Here's where we discuss adventures in leadership

America's Cup: San Francisco Team Building & Leadership on Fire!

Posted by Jay Palace on Tue, Jun 25, 2013 @ 05:22 PM

The America's Cup is just around the corner and there's a ton going on in the world of sailing.
If you're a non-sailor attending one of the Harvard Business School Association events we're hosting, the youtube video below is a great source of information.
If you only want to know what's about to happen, skip forward to 5 minutes, 50 seconds (5:50). Here's where they start describing the Louis Vuitton Cup, the challenger series which HBSA/NC members will be watching from a front row seat at the Saint Francisc Yacht Club.

The LV Challenger series determines which team will challenge Oracle Racing for the oldest trophy in sports, and on July 30th, we'll be watching Round Robine #5, Artemis vs Emirates Team New Zealand.


As always, here's the BoatWorks button to click if you think your team needs some help working at high velocity and delivering enhanced results.  

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Tags: sailing, teambuilding, yacht racing, leadership

Team Building Event Coordinator Kicking Butt in Championship

Posted by Jay Palace on Sun, Jun 16, 2013 @ 07:16 AM

Last week when GEL was in Chicago conducting BoatWorks programs with our new partner, the Chicago Match Race Center, our stretch goal was flawless execution, and our intermediate goals were training the CMRC staff in the intricacies of a non-racing, iterative experiential training program and delivering against our clients' objectives.  One of the leaders responsible for these short and long term objectives is Stephanie Roble, the center's Event Coordinator.

There are many things impressive about Stephanie, and the ones that stand foremost in my mind from last week's four days of team building are her ability to assimilate rapid fire information, get it out to her team, and stay calm under pressure.  

It's no surprise that she's also a fantastic match racer, as evidenced by her performance to date in the Women's Match Racing Championship.  Read on for details in the CMRC press release. 

Stephanie Roble

Stephanie Roble, Jay Palace, John Ponsetto (CMRC) and Tim Perlick (CME) in the BoatWorks EC Protector

CHICAGO, Ill. (June 14, 2013) - With an undefeated scorecard earned after six completed flights, Stephanie Roble (East Troy, Wis.) and her team have taken the early lead in the 2013 U.S. Women's Match Racing Championship, held at the Chicago Match Race Center. One flight remains to complete the first Round Robin, with a second also planned for tomorrow to complete the first stage of the competition for the prestigious Allegra Knapp Mertz Trophy.

Besides having spent the last three seasons at CMRC, Roble was also on the winning team as crew in both the USWMRC and the Open US Match Racing Championship, and is thus considered one of the favorites among the field of eight competing today through Sunday.

Race conditions today were nearly ideal, with the 10-14 knot northeast to east breeze building up 2-3 foot swells, giving all the teams excellent opportunities to display both their tactical as well as boathandling prowess in the Tom 28's. These skills been sharpened with help from a clinic held yesterday and this morning by CMRC Director and Alpari World Match Racing Tour card holder Taylor Canfield. Both on the water coaching and off the water in debrief sessions, Canfield has been engaging teams with personalized advice on moves and maneuvers to help improve their game.

These tips helped many, including Clerc Cooper (New Orleans, La.) who had a weak start to the event and looked to finish the day without a win until the last match when she defeated Madeline Gill (Norwalk, Conn.) in a close match.

This was just one among many hard-fought matches today that featured close starts, multiple lead changes, and for those being too aggressive, penalties assessed by the umpire team led by Kathy Lindgren.

Sitting in third place with four points is match racing veteran Sandy Hayes (Scituate, Mass.) whose team looked solid throughout the racing today but a few mistakes put them behind leaders Roble and Wilson. Look for them to be a Finals contender as we head into the weekend and they gain more experience in the boats. Hayes and crew went 4-2 today.

