea legs and Aretha gets into the rhythm of the oceans again.

The plan is for the four of us to sail North, round Cape Flattery and then head downwind into the Straits of Juan De Fuca making our first stop at Victoria. From there, we’ll head out and spend a few days exploring the islands and the beautiful anchorages.

My second crew will then join me up there as my first crew fly back for family commitments in Europe and the States. My second crew will be my family. Nichola, Bluebell, Columbus and Willow. It’ll be the first time back sailing on Aretha for a little while - Bluebell last sailed into St Lucia, Nichola and Willow flew back from Panama whilst Columbus sailed Aretha all the way to San Francisco with me. We will also be joined by my youngest sister Jess for her first time sailing on Aretha too. 

As a family, we’ll explore the islands around Vancouver Island and get a small taster for the future. We haven’t a huge amount of time until we turn Aretha around and we’ll canter downwind back down the coast to San Francisco. It should be a lot faster going South than North. 

I’ve been onboard now for 8 days and have been working through a substantial list of never ending boat jobs - a small sample of what it takes to get an Ocean going yacht ready….

- Liferaft sent away for serving - Check.

- Hauled out and anti-fouled - Check

- Change the anodes - Check

- Change the cutlass bearing on the prop shaft - Check

- Fit a new forward head - Check

- Fit new windlass switches - Check

- Service lifejackets - Check

- Service winches - Check

- Service safety equipment - Check

- Inspect diesel tanks (and using Captain Stefan’s new Diesel Dipp System) - Check

- Top up the batteries - Check

- Flares and Fire Extinguishers - Check.

- Steering all working - Check

- Nav systems and Autopilot all working - Check.

Sailors are always an extremely helpful group of people and I’m super grateful for all the help I’ve had the past week from my good friends Neil and Rob. They have made my life a lot easier with the knowledge and expertise turning half day jobs into hour long jobs.

Rig checks, Engine and Generator Service to be done after we back in the water. Fixing up Satcoms and emails to be done too. Test sail planned to make sure all sails are working. We had a full service on the sails when we arrived here last year so fingers crossed all are good.

It’s not a comprehensive list but you get the idea. On the plus side, I’ve had no child distractions so I’ve been able to press on at good speed. Heaven knows how we used to do all this with three small children around us all the time. Just emptying the lockers for spares and tools creates enough chaos without a pile of lego and three kids thrown into the mix.

I think we are looking in reasonable shape. Can’t wait to welcome my fresh team into town this weekend, to slip lines and head out under the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, turn right and head North on our expedition. We’ll have to get our values prizes going again and inducting our new crew into the Team Aretha way of doing things.

Have an awesome day everyone,

From an excited Team Aretha in San Francisco, Out.

What does the House of Lords have in common with Silicon Valley

Yesterday was the official opening of Parliament in London. It’s a full on ceremony with traditions stretching back hundreds of years. I was fortunate to have been invited to afternoon tea with one of the Lords and got to see the inside workings of this most British of traditions. Several hours after the Queen opened Parliament I got to see the Debating Chamber (which was packed and full of debate), to walk the corridors and rub shoulders with Lords, and to see the robing room where the Queen with Ladies in Waiting prepared to deliver her opening speech.

It was a fascinating insight and I was struck by a similarity I’d experienced only a couple of weeks earlier. I’m just back from two weeks in San Francisco and Silicon Valley meeting some of the smartest entrepreneurs and the venture capitalists in the States.

So what could these two possibly have in common?

It’s about Values. 

In the Queens robing room, there are a series of paintings on the walls by William Dyce. They depict the chivalric virtues of hospitality, generosity, mercy, religion and courtesy, as represented through scenes from the legend of King Arthur and his court. There are two other frescoes, illustrating fidelity and courage.

In this most hallowed of institutions, it’s fascinating to see the Queen surrounded by the values which have been part of this instition for hundreds of years. Right before she walks into the Houses of Parliament to deliver her speech, these are the influences she has around her.

