Through the Captain's window

Stories on Maritime Leadership

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Mentoring: Helping leaders create themselves

Bourdon_tube_small.jpg

  

"The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves."

- Steven Spielberg

 

 

 

 

 

These days when I meet people at social events, I try to focus on getting to know others well rather than just focusing on exchanging business cards. When possible, I ask them their stories, and remind myself that there is something I can learn from everyone.

On one such endeavour, I met Mr. Georg Von Oppen. He is currently the Director of TMH Ltd. which serves the shipping industry in providing equipment spares. He narrated a story from the early years of his career:

After school, I didn’t have any particular direction in which to take my career. By chance, I joined TMH through a mutual acquaintance of my family. The manager of the factory asked me to work on the store-floor and learn about all the products. After a few weeks, he saw me on his rounds and stopped to assess my progress:

“How does this pressure gauge work?” He asked in his usual booming voice.

I gave a feeble response “You plug it into the socket and it reads the pressure”

“Yes, but what makes the gauge know what is the pressure in the pipe?”

I shrug my shoulders.

He then proceeded to explain to me about the Bourdon tube and how the radially formed tubes inside operate without any electrical power.

“Understood?”

I had not grasped the underlying mechanical principles and I said so, shaking my head.

My boss was thoughtful for a minute, and then declared “You’re going to the gauge factory for two weeks. I will inform your supervisor about the arrangements”.

So, the next day I was off to the factory a hundred miles away. They were one of the world’s leading makers of precision pressure gauges and one could learn whatever there is to know about various gauges. I learnt in detail how these gauges could achieve precision at different pressure ranges, and work in various external environments, and what safety features were installed to ensure the gauges would not burst in front of the observer.

When I returned to TMH, I had a spring in my step. My boss observed this, and to test me, asked a few questions, which I promptly answered with pride. The fire of learning and passion for the job had been stoked within me, and there was no looking back.

It started as a short-term apprenticeship, but encouraged by the environment of mentoring, I stayed on at TMH. I could share my knowledge with clients and help them choose the right products for their industrial needs. This in turn helped my company build deeper relationships with their customers. Some years ago, my boss retired and passed on the reins of the company to me.

His act of mentoring helped me find the right direction for my career. He had challenged, inspired and motivated me. He didn’t spoon-feed me but he helped me find the right resource from which I could learn.

Telemachus and Mentor

Telemachus and Mentor from Odyssey. In this depiction from the ancient Greek epic, Mentor (actually Athena in disguise) encourages Telemachus to stand up against the suitors for his mother, Penelope and go abroad to find out what happened to his father, Odysseus. Photo courtesy: Wikipedia commons.

 

These days, I make it a point to encourage my younger colleagues to go on similar learning trips and seminars. We share learning experiences from work and enable each other to create their own learning path. Based on my boss’ philosophy, that is how we view mentoring at TMH. I believe this is a great way to help leaders discover their own potential, and enhance their own leadership abilities.

TMH Cyprus website (http://tmh-eastmed.com/)

Captain VS Parani is the author of Golden Stripes- Leadership on the High Seas, Whittles Publishing (http://www.whittlespublishing.com/Golden_Stripes), and on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Golden-Stripes-Leadership-High-Seas/dp/1849953147)

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American Dunkirk: Leadership with social responsibility

american dunkirk book cover small"Our greatness has always come from people who expect nothing and take nothing for granted - folks who work hard for what they have, then reach back and help others after them."

-  Michelle Obama

 

 

 

 

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A maritime expert survives a bombing

Jeffrey Blum photo smallI met Professor Jeffrey Blum by chance in Limassol a few weeks ago. Although our meeting was short, I was left with an impression that we had known each other for a long time. He has been in the shipping industry for 45 years, which is from even before I was born! I mentioned this to a friend of mine who had been his student at the World Maritime University. He was full of admiration for Professor Blum and he also let me in on a little-known story of our mutual acquaintance.

 

 

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What my Nautical Institute Fellowship means to me

nautical institute smallWe all have goals: We want to matter. We want to be important. We want to have freedom and power to pursue our creative work. We want respect from our peers and recognition for our accomplishments. Not out of vanity or selfishness, but of an earnest desire to fulfil our personal potential. -  Ryan Holiday

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The Case for Practical Leadership

IMG 1166“Leadership is…the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”

-Peter Drucker, my favourite management author.

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Maritime crewing- a linchpin

FullSizeRender small“Human Resources Isn’t A Thing We Do. It’s The Thing That Runs Our Business.”

-Steve Wynn

 

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Leading with Love

MTS logo smallWhen I joined sea as a deck cadet, I was paid a stipend equivalent to 50 US dollars a month. But then, I was 17 years old and fresh out of school. My food and boarding were free on the ship.

