It’s week eleven of working remotely and seeing our world change while teams try to stay motivated and connected. During our 9am Zoom check ins, sometimes we are a little quieter. The long-haul view of this situation is starting to settle in, especially after a week with unrest in the US and the news that Canada announced no cruises for the 2020 season.

I have to say, I continue to be blown away by the resilience of our team, staying on task… with little bits of fun breaks and looking forward to our Friday Cocktail Power Hour. I’ve asked myself the question many times over the past weeks… what has made Aquila special, what continues to drive us? How will this pandemic change us?

Spirited. Enthusiastic. Fun. Those words are part of our values and are often used to describe the Aquila team, a team that works hard and plays hard – together. We’ve heard so many people ask “How can I get that in my team?” Even when the cruise industry is at a standstill, what’s the secret to continuing to have a blast at work? Do we spike the water cooler? No, what we have done is not rocket science – and I believe we can all have it with our teams.

 The most important aspect for me continues to be including your team in your vision and your strategic planning; even in the hiring process as you grow! Yesterday, as I was looking for a document, I came across a short piece that I wrote in 2003, seventeen years ago (don’t ask why I would still have this on my computer!). I had been asked about team spirit and I named three things that leaders can do that make all the difference between a good team and a super-star team – and those things still continue to be alive in the Aquila team almost two decades later!

These are my three building blocks for what has made and continues to make the Aquila team special, three things that are as relevant today as they were throughout our 38-year history. So when I was interviewed in 2003, after presenting on this subject at the Fundy Region Tourism Season Kick Off Conference… these were Aquila’s Top Three Tips for Building Passionate Teams – written then and I would not change a word:

1. Empower your team.

Create an open environment that allows people to open up, take risks, make mistakes and learn from each other. Give each team member an area of responsibility to manage as his or her own. And NO micro-management! Let them answer to the team for results and deadlines. Let them see how what they do directly affects bottom line results. Get everyone involved in strategic decisions and budgets. It isn’t easy to give up that control, to open yourself up to the team and be totally vulnerable … but the rewards are too great not to do it!

2. Have fun at work.

Some managers frown on fun in the workplace and somehow think that people having fun are not working. It’s the old perception that work means “hard work” – serious, hard work! But if you want productivity and job satisfaction to go through the roof, then start having fun AT WORK! Get the office clowns out of the closet and let them loose. Laugh with them and encourage it! People who have fun together work better together.

3. Employ spiritual leadership.

I feel grateful for my team as it does feel like a gift to me, every day. When one from our team  left to join UNBSJ, she said, “I’ll never have the relationships I’ve had here at Aquila.” That has to be one of the best compliments for me. I strive to be a leader that can help others bring out the best in themselves and discover their own spirit, while encouraging them to do the same for others. I do that because I believe it has been in discovering my own spirit that I have achieved success. And in seeing the way our team has come together under such leadership, and all the things we have accomplished together, I can’t imagine working any other way would have the same benefits.

Well almost twenty years later, I still totally believe these three things are part of Aquila’s secret sauce. They are more critical at times like this and these have been instilled in our new leadership and succession. Both partners, Danielle and Melanie, live the same values and beliefs around leadership and are today leading the team in a way that keeps our spirit, our energy and our incredible fun team fully alive.

This pandemic has had many downsides, and it has caused economic challenges, yet the upside is that when a team is empowered, having fun and feeling valued while harnessing their gifts every day, we become resilient and unstoppable. Everyone on the team says they feel lucky to be part of such a great team, and no one feels more blessed than me for having the opportunity to work with them every single day.

Originally published on LinkedIn on June 5th, 2020