Perhaps the most hotly contested battle of the event is the one for the fourth and final spot in the semifinals. Intercollegiate sailor turned match racer Rachel Austin and crew led by veteran match racer Suzy Leech are tied with umpire-turned-skipper Katie Maxim and her San Francisco based team. After losing her first two races of the day, Maxim went on a winning streak and currently has the upper hand having won her match against Austin.

With just one defeat suffered to the Roble and her team, another CMRC regular has done well in the first day to sit in second on the leader board. Jennifer Wilson (Chicago, Ill.) and her team have amassed a 5-1 record, and if the favorable wind conditions hold through tomorrow, they will have another shot at Roble to avenge this loss in the second Round Robin of this first stage of the competition.

The winning skipper will earn the right to race in key match racing events in 2013, including the U.S. Match Racing Championship this September in Sheboygan, Wis. and the Women's International Match Race Series event this July in Oyster Bay, N.Y.

The intended racing format includes four stages, beginning with double round robins followed by a round robin to determine places 5-8, a semi-final knockout series for places 1-4, a petit final for places 3 and 4, and a final knockout series for places 1 and 2. Races are being conducted by PRO Darcy Cook and her race committee team, while the umpire team will be led by Umpire Kathy Lindgren.

Racing occurs outside Belmont Harbor in front of the break wall, an ideal viewing location for spectators with bleacher-style seating. The course is Windward/Leeward twice around with a downwind finish and possible leeward gates. Racing is scheduled to begin at 9 am CT on Saturday with the intention of completing the double round robin (start times subject to change).

The Mrs. Charles Francis Adams Memorial will be awarded to the Runner-up position. US Sailing gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded to the skippers and crews placing first through third, respectively. Only a U.S. citizen may be declared U.S. National champion.

The CMRC is one of the first match racing centers of its type in the United States and brings top level racing to the Great Lakes region. In addition to hosting world class regattas, the CMRC also provides weekly training programs to experienced sailors interested in learning more about the growing discipline of match racing.

For results, standings, photos and more information on the 2012 U.S. Women's Match Racing Championship, please visit the event website at

For breaking news and race results from Chicago follow us on Twitter @USSailing or @MatchRaceCenter. Use Twitter hashtag #WMRC13 to participate in the conversation throughout the championship.

Tags: sailing, teambuilding, yacht racing, CMRC

Recommended Listening: Six Tips to Talk LIke a Leader

Posted by Jay Palace on Tue, Apr 24, 2012 @ 11:25 AM

The Latimer Group's Dean Brenner has posted another interesting leadership development podcast encouraging leaders to create a work environment that empowers employees to tackle challenges.

Dean proposes that it all comes down to the choice of words and phrases when communicating with your team. The six most powerful words a leader can say to their team is "I admit I made a mistake." By admitting bad decisions, it encourages others to do the same.

For his other key phrases, listen to his post at the Latimer Group Blog. In case his name sounds familiar, Dean is also the President of the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics, and helps us deliver Leadership Development programs as part of our sponsorship of the team.  

If you have some thoughts about powerful words and phrases that you use to motivate your team, I'd love to hear them. Please leave a comment below.

Tags: leadership development, teambuilding, leadership

The Start of a Research Internship at Group Experiential Learning

Posted by C.W. Estoff on Mon, Oct 17, 2011 @ 07:38 PM

Where are the best sources on the web for information on leadership development and experiential learning?  What is the current state of the market for these services?  I will be looking for answers to these questions as I start my MBA research internship with GEL this semester.   As my research progresses, I will be sharing the information I find through this blog with the goal of starting a go-to reference page for leadership and teambuilding focused experiential learning information.  I hope to connect with both the providers of these services, and the companies and organizations that engage these services.  And along the way, I’ll be posting my findings as a thank you to the people who are helping me with my research.  

Quick background on me- I am currently finishing the last semester of my MBA at tcw boat resized 600he University at Buffalo.  Prior to that, I received first-hand exposure to the many dynamics of leadership through five years as a congressional aid on Capitol Hill, and from three years as chief of staff to a community college president.  I look forward to sharing those experiences, and learning more about leadership education through this blog.