Values. Values. Values. They influence our mindset and drive behaviours. Behaviours drive actions and actions drive results.

In Silicon Value, I see some of the most successful ventures being driven by a shared set of behaviours, by a common purpose. Marc Benioff at SalesForce has values and culture right at the heart of his juggernaut of a technology business.

If they are good enough for the Queen, the House of Lords and the finest in Silicon Valley, are they good enough to put at the heart and centre of your business and your team?

At their very simplest, values are all about agreeing what’s important to each team of people and making sure they are something that is regularly talked about and influences what the team collectively does and how they show up.

Have an awesome day everyone.

The Two Year Goal - Yachting World

IMG_1201.jpg

For years I've been an avid reader of Yachting World. It's with a good amount of excitement and pride that in the July issue,  the first article of a two part series I've written on our recent adventures has been published.  It's a 7 page feature with plenty of pics and although I can't include the full text here, it covers the idea, where it came it from, how we started to get the finances together to make it happen and then the massive setback which meant that it almost didn't happen at all.

In all good newsagents and I suspect on the Yachting World website soon.

Next blog to cover my latest adventures in Silicon Valley and tuning into the start up and Venture Capital community there.

Have an awesome day

Caspar

What's your Purpose?

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 22.03.14.png

I was reminded today of a favourite quote:

"There are two important days in your life. The day you are born and the day you work out why”

The essence of that is about finding your purpose in life. Your identity and how you can contribute to the world.

I reflected.

I’m currently in San Francisco and for the past week have been racing around connecting with some amazing people (and allegedly doing some work getting our boat Aretha ready to go sailing in 9 weeks time).

It’s also given me a little time to think about the crazy journey that I’m currently on. I’m in process of building my next business. It’s based around my speaking and what I’ve learnt about Leadership and Teamwork.

I reflect on the journey I was on when I built my last business Trovus and how that was different.

Back then, it was more about money, it was about growing the business and achieving numbers. It felt hard.

This time round, my mindset is different. The focus is serving and helping other people. Contributing to the world and sharing what I've been priveliged to experience, discover and learn.

It’s such a powerful shift, it’s hard to find the words to articulate it.

The closest I can get is that it feels like the day I worked out my purpose. I truly believe that my purpose to inspire other people and to share what I’ve been fortunate to learn about leadership and building teams. The outcome is that it brings out the very best in people so that others can achieve exceptional results.

My wish for you to keep asking whats your purpose in life, how can you contribute to others and find your reason for being.

The clues are there, but often overlooked. What is it you love doing? What are you passionate about? What makes you feel alive and excited. Even if you’ve not experienced that for a while, cast your mind back and find those things that give you energy. That thing right there that you thought about. That’s a good clue. A good starting point. Explore that and enjoy the journey of discovery.

Feel Better in Just 10 Seconds. Proven Scientifically (ish).

 

I’m enjoying being immersed back in learning again. Being coached, attending conferences and reading. Lots of reading.

Want one of my favourites from the past week?

I borrowed it from Tim Ferriss book, Tools of Titans and it’s a 10 second exercise.

Here goes:

Very simply. Think of two people you know.

Think for just 10 seconds how you want those two people to be happy and how you wish the very best for them.

In my non scientific sample of sharing this with 7 people, everyone said they felt better after 10 seconds.

I thought it was pretty cool anyway.

If you want a 30 second update of interesting stuff in my world, read on. If not, that’s totally cool and I’ll be back next week to share my latest thoughts.

I’m excited to have a 5 page feature coming out early next month in Yachting World. It’s the first of several features/ articles. It’s got some of my favourite pics in it too. Sticking with publishing, I had another first this week - seeing my book featured in Bloomsbury’s catalogue of upcoming books that they are selling into their distributors (pic below)

My latest speaking gigs continue apace - speaking to lots of charities last week about “Failure”, and how that word doesn’t really exist in my world. Feedback and experiments are my preferred language. My talk from the Hero Round Table is now live at www.casparcraven.com on why my kids are my heroes. Lots more speaking gigs starting to appear in the diary too which is exciting.

