Tag Archive: Pirates

Shiver me timbers!

Monday, September 19th is International Talk Like a Pirate Day and our thoughts may turn away from business for a few minutes to contemplate the lighter side of pirates and pirating (especially if one of your colleagues starts acting the part.) In the training business, we can learn a lot from pirates.


There are plenty of definitions of what pirates are and plenty of opinions on what privates are not. If you examine the definitions including the modern definitions describing the pirating of videos or software, you will notice words or phrases that include “without commission”, “without authority” or “without permission”.  The definitions would lead you to believe pirates were/are all rogues.


I’d like to suggest that pirates could be looked at as exemplary team players as they are: calculating and collaborative. Setting up their own language and their own “code” of conduct (for engagement and responsibility) catapults them ahead of most teams.

I’ve collected several pirate related blog posts on into a page of team teaching tips. This ‘Pirate Series’ outlines critical success factors when teaching as a team. Collectively, you must:

Pirates, as a result of working together so well, created a strong brand: their mission was clear, their tactics unrivalled and their results were legendary. Your training team can achieve similiar results if you learn some lessons from pirates.


 When pressured to deliver products better, faster and cheaper, just like pirates, be calculating and:

  • Consider the impact of your actions on your: training product, training business and training brand.
  • Invest upfront to agree, define and disseminate roles and responsibilities AND rules and regulations. These do not have to be formally written, although you will find that the exercise of putting pen to paper often unearths additional ideas or additional areas that need to be addressed. If you have your working arrangement written down, it is also easier to bring additional staff or guests ‘on board’ to help.

Until next time, have some fun and ‘talk like a pirate’!


Flickr Creative Commons Images by Mykl Roventine

Check out Mykl’s work… It is truly inspiring: Day 19 - Make Mistakes


I’m reluctant to ‘harp on’ to you about Branding. You know how important developing and promoting a personal Brand is. But what about a Brand for your Team?

If you are team teaching, or do anything else in a team, your collective brand is extremely important. Remember the WHOLE is greater than the sum of the parts.

Do you who remembers who Mr. Gibbs, Mr. Cotton, Marty and Bo’sun were… How about Ragetti, Pintel, Grapple, Jacoby, Koehler, Mallot, Scratch, and Twigg? (I didn’t even know some of them had names until I found them.)

But I bet you remember the Pirates of the Black Pearl: the cursed pirates!

What a powerful Brand that ‘team’ of pirates has!


I found a great article from earlier this year by Nicole De Falco (a freelance copywriter and instructional designer). She outlines how branding can increase longevity in a corporation in recessionary times.

“Astute leaders secure their team’s reputation as a vital asset to the organization by incorporating a team branding campaign into their overall management strategy.”

That is great (practical) advice for any team.

She goes on to explain how helpful a Team Brand is: it promotes consistent behaviour and it helps ensure everyone can communicate the value of their team. Think about how important that is. If your Brand is clear and concise everyone can clearly (live it and) communicate it, then promoting the Team Brand can become second nature.


A presentation by Charlie Sislen from Research Director, Inc. focuses on the Branding of a Sales Team; however, contains some applicable lessons for us. The main lesson is to be audience driven. (I’ve written other posts on being audience driven.)

Charlie illustrates the difference between the potential target audiences in the Broadcast industry. Radio stations sell their product to consumers (listeners) AND they sell their ‘reach’, their marketing capacity, to other businesses. Clearly, they need to brand themselves differently for each of their audiences.

Remember to ask yourself:

  1. Who is your target audience or do you have multiple target audiences?
  2. What value do you provide to them? (Or what pain do you help them avoid?)
  3. How is our team better than any one individual (from our organization or the competition)?

Once you develop your Brand… and perhaps a logo…


And this doesn’t have to be complicated, you don’t need a jingle.

Yoho, HOIST the Colours!