At that time, the rumour was that the company was going to close down, and we would not be able to complete our sea-time required for cadetship. So I made a decision to complete it all at one go - almost 37 months onboard, without returning home on leave. That way, I could appear for my third mate's exams and start earn a proper living. I joined my first ship as a boy, and returned home a man.

 

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Do we still need books?

Golden Stripes Cover small“So many books, so little time.”
― Frank Zappa


You see hundreds of posts on social media (including this one), covering a wide range of topics- from leadership lessons from…., ‘5’ points to remember….., ‘secrets’ to ……, to videos on a wide range of topics. There is a lot of information passing through our screens every day. Do we still need to read books?

In this self-serving article, I’m going to share ‘3’ reasons why you should read books.

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Port or Starboard? Decision Making on the High Seas

008 smallThis article appeared in the June 2017 edition of the esteemed Nautical Institute journal Seaways.

The model first appeared in the book Golden Stripes- Leadership on the High Seas by Captain VS Parani.

 

What's called a difficult decision is a difficult decision because either way you go, there are penalties.’ - Elia Kazan

 

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The Safe-Man Model

A new concept for understanding and explaining safety005 small

This article appeared in the September 2017 edition of the esteemed Nautical Institute journal Seaways. The model first appeared in the book Golden Stripes- Leadership on the High Seas by Captain VS Parani.

Concern for man himself and his fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavors, concern for the great unsolved problems of the organization of labor...Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations.
- Albert Einstein

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Engine Room Fire: Hot Leadership Lessons from the Sea

Fire blog thumbnail

In 2014, a fire destroyed the Engine Room of the bulk carrier Marigold. Luckily, other than a couple of seafarers who were hospitalised for smoke inhalation, there were no serious injuries. But the cost of the fire damage would be several hundred thousand US dollars.

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Grounding on a Curve; Leadership Lessons from the Sea

“My life is one long curve, full of turning points”for small photo

Pierre Trudeau (15th Prime Minister of Canada, and father of the current (23rd) Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau)

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Collision by design

Yes, the sequence of events leading to a ship-collision started on the computer on which the ship was designed.colbydes

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Rowing the Lifeboat- Lessons in Teamwork

rowingShips routinely lower their lifeboats to keep them ready for deployment in times of emergency. It was during one such exercise in my second year at sea that I learnt a valuable lesson in teamwork.

 

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STRATEGIES FOR STRESS-FREE INSPECTIONS

stressfreeInspections such as by Port State, Flag, Class and Oil Majors are now a fact of shipping. There is no doubt that these inspections have helped improve safety standards in shipping; the number of sub-standard ships has reduced and it is now difficult for rogue operators to endanger life at sea or damage the environment.

 

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Raja Raja Cholan, Tamil king and Maritime Adventurer

101thumpLet me tell you a secret and a story; my family calls me ‘Raja’, a shortened name for the great Tamil King Raja Raja Cholan. One of the Tamil idiosyncrasies, is that each uncle and aunt (who in those days were many) assumed the privilege of giving a child in their family their own favourite name. So, my overbearing but warm paternal uncle fondly named me ‘Raja’, proud that our family belongs to the district of Thanjavur, the capital of this king over a thousand years ago.

 

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GZ or GM?

Training EmblemMost marine officers and naval architects will tell you that the righting-lever curve, GZ is a better measure of the ship’s stability than the metacentric-height (GM) value. I agree, and will narrate a personal experience which illustrates the point beautifully.

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Accident Investigation - Successful Mind-Sets

sinking clipart 9cpok6xcE“A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them” John C. Maxwell

Accidents are a result of mistakes- we all know that. I share the insights from my years as a DPA, carrying out on-hands investigations and this article is about how to be smart enough to learn the right lessons, and how to correct them, which is not always that simple.

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My first trip to the Ship’s Bridge

captainbabyMy first visit to the navigation centre of the ship, also called the Wheelhouse or the Bridge was when I was about eighteen months old.

My formative years were spent in Port Blair, the capital town of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. My father, originally from Tamil Nadu, a state in India, was a banker on the islands for nearly 36 years. My mother was a home maker and also from Tamil Nadu.

 

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My first grounding

newbieI was sixteen when I grounded my first ship. It was a rowboat actually but I learnt my lesson so well that I never had to go through the same experience for the rest of my career.

During my final year in high school, a group of friends and I went on a boating trip. The water sports complex was at the end of a lagoon, one of many in the Andaman Islands. The lagoon is lined with mangroves and has several ‘mangrove islands’ inside the backwaters.

 

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