Finally. I’m back on Aretha, our home for 2 years as we sailed around the world and currently in San Francisco. I'm happily prepping her for our next sailing adventures this summer. I just also learnt I’m going to miss the heatwave back in England! It’s rare to arrive in California and for it to be colder than England.

Have an awesome week everyone and let me know if the 10 second feel better thing works.

Caspar, Out.

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 15.23.08.png

The only certain thing.

I’ve spent the past couple of days reflecting. In truth, it was partially driven by a slightly hungover Sunday morning.

Here’s what I noticed.

The first is the extent of change we are experiencing in the world. Economically, politically and culturally. I see the disruption happening in all sectors. Banking, Education, Retail, Charities. Everywhere.

The norms we’ve had of traditional institutions for the past generation are now changing. Areas of our lives that we thought were now certain are uncertain.

Take Banking for example. The primary asset of banks in the past has been trust. That is now changing - partly of their own making with events of the past and partly because technology is providing alternatives that engender trust through transparency and efficiency.

In a world of uncertainty, how do you create your own certainty?

Depending on your frame of reference, you’ll likely view this as exciting or terrifying. What is certain is that change is happening.  To do nothing to embrace change is to make a choice. What other choices are there?

What I see as the single most important competitive factor that organisations need to develop is that of culture, teamwork and how teams work together. That single factor alone has to be the certainty that organisations need to handle the disruption and change that is upon us. How you work together and handle things. How you learn, how you adapt to failure, how you change your approach to create a winning formula.

My advice. Immerse yourself in learning how to truly make your culture and the teams that you work strong and able to adapt to whatever the world throws at you. 

Anyone who has read a few of my blogs will know I’m always conscious of the influences that you allow into your world. Just this week I shared the stage with Lord Stone, the COO for Real Estate for Deutsche Bank, heroes from the Charity sector, leading Academics, Heads of Learning and Development, Joe de Sena who runs Spartan and many many others. I share this not to brag, but to highlight diversity. It’s a huge privilege to be exposed to so many amazingly diverse minds at their top of their game. It gives me many different perspectives on what is going on in the world. The associated question is what influences do you consciously allow into your world?

Communication Overload

Last Sunday, I sat down at my Mac to catch up on planning for my next event. I needed some background detail on the audience and the messages the event booker wanted me to share. I knew the message was somewhere. I just couldn’t find it.

Something dawned on me as I was searching through all my communication channels. Four different email accounts, texts, Whatsapp, LinkedIn Messages, Facebook messages. I realised I had communication overload.

I counted at least 15 different communication channels. The more I thought about it, I realised two things.

  1. That I have no central way to hold all the messages so that I could easily find what I was looking for; and
  2. That we all have a preferred channel. You can tell which a person's preferred channel is because they are usually so much more responsive to a message from that channel.

I decided to crowdsource some insights from my friends on Facebook. Here’s a summary of my favourite answers as to how friends deal with communication overload and their preferred channels:

- The number of communication channels is actually counteracting the initial purpose. If you want to reach me now - call me. Email - will answer within 48 hrs (read 3-4 times a week). Text & Messengers - once a day;

- Perhaps unsurprisingly, most people use different channels for different purposes. Email and phone and maybe LinkedIn for work, Facebook and Insta for light social interactions.

- Talking - ah the old fashioned way - still the best

- The most liked comment was VHF Radio - almost certainly a reflection a good few of my friends are sailors.

- Only one person mentioned the good old letter. Still one of my favourites to sit down with a pen and paper and scribe a letter.

I'm now implementing a more disciplined regime along the lines of the first comment above. 

Switching subjects, my cousin Scott became internet famous last week.  A true hero in many senses of the word throughout his life. And the thing he becomes famous for is saving a cat from a lock in London. Its currently up 11m views on the BBC website.

