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Below Desk

I love it when a typo turns into a happy pun! And I also love reality TV show Below Deck. My absolute favourite part of Below Deck is when the crew members get called up to the Captain's lounge...

But when you look past the drama, big boats and buff bods, there's a lot you can actually learn about management from the show.

No nonsense captains like Captain Lee and Captain Sandy were my heroes of the show, and here's why 👇


At the start of each season, the Captain would sit the staff down together and set out their rules and expectations. They kept it clear, concise and simple. Things like "do your job, don't embarrass yourself or the boat, no socialising with guests".

They also outlined on day one exactly what would happen if those rules were breached - you'd get a ticket home.

Ok so in an employment setting you're not going to fly employees out of the country for misconduct, but you get the principle right?

Set out your expectations clearly, from day one and outline the consequences for failure to comply.


Captain Sandy was a fabulous example of this in the series. She always identified gaps in her crew members' experience and she would make an extra effort to develop their skills and knowledge.

She gave them opportunities to make mistakes in an environment where she was able to control the overall safety of the team and passengers. She helped them learn what they should do differently next time and she empowered them to own their mistakes.

What this creates is an engaged, loyal team. People enjoy learning new things, especially from someone who has lots of experience. The opportunity to access some professional development gives people a boost of confidence, sense of self and make their day more interesting.

And it doesn't have to take hours on end. Captain Sandy would do things like let crew members park the $50m yacht under her supervision. But that simple act would give the crew members such a buzz.


Remember those rules that were set out on day 1... well both captains were very good at holding people accountable when those rules were broken.

If someone kissed a guest or did something stupidly dangerous, they'd get the call to go up and see the Captain.

They might get hauled over the coals. They might get a formal warning. They might get their plane ticket home.

But whatever the outcome, the crew were never in any doubt as to what went wrong and what they should have done differently.

It's no good setting down the rules if you don't hold people to account when the rules are broken. It's like counting to 3 with a toddler but then nothing happens on 3...why should they worry?

Make sure you know what you can and can't do in terms of managing misconduct in your team and follow up when someone does something that's not up to your standards.

And there you have it. 3 leadership and management lessons from reality TV! Who'd have thunk it.

Shona 💜

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