Creative Commons Image by Cayusa

Team teaching is much like sailing with a bunch of pirates. First of all, you don’t want to fall asleep: you never know how, where or IF you’ll wake up. Secondly, you don’t want to miss anything especially your share of the loot or the provisions. Just like pirating on the high seas, when teaching many things can go wrong very quickly (and without notice). Just like pirates, working together as a team may determine your bounty as well as your survival.


Let’s face it though, when a teammate is teaching, sometimes we end up ‘on the beach’: daydreaming, doing our e-mail or figuring out what we are going to say in our next session rather than actively listening. Sometimes we aren’t paying ANY attention to whatever is going on in the classroom or virtual classroom. And sometimes *we* get caught.

I’ve seen many teams of instructors fall into this trap, where one instructor is teaching (either in-person or talking on a teleconference) and the others are supposedly listening and waiting their turn to contribute. The instructor fumbles and there is no one there to ‘pick up the ball’. If the ‘on-call’ instructor (for lack of a better term) had been paying attention and realized this, he/she could have bailed out his/her colleague before the class realized what was happening. But he/she didn’t… How embarrassing for not only the instructor but the team of instructors.

CONSIDER THIS HYPOTHETICAL QUESTION: There is a one day workshop that is delivered by 3 instructors, each an expert in their own right. How much would you pay to attend each of the following options:

  • Option 1: There is only 1 instructor in the room delivering content for the workshop and the others are somewhere else. On many occasions an instructor, who is teaching, will contradict one of the previous instructors. When you question this contradiction, the instructor ensures you he/she is correct (and not his/her teammate).
  • Option 2: There is always at least 2 instructors in the room: one delivering content for the workshop and the other(s) listening and contributing when appropriate. On many occasions the instructor at the front of the classroom will quote a previous instructor or ask the audience about his/her content giving you a better ‘bigger picture’ on how the different concepts relate. During the workshop the 3 instructors deliver a ‘panel session’ and compare and contrast their preferences and approaches. The team of instructors agree that the correct answer really ‘depends’ and all perspectives have merit: just different pros and cons.

So, how much would you pay to attend Option 1? Would you pay more to attend Option 2? How much more would you pay to attend Option 2? What do you think of instructional ‘brands’ for each of the options? If you attended both workshops, which team would you become a repeat customer of: the folks that work together as a team or the bunch of individuals doing their own thing?


Pirates always manned a watch and had a lookout: 24/7. The lookout kept watch on the horizon for other ships or signs of land. In other words, someone was always looking for dangers (to avoid) and opportunities (to exploit). If there were dangers or opportunities ahead he’d alert the crew. (That is just like having a team of trained professionals ’on standby’!)

So you need to be able to protect yourself and help your team. Remember if you do this right, the “whole is greater than the sum of the parts”. (Which ultimately means you can charge more for your session as it is of greater value!)


Consider these techniques:

Listen to each other. If you don’t listen this strategy will not work. However, if you contradict each other, it’s ‘game over’. Be assured that with experience you’ll get better at multi-tasking and you’ll be able to listen to your teammate while prepping for your portion of the session.

Link to each other:

    • Repeat each other, “(Remember what) Bradyn said…”, “Let’s build on Bradyn’s ideas…”
    • Ask about each other, “What did John say about…”
    • With all this repetition and linking you are reinforcing your content and contributing towards learning.

    Participate in each other’s sessions:

      • Ask each other to participate in each session, “Pat, you have some expertise in this area, would you care to comment about, {repeat the question in case he/she was ‘on the beach’}
      • Offer additional examples, references and advice. Just be sensitive how you do this.


      Why do all this? You are creating a tightly integrated program versus a series of standalone topics or webinars. Working together, supporting each other will make you will look like partners, like a team, not adversaries. And the bottom-line is with a better product, your audience gets better value, your brand will be worth more and you can charge more for your sessions.

      You still don’t believe me? Go back to the Option 1 & Option 2 example I laid out for you. I’d probably pay ‘2x’ for Option 1 and ‘4x’ or ‘5x’  for Option 2. That’s right, I’d be willing to pay at least double for a team of experts who are collaborating.