On the subject of Heroes, I’m looking forward to speaking at the Hero Round Table this Friday and Saturday at the Barbican in London. Friday’s talk is a TED style talk on Culture and Values title “Why my children are my heroes” and Saturday’s talk is a workshop on “How to build a Hero Team”. There are still tickets available - it’d be great to see you there. Details all at:

http://heroroundtable.com

Have an awesome week,

Caspar

What do you allow to influence you?

There’s a great saying that you get the life of the 5 people you spend most time with. 

I like to draw extreme examples to really understand something. Imagine that the 5 people you spend most time with are the likes of Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Bill Gates. What would your life look like? Would you be full of ideas, how to make the world a better place and making things happen. Would you be more focused and make things happen? If those people don’t float your boat, pick the 5 people you’d find most inspiring and ask the same question.

Imagine the other extreme. The 5 people are low energy people who do nothing to contribute to society and are all about taking rather than giving. What would your life look like then?

Clearly neither extreme is realistic - the point is deliberately extreme.

Do you consciously think about who you spend most time with. Are they people who lift you up and give you energy? Or are they people who take from you and bring you down and constantly find what is wrong in any situation.

It’s not just people. What you read and consume - social media, books, magazines and so on. What are the things that you see everyday that influence you on a conscious and subconscious level?

Do you make a conscious decision about what you allow to influence you. Things as simple as the pictures and images that you have in your house - things that you see every day influence you and what you think.

I gave a talk this week on the concept of designing your life. In it I simply shared three stories of things that we did to consciously, deliberately and intentionally design our lives as a family team. The feedback was very insightful. It clearly struck a chord with at least some of the audience. Encouraged by this, my wife, (Nichola) and I decided to create a day long workshop called Design Your Life. In it, we will cover the approaches we used and specific practical things we learnt to consciously and deliberately design our lives so that we could create the wealth and change our lives so that we could sail around the world. We were overbooked within a few hours of putting it out there. Based on the feedback we get, and if we feel we are adding real value to other people, we may look to do more of these. 

The question I’d encourage you to reflect on is what is it that you allow to influence you. Are you making those choices for your life or are they simply happening to you?

 

Caspar was our motivational speaker at our EMEA launch event. He totally delivered the goods and I’d hire him again in a heartbeat
— Barrie Desmond - COO - Exclusive Networks

Stop. Take a moment to notice…

Notice what exactly?

What do you notice when you stop and pause for a moment?

I’m talking about that thing where the world is trying to give you a message but you’re just not hearing it.

    •    In a business where you keep doing the same thing and are frustrated because you expected a different result.

    •    In a relationship, where you keep doing the same thing and getting the same outcome.

    •    With your kids where you keep getting cross with them for the same thing

The answer for me is what I call living in reality. Seeing things as they are. Not better. Not worse. Just as they are.

Notice and listen to the message. What messages is the world sending you. 

If you keep bashing your head against the same thing and not getting anywhere, what does that tell you?

Maybe that you have to try something different?

I have a short story

5 or 6 weeks ago, I stopped.

I’d started to notice a pattern. Patterns are super important. They are clues to figuring things out.

I noticed in virtually all my conversations, someone asked me “do you do any coaching?”. 

I’ve had multiple coaches myself over the past 10 years but I’d never imagined myself as a coach.

Once I noticed, I stopped saying no and I started saying YES.

Without seeking it in the following few weeks, I found myself coaching three energised and ambitious businesses/ leaders who wanted to achieve more.

I surprised myself when I realised how much I enjoyed it. 

To be able to enter someones world from a high level perspective and see the wood for the trees is rewarding when with a few small nudges you can send them in a direction that gets them significantly closer to where they want to be. You truly feel you can have an impact.

It sealed the deal this week when I got some messages from my coaching clients which read:

“Hi Caspar….the value dial on our largest client has steam coming out of the dial!  …. mega exciting …this is our million pound account”

The context for our coaching was how did this business grow and double their size by winning their first million pound account.

