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Which boat are you in?

We are at Darling Harbour, Sydney, and it's the Chinese New Year celebrations. Five boats are lining up for a race. Imagine the make-up of the boats being like this:

Boat NumberBehavioural Traits of TeamOutcome
1- Outgoing
- Each person likes to take the lead
- Results-driven
Everyone wants to be in charge but not one is willing to follow instructions
2- Generates enthusiasm
- Chatty
- Disorganised
A sociable group but not well organised
3- Works well with others
- Supportive
- Likes to be part of a group and not stand out
Everyone gets on well but no one is willing to take the lead
4- A systematic approach to the race
- Attention to detail
- Don't believe that they're fully prepared for the race
Each person is focused on the race but no one is willing to make any of the crucial decisions during the race
5- Clearly defined roles
- Focused on the race
- Supportive
A supportive team that is focused on the goal of winning the race

Then the starter says, 'Paddlers, are you ready?! Attention! Go!'

The boats are off heading toward the finish line. People along the shore line are cheering them on … the atmosphere is electric!

Which boat will work as a team to make it to the finish line first? Each person in the dragon boat is a vital member of the team and without each individual doing their job to the best of their ability, the boat doesn't run well.

The front three rows are the 'pacers'. They set and maintain an appropriate rate for the team.

Rows four to seven are the 'engine room' and provide the power and strength to lift the boat on top of the water.

The final three rows are the 'rockets'. They need to give the final push as the boat moves through the water.

The drummer works closely with the sweep. They inspire and encourage the team. They assist the team to maintain focus in the chaos of the race. The sweep has to captain the boat and get the team down the race line as smoothly as possible.

Your Team

The same goes for any working team. A team that works effectively together has a greater chance of achieving its goals.

Would you want your team members to all be like you? If they were, then your strengths would be highlighted and so would your areas of weakness.

The (fictional) team members in the dragon boat race highlights this aspect of teamwork. No team functions effectively with the same characteristics throughout the group. It is important in any team to utilise each individual's strengths which will ultimately benefit the team as a whole.

What is your role within your team? How does it relate to your team's goals? Is your team utilising the strengths of each of its team members? Who in your team is the pacer, engine room, rocket, drummer or sweep?

Which boat are you in?


Here are three more articles to help you be more productive with your team members.


Maria Pantalone

Maria Pantalone works with individuals and teams to make communication their strength so that their message is heard. Her programs help her clients to excel in their role and be recognised as leaders in their field.
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  1. James Birtwistle

    Hi Maria,

    I am happy to be in the engine room or a rocket, but I prefer to be a sweep.

    Interesting analogy (is that how dragon boats work?)



    • Maria Pantalone

      Hi Jim,

      Yes, that's how the team members are placed on a dragon boat.

      The only way the boat can move forward is with every person doing their part to the best of their ability.

      Good to hear that you liked the analogy.

      All the best


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