The High-Performance Playbook: Pip Hare

by The Smartsheet Team

December 18, 2023

The High-Performance Playbook: Pip Hare

Pip Hare, CEO and world-class solo sailor, shares the plays which led to her sporting success in ocean racing. 

What does “high performance” mean to you?

To me, high performance means achieving the absolute best results that you can with the resources you have. It’s massively driven by the desire to continually improve, and the drive to keep achieving beyond reaching your initial goals.

There’s a subtle difference between “peak performance” and “high performance.” In my team, I expect a high level of performance as normal behaviour. Every time we achieve peak performance — through refining processes and making efficiency gains — that resets what high performance looks like. So we’re continually raising both the bar and our standards.

What factors have limited “high performance” for you in the past?

Yacht racing works similarly to Formula 1, with back-office logistics and a boat maintenance team. Before a race, there are people everywhere, swarming in all different directions and all contributing. But when we cross the start line, all eyes are on me. 

To be a high-performing team, you need to consider all elements of this, and recruit diverse skill sets and people with lived experience. For example, rather than having a typical background in the marine industry, our Operations Director is a doctor by training and worked at the NHS during the pandemic.

Resource is the key barrier to high performance: Deficit within team budgets can be millions, and yet we all compete from the same starting line. 

In my role as CEO, I have to identify and justify the leaps we take, and have a vision of the next two or three steps forward. At the same time, you must also respect the time needed to adjust and integrate: It’s not just about making the change; it’s about bringing everyone with you, through training and time.

Could you share an example of a situation where teamwork and collaboration increased performance?

It’s important to ensure that our team integrates. We have two distinct functions: The operations team is office-based, and the tech team is boat-based. It’s been really important to me that the office team feels welcome on the boat, and there are no egos.

Every week we have a meeting where each team shares their workflow. This is important for everyone to understand how everything locks together: For the operations team to see the broader context, and for the tech team to see the behind-the-scenes work needed to enable them to do their jobs. We often work remotely, but aim to have a day a week where everyone can work from the same site, and on race days, we try to ensure that the team finishes the day together.

We have a dedicated group chat to share priorities, reduce conflicts and streamline operations. Plus, we celebrate success as a team and debrief what we haven’t done so well. Nothing gets pushed under the carpet and everything gets spoken about.

How can leaders best facilitate collaboration? 

Communication is key: Even when racing, I’m in constant contact with my technical director by text to report how the boat is doing. This is always in writing (rather than voice) so we both have a written record of what’s been done, illustrated with pictures and diagrams. Just past Point Nemo (the most isolated area on the planet), I broke and replaced a rudder, over a thousand miles from land, with my tech director’s remote support. 

I also text my medical team if I’m unwell, and we tend to communicate via pictures and videos, in which my team can guide me – for example, through giving myself stitches. 

What role does or can technology play?

Smartsheet is integral to our team’s organisation. We use it to do everything from sharing job lists to building project plans and monitoring spending. We also use Brandfolder to efficiently share up-to-date content and imagery with our sponsors and partners.

Beyond “winning,” what other benefits come from being a part of a high-performance team?

In a crowd of two million people, our members stand out by wearing our uniform, making them visibly part of the team. I think it’s all about feelings of ownership, pride, and a sense of belonging.

As human beings, we have the most incredible capacity to grow and develop throughout our lives. High performance in a race is as much about resilience as it is about sailing fast. You have to solve every problem you face. Plus, boats are constantly changing, so you have to constantly be changing processes. It’s relentless: You’re never done. You can always go further.

Being part of a high performing team nurtures personal development, and encourages more forward thinking about what the future could hold.


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