In another message:

“I wanted to update you on the strategy you suggested. I did it with a potential new client last week and I thought she was going to cry she was so touched”

What’s my message for you

Just stop and listen.

What messages is the world giving you?

Spot the patterns and act on them.

Even if you are wrong and misread the messages, your actions will take you in a different direction and you’ll discover and learn new things so you can keep adapting your course.

Finishing my story

For me, although, I’ve a good amount going on with Keynote speaking, start ups and existing roles, I’m carving out space to coach just 5 clients. 3 of those spaces have gone, so I have 2 spaces left.

The ideal profile of someone who’d benefit from my coaching them would be:

1) A business leader who wants to make an impact on the world. Someone with drive who wants a sounding board from someone who has been there before, 

OR

2) Someone who has exited their business and is looking for their next thing/ to reinvent themselves

If you’re open minded, want to move forward and interested, get in touch (07786 197622) and we it’d be great to speak to see if I can help you.

Have an awesome day, Caspar

 

Why do it now? The power of urgency

Why do it now?

One of the biggest issues that we all face is the question of Urgency. Whether you are a busy executive looking to drive growth, you have a project on, or you want to make something happen with your family, we all face the same issue at some time or another.

Procrastination.

Delays. A lack of urgency.

Procrastination is the default for many people. It's not entirely surprising. Without a compelling reason or a deadline the reason WHY you should do it now isn't that strong. Particularly if it will cost you money, means you have to take a risk or step out of your comfort zone. If there isn't a strong reason forcing you do to something, it's easier to do something else. It's amazing how quickly time can be filled with the non-important and safe things to do.

Naturally, we all sit on both side of the equation at different points in our lives. We all have experiences of both. When we want someone to do something for us such as getting a builder to do some work on your house or a landlord to make repairs to a property yo u live in. When you want something done that depends on someone else, we've all experienced that frustration. Same thing at work - getting a team of people to hit deadlines.

When someone asks you to do something, we instinctively know whether it's something we love and want to do or something that is harder or involves more risk. Different things for different people.

For me, reviewing and going into detail on contracts means I'm less likely to be running towards it. If it involves being creative and new ideas I'm at the front of the queue. For others, it's the reverse.

So. How to practically deal with this? First off, make sure that whoever you are asking to do something, make sure that it's something they are well aligned to. The outcome will simply be better. Little point asking me to get involved in writing contracts. I won't race towards it and I won't be particularly good at it.

Second and my favourite. Nothing ever happens without a deadline. If you haven't got one, create one and make it real. Why do so many people complete their tax return in t he last week of January?

Simple, there is a 31st January deadline with a fine if you miss it. Filling in a tax return involves paying money and doing some work. No one wonder people put it off until the last minute. Imagine if there wasn't a deadline. I'm pretty certain that a large proportion of the population would never complete a tax return!

What do you want to get done? What are the reasons why it isn't happening? Is the right person working on it and do you have a deadline are probably the two most important questions you want to start with.

Caspar shared his amazing story with current members who have recently exited their businesses..

The value came from the story of the planning.

Overall agreement was that regularly reviewing your life purpose was incredibly important, especially if you run your own business!

Thank you Caspar - Brilliant.
— EJ Packe - Managing Director at Prelude

Executional Excellence - What can sailing around the world teach us about working as a team and moving from an idea to an outcome?

I'm a little humbled to be the cover story for Professional Marketing Forum Magazine (PM Forum). My blog this week is simply my article they have run this month on the importance of teamwork in the face of adversity. Here it is.....

It’s like a broken record. Every company talks about teamwork and how we do things. It’s usually all in corporate language and no one really knows what it all means. The reality is that success is all about working as a team and getting things done. Moving from ideas and talking about things to actually making them happen.

I’d like to share with you a story from when I recently sailed around the world with my wife and three young children aged just 2, 7 and 9. The story is about how we, as a team, dealt with a life threatening situation.

