5 Leadership Lessons From The Deadliest Catch

Giving an hour a week to The Deadliest Catch, one of the best leadership shows on television, can help you succeed at your business. You just need to make that hard decision to sit on your couch, crack open a beer, and observe some of the toughest leaders Alaska has to offer.

Read on to learn how to captain your business ship:

1. RUN A TIGHT SHIP: If you have someone performing poorly, call them up to the wheelhouse

On a recent episode of The Deadliest Catch, Captain “Wild” Bill Wichrowski observed one of his deckhands during a storm. The deckhand was lazily shuffling his feet and dangerously stacking heavy crab pots.

“Wild” Bill called the deckhand up to the wheelhouse and gave him a tongue-lashing.  The deckhand sprinted back to the pots and started stacking the right way.

Sure, the deckhand was a little red-faced and cursed “Wild” Bill under his breath. But the Captain’s job isn’t to be liked. His team made a choice to endure hardship with the hope of a big payday and they put their trust in him to make that happen.  The captain is there to make sure that the team works well together, no one dies and everyone gets paid.

Call your team members into the wheelhouse when you need to.  You’re up there for a reason.

2. KEEP FISHING: You usually lose before you win

On one trip, Captain Andy Hilstrand was woefully behind the other ships’ crab count and he kept dropping his pots in the wrong place.  His deckhands kept making the L sign on their foreheads and calling him a loser.  He really couldn’t say anything back.  At the time, he was a loser.

The pots were coming up empty but he didn’t lose his cool.  He kept studying the maps and was confident he’d find crab.  The next string of pots he dropped pulled in the mother-load.  No more L signs on the forehead for Capt Hilstrand.  His crew got paid.

Chances are you’re not always going to drop your pots in the right place the first time and people will doubt you.  You need to have faith in yourself that you’ll find the right area and possess the skills to make it happen.

3. WORK FAST: How many times can you drop your pots before the season ends?

Speed was critical on the deck of the Time Bandit.  The faster Captain Hilstrand could get his pots in the water, the faster he could find out if it was good fishing ground or not.

It’s often said runway at a startup is how many pivots you have left.  You need to get your team to a high-enough velocity where you can drop your pots enough times to hit the mother-load.

4. EMBRACE THE LONELINESS:  “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown”

The wheelhouse is a lonely place. The crab fishing captains have to make tough decisions every day.  How hard do I push my men?  Should I fire my bait boy?  Is this the right spot to fish? Is this oncoming storm too dangerous?

Most of the time there is only one person to make the final decision: the Captain.  Embrace this responsibility and carry your burden like it’s an honour.

5. STAY ALIVE: Don’t make your job deadlier than it already is

In one scene, as Captain Colburn reached for his tobacco chew, his 10-year-old daughter appeared over the radio and asked him if he’d quit tobacco yet.  He obviously hadn’t and it pained him to tell her that.

There was a lot of temptation in the wheelhouse to smoke or chew tobacco to stay awake.  When your job is already sedentary, don’t make matters worse by eating pizza all day and drinking soda all night.  Get a gym membership for your team, make sure you have healthy snacks around, and encourage everyone to take care of themselves.

Note: I am highly confident I have mixed up which Captain said what.  If they ever swing through SoHo in NYC, hopefully we can grab a latte, sit on a park bench, watch pretty people walk by (those are the fish in my ocean), and I can apologise.