Teamwork in an Emergency

Teamwork in an Emergency

Mick Fanning vs. Shark and the speedy response of the safety team! 

No one is more aware of the dangers that the ocean holds than a professional surfer. Ideal conditions for surfing often bring competitors into some of the most densely populated shark habitats making surfers the victims of over 50% of all shark attacks worldwide. If sharing the water with many potential killing machines was not enough, the surfboard and splashing limbs almost perfectly mimic a shark’s natural prey. The events that unfolded at the World Surf League Open in South Africa sent a collective chill through the surfing community as a global audience watched the apparent demise of Mick Fanning, one of the sport’s biggest names. A glimpse of shark’s fin and then Fanning was dragged and seemingly pulled under as the rolling waves obscured our view.

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What happened next was the very definition of rapid response. Within seconds of the ominous grey fin being spotted a flotilla of jet-ski’s and command boat raced towards Fanning and incredibly, his fellow surfer, Julian Wilson also paddled furiously to help his stricken competitor. What many viewers thought was an inevitable tragic conclusion was only averted by the quick thinking and well oiled response of the water safety crew and Fanning himself; hesitation or panic on either side would surely have led to a very different outcome.

Where it relates to the world of business

While the business world may not be subject to potential consequences of such deadly proportions, the fundamentals of teamwork remain exactly the same. If the team waiting on the sidelines at the World Surf Open had needed to wait for instruction or momentarily lost their focus or been unsure of the appropriate response, Mick Fanning would most likely not be here today. Similarly in the business world, inaction or paralysis in the face of adversity have caused countless project failures and team breakdowns.

So how do you promote a culture of quick thinking and fluid response? It all starts with the foundations of a strong, focused team. The team both collectively and individually needs the confidence to act and the trust that their actions will be supported; nothing causes inaction more than mistrust in the support structure available. There also has to be a fundamental understanding of the goals set for the team; without a clear and well defined brief, it is impossible to keep a team well focused and on target – equally if the task is too broad then often team members begin pulling in opposite directions.

Finally, there has to be a sense of the team as a tangible force. Team members have to feel valued and know exactly what qualities they personally bring to the team and the worth of those talents. Without that sense of purpose and belonging, individuals will essentially feel paired with others to achieve an outcome without any appreciation of the bigger picture or sense of team. A well-formed team operates at an organic level, with members aware of other members’ talents, health and morale – allowing the team to effectively self monitor and adjust accordingly to the inevitable shifts in dynamics and productivity of individuals over time without losing overall productivity.


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