What’s that got to do with your day-to-day life in professional services world? The answer is, EVERYTHING. I spent 8 years working in Professional

Services firms (Baker Tilly and KPMG) and then another 9 years as a supplier to professional services firms (Bighand and Trovus). I’ve got a pretty good insight into how things work, or how they sometimes don’t.

What I learnt in the business world was excellent preparation for preparing for and then dealing with the challenges of sailing around the world. Especially when you have to break it down into language that a 2 year old, 7 year old and 9 year old can understand.

Working together as a team

It was May 2015. We were deep in the Pacific Ocean, some 500 miles from the nearest piece of land and we experienced complete power failure. No autopilot to drive the boat, no navigation equipment, no engine, no generator, no lights, no cooker, no water pumps.

We were dead in the water and had to figure out a way to get us safely to land. Remember the film Apollo 13, where the space shuttle loses all power in space and the 3 astronauts in the shuttle and the hundred or so rocket scientists had to figure out a way to get the shuttle safely home. Well our situation was like that. Apart from the fact that we didn't have 3 astronauts and 100 rocket scientists. We had my wife, our three young children and me.

Not only that but we had 30-40 mile an hour winds and huge seas and a boat that was stinking of diesel. The space we occupied in total was no bigger than your average size living room.

So how would you survive? How would you work together as a team to get through and to get a good outcome, like staying alive? Would you blame other people or would you own the situation, take responsibility and figure out a way through.

The answer to how we dealt with it and survived was planted some 5 years earlier.

When I was growing my business, Trovus, with my Co-Founder Ed some 5 years earlier, we were looking for ways to get an edge and make us work better as a team.

We went down the route of focusing on our vision, our mission and in particular our values.

I remember doing values work when I’d worked in both corporates and in professional services firms. If I’m brutally honest I thought it was a waste of time. It didn't really mean anything. We did it once a year and then forgot about it until the next year. It inspired cynicism and raised eyebrows more than anything for cohesive behaviours.

This time round, I took the time to really understand what values were all about. It was about how our values would shape our behaviours as a team, how our behaviours shaped our actions and how our actions shaped our outcomes.

We spent time in the business debating and agreeing what our values were as a team. We didn't just leave it there though. We then lived those values, every day and every week, not just once a year at appraisal time. We regularly talked about them and reinforced them. They gave us a way to focus on what was right rather than what was wrong.

Ever noticed with a small child where you say, “Don’t do that”. And then all you seem to get is more of thing that you don’t want. Values are the antidote to that. They encourage the behaviours that you want to see more of.

You talk about them regularly and focus on the behaviours that you want to see.

So, here’s the thing.

What we learnt at Trovus about the values (which was a key part in us building the business up and selling it) was something we did at home too.

That’s right. We ran a values exercise at home too. The same things that we did at work, I applied at home. We had to simplify the language a little bit, but we created a set of 6 values that we agreed were important to us. Our values were Love, Action, Go Prepared, Understanding, Learn Something and Happy.

Just as we did in Trovus, we didn't stop there. We lived them every single day. First thing in morning we had values prizes and focused on the things we’d seen that were great examples of behaviours we wanted to encourage. It became so ingrained that our children would run the values sessions for us and actively looked forward to the sessions.

So how did we respond when we lost all power and were in a life-threatening situation?

It was pretty simple really. We lived our values. We found humour in the situation. We worked as a team. We looked after each other. We made sure each person was ok. The children and how they reacted were a major part of how we survived.

There was no blame. It was perhaps one of our finest moments when we all worked together as a team. Over the next four days, my wife and I hand steered the boat, steering by the stars through huge seas and working as a team with our children navigated our way to safety on the tiny island of Niue.

There were many more lessons that we took from it.

1) Things are going to go wrong.

In business and in life, we make decisions about things we want to achieve and where we want to go.