      Listening and engaging in collaborative teaching is a great way to differentiate your instructional product against your competition. Execute this properly and then you can ‘feature’ it in your brand marketing and cash in on it with your price.

      ‘Handsomely now, friends!’:  Stay awake, stay alert, avoid obstacles, exploit opportunities, feature your team and you’ll create a strong brand that will rake in the gold and treasure! Until next time…


      Flickr Creative Commons Image by Cayusa

      Team Teaching is just like old fashion pirating on the high seas. You are combining resources with others who are experienced and perhaps used to being in charge. Sometimes the seas are rough and the shoals rocky… How can you find the treasure and avoid bloodshed? Just look at how pirates did it!

      Granted the other experts that you are combining resources with are not outlaws or bandits. But let’s face it: each of you is different, possibly strong willed  and all of you know your stuff.

      So, how to you ensure a well-run and harmonious ‘ship’?

      You use ‘the code’!

      What’s ‘the code’? Here’s a great excerpt from an Elizabethan website which talks all about ‘the code’:

      “A Pirate ship required a level of discipline and a Pirate Code of Conduct. The Pirate Code of Conduct was an important agreement between the Pirate Captain and his crew. The Pirate Code of Conduct consisted of a number of agreements between the Captain and pirate crew which were called Articles. The Pirate Code of Conduct was necessary as pirates were not governed by any other rules such as Naval regulations.”

      Like the Pirates’ Code of Conduct you need to define some rules of engagement for your team. Here are a set of rules, or guidelines that I find helpful:

      1. Focus on the common treasure. If you aren’t on the ‘same page’ you are never going to get there.  Decide on a high level ‘design points’ by:

      • Defining a purpose or goal for your session. Decide on who your target audience is and what knowledge or skills they will walk away from your session with.
      • Decide whether you are selling or teaching. Don’t advertise a session as a tutorial and deliver a sales pitch.

      2. Adopt a Pirate mindset by:

      • Keeping it simple, it is easier to learn that way.
      • Using language that your audience will understand.
      • Finding the treasure (i.e. the million dollar tip) and featuring  it.

      3. Chart your journey. Decide on a reasonable path. If you don’t do this upfront, there will be many opportunities for disagreements. Charting your route should include:

      • Deciding how you will make decisions during session development.
      • Agreeing on the architecture of workshops, of modules.
      • Planning the development steps and time-line.  This should include allowing time to review, to create a common look and to practice.

      4. Elect the Captain(s). Decide on roles (& responsibilities) for before the class. You will need someone to:

      • Architect the session by deciding what content is included or excluded.
      • Edit to ensure a common look and feel and ensure consistent level of detail.
      • Manage and integrate delivery and make quick decisions regarding course corrections.

      5. No fighting! Set up some delivery rules of thumb:

      • Let the Captain have the first and last word. Whoever is managing the delivery of your session should kick it off and wrap it up.
      • Create your own ‘language’ or signals. Sometimes it is difficult or impossible to communicate verbally in the heat of the moment. Valuable signals include: time to break, hurry up, running out of time, acknowledge a fellow team mate, etc.
      • Don’t correct whoever is at the wheel, unless it is a life or death (so to speak) situation. You can offer advice to whomever is teaching by putting your hand up but don’t interrupt. S/he should acknowledge you with a nod. But don’t take it personally if you are ignored.

      Sure all of these techniques are all good management and team skills, but when egos are involved and your team is up against a deadline some of these skills get ignored or forgotten. I’ve seen it happen time after time.

      You should personalize these guidelines to your own situation; however, it is important to discuss and agree upon these points upfront you, as the pirates would say, before you ‘go on account’.

      Just remember, if you don’t follow ‘the code’ (rules of engagement): there could be a mutiny, murder or meltdown.

      Arrgh! Follow the code!


      Flickr Creative Commons Image by Country_Boy_Shane