You can pretty much guarantee that something is going to go wrong. In business, you might lose a key client, key team members, the competition gets stronger, you vote to leave the EU. It could be anything. The only thing you can guarantee is that something will go wrong. Much as it will on a boat at some point.

The only thing that makes a difference is how you react to it when it does. Do you work as a team and deal with whatever comes up or do you turn in on yourselves and blame each other. One way is a winning strategy. One way isn’t!

2) Get into Action

So many people wait for perfect. When we were going sailing, we could have done 100 more things to be better prepared. The point is you do your best take on your preparations and then you get moving. If we had waited for perfect, we’d never have got underway. There is no perfect time. There is only now. Do the best you can with what you have and then get underway.

3) Continuous Learning

One of our values was around continuous learning. Every single failure and every single success was a learning opportunity. We’d stop as a team, we’d talk and we’d reflect on what we learnt. Shared learning experiences are far more powerful because you’ll get different points of view. In our situation, we added two more additional power supply sources to avoid future power failure.

There is an African saying, “if you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far, go together.” In your teams both at work and at home, focus on the behaviours that you want to see and encourage them, don’t wait for perfect, always look for what you can learn from any situation and take ownership and deal with whatever comes up.

Caspar Craven is a motivational speaker and consultant on leadership. He specialises in building winning teams. www.casparcraven.com

Caspar is inspirational to be with. He has a wealth of business experience and adventure. You should hire him as a speaker, he will change your view of life and what you can achieve.
— Paul Covell - Special Interest Lecturer

Join me at the Hero Round Table

I'm excited to be speaking at the Hero Round Table this May 12-13 in London at the Barbican Centre.

Called the TED talks for heroism, it's the 6th event the Hero Round Table has run and I'll be on stage with some inspiring people like Lord Stone (Former MD of Marks & Spencers), Dan Edwardes, Sally Kettle and lots of other people who've done some amazing things.  

I'll be speaking twice - one is a 12 minute TED style talk on why my children are my heroes and one is an hour long workshop on how to build a hero team.

If you'd like to come join me, use the code CRAVEN when booking for an exclusive discount until April 10th at www.heroroundtable.com

Here's the intro video to tell you more...

Caspar’s story is simply inspirational!

I recently had the pleasure of seeing Caspar address an audience of over 800 technology channel people in Cannes, France. A mix of senior executives, managers, sales, marketing and techies, of which 3/4 were from outside the UK so English wasn’t their first language.

Despite the language barrier Caspar had them engaged for over an hour telling his story with purpose, vulnerability, humour and humility, making it relevant and demonstrating how the biggest of challenges can be overcome.

It just goes to demonstrate the power of a great story. Highly recommended for any business looking to grow its leadership teams
— Mark Waite - Managing Director at Tech PR & Marketing consultancy, Cohesive Communications

How to make Vision, Mission and Values Stick (and Caspar's latest news)

So I’ve been busy working with one company over the past few weeks. The topics have been around Vision, Mission and Values.

For years when I was working in Corporate World, this area was always a little bit of a mystery to me. It was always lots of words. Often crammed in on some matrix structure onto one page to get as much detail in as possible with lots of explanations.

There was a moment though when it came clear to me.

It all boiled down to simplicity.

Why was our vision to sail around the world with our children so powerful. Because it was simple. We could communicate it in a matter of seconds and other people could pass it on without losing or confusing the message.

Same thing holds true with successful companies. Simple powerful messages around making things better for the customer, solving real world problems. 

It doesn’t matter what you write on the piece of paper.

It only matters what you carry in your head and what you can simply and easily communicate to other people. 

Simple. Powerful. Emotional.

 

In other news, it’s a been a busy week. Some highlights:

- I’m thrilled to have signed a contract with Bloomsbury (the same publishers behind JK Rowling and Harry Potter) to write the book around how we changed our lives and sailed around the world;

- I’m due to speak twice at the Hero Round Table when it comes to London in May this year. I’m doing a 12 minute talk on Why My Children are My Heroes and also an hour long workshop on how to build a Hero Team (message me if you're interested and I can let you have a discount code. Places are limited and selling fast).

- I’m excited to have started working with the talented and focused team at Coterie Marketing as a Non Exec. 

Have an awesome week everyone and keep smiling,

 

Attended a talk at STREAM 2017 in Cape Town given by Caspar, and it was everything you need a talk about value-driven living and leadership to be. He engages the audience by sharing a personal account which all can relate to and offers a creative value-orientated route through it, harnesses input from the audience which enriches the experience, and facilitates such that the take-aways are immediately actionable. Yay for Caspar - he literally inspired us to try something new both at home and at work.
— Lea Esterhuizen Founder | &Wider

Follow your Dreams. It’s better for business.

Huh? How does that work?

That sounds counter-intuitive.

The intuitive response for some might be that if you follow your dreams, you’ll leave where you work and the business will be worse off. Also. What about lack of focus? If everyone is focused on their dreams, they won’t be working on the business and their roles.

So, why is it that I encourage people to follow their dreams?

It’s because I believe that the opposite holds true. 

If you encourage your team to follow their dreams, you’ll have more motivated, more loyal and hard working teams who are working with purpose towards something that really matters to them. 

Making a dream happen is significantly harder than having it and it takes time, the need to learn, to plan and to seize the initiative to make things happen.

Let me share 7 specific reasons in support of this:

  1. You’ll enjoy life more if you are working towards something you really care about. You’ll be happier, more motivated and have more energy. That energy can’t help but fill other areas of your life. 
  2. The skills you’ll need to develop to plan and make your dreams happen are highly valuable skills. Things like teamwork, resourcefulness, taking the initiative and creativity. What business wouldn't want more of these skills?
  3. Being around people living with a purpose is so much more energising. That’s a benefit to your whole team.
  4. People are going to have dreams anyway. Why not show that you care and encourage them. Feeling cared about is one of the most motivating things a person can feel.
  5. Different perspectives. You’ll learn more, you’ll get different perspectives, your brain will have time to reflect, to learn and take on board different influences. You’ll be a better person because of it.
  6. You might find in reality, the goal for many people is not to actually make the dream happen but to feel the freedom and excitement of planning it and the feeling of possibility.
  7. It takes time to make your dreams happen. In our case it took 5 years of planning and working towards it. Given that the average length of time an employee stays with a company is 4.5 years, there’s a good chance people will have left anyway! In the meantime, you’ll have benefitted from the increased energy, learning and focus.

In the 5 years it took to make our dream happen I was forced to learn more than I'd ever learnt before, to become a better leader, a better team member and ultimately our business thrived and grew. I learnt to take my ego out of business and find the solutions that were right to grow the business.

The mantra "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together" really caught in my mind and I had to learn how to grow a team and make them better rather than making me better.

In some ways, it reminds me a little of a quote I heard some time back where a CFO and his CEO were talking. The quote goes something like this:

The CFO asked: “What happens if we invest money in training in our employees and they leave?”

The CEO replied: “What happens if we don’t and they stay”.

Made me smile. In all the ventures I’m involved in and have been involved in, I always take the time to ask each person what’s truly important to them in life and what do they want to do. Once you get clear on those things, even just thinking about and doing that thing for 5 minutes a day will be so much more rewarding than not doing it all. You’ll have more purpose, more energy and that can only be a huge benefit to any business.

 

Inspiring!! Caspar spoke at our annual Group kick-off event and gave terrific insights into the importance of holding true to your values, being resourceful and not waiting for perfect when it’s time to pursue your dream.

We were blown away by his unique experiences out on the open seas and more over how he applied these perfectly to the global theme of our event, making it very relevant to our audience and their personal/shared objectives.

Caspar was wonderful to work with, with his very positive and constructive nature. He engaged with the team seamlessly and dealt with any challenge we through his way – though I guess that shouldn’t be surprising!
— Hadas Hughes Group Director, Marketing Communications and Programmes at Exclusive Group