Tags: leadership development, teambuilding

GEL back on board as Official Supplier of Leadership Development

Posted by Jay Palace on Tue, Apr 26, 2011 @ 07:53 AM

image of Olympian Graham Biehl during GEL/USSTAG Regatta

I'm very proud to join the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics in announcing that we've renewed our partnership to help American sailors bring home medals in the 2012 Olympic Games. 

Here's the text of the official release, which also highlights our upcoming events in Boston on May 26th and Annapolis on June 29th.

From: Dana Paxton
Sent: Monday, April 25, 2011 1:54 PM
To: Katie Smith
Subject: USSTAG news: Group Experiential Learning Renews Partnership



Group Experiential Learning Renews Bronze-Level Partnership

Contacts: Dana Paxton, US SAILING, 401-683-0800 x615,

Jay Palace, Group Experiential Learning, 888-435-8326 x23

Group Experiential Learning Renews Partnership as Official Supplier of Team-Building and Leadership Development

Portsmouth, R.I. (April 25, 2011) – Group Experiential Learning (GEL) has renewed its bronze level partnership with the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics (USSTAG), US SAILING announced today. Initiated in 2009, the relationship marked the first official team-building partnership for USSTAG, and since that time GEL has delivered high-impact team building and leadership training experiences for USSTAG sponsors.

The US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics is made up of the country’s top athletes in each of the 10 Olympic and three Paralympic classes who train together with the common goals of winning medals at the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Weymouth, England.

As part of the partnership in 2011, GEL will introduce some of USSTAG’s non-endemic sponsors to the sport of sailing, while offering sailing veterans the opportunity to sharpen their skills and enhance their teamwork on the water. Many GEL events will feature participation by USSTAG’s Olympians and Olympic hopefuls.

"We take great pride in helping USSTAG with sailing programs which support team members’ Olympic and Paralympic dreams and the business objectives of USSTAG’s other sponsors. The relationship also provides special opportunities for our own clients to sail with and simultaneously support the athletes,” said Jay Palace (San Francisco, Calif.), President of GEL. 

GEL will host two introductions to their signature program “BoatWorks” in a one-day complimentary experiential sailing program for leaders and HR professionals. The first “Taste of BoatWorks” will be held on May 26 in partnership with Courageous Sailing Center, in Boston, Mass. On June 29, the second “Taste of BoatWorks” will be held in partnership with J World Annapolis, in Annapolis, Md. At both locations, participants will be introduced to GEL’s facilitated leadership development program offered across the country at various US SAILING-accredited Keelboat Sailing Schools.

Later this summer, GEL will team up with the Courageous Sailing Center to organize a special introduction to sailing and racing for USSTAG’s title sponsor AlphaGraphics. Franchise owners from the New England area will sail side-by-side with USSTAG members on the Charles River. The afternoon of racing will strengthen relationships and give participants a unique glimpse into the training, preparation and focus required to win medals at the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“We are excited to continue and enhance our relationship with GEL,” said Katie Smith (Newport, R.I.), USSTAG’s Commercial Manager.  “We had a very successful event in Naples, Fla. last year where AlphaGraphics executives and franchisees got the opportunity to race with Olympian Graham Biehl (San Diego, Calif.) and gain insight to the teamwork and challenges involved with racing.  GEL did a phenomenal job translating the passion for sailing into easily accomplished onboard activities. It was a very positive experience for everyone involved.”

For more information about the Boston or Annapolis “Taste of BoatWorks”:

May 26 - Boston Taste of BoatWorks Program

June 29 - Annapolis Taste of BoatWorks Program

About Group Experiential Learning

Group Experiential Learning (GEL) helps organizations forge high performance teams, develop leaders and enhance relationships with key clients through active, outdoor experiential programs. GEL is based in San Francisco, California, and delivers its services across the U.S. and in select international locations.

About the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics
The US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics is managed by the United States Sailing Association (US SAILING), the national governing body for the sport of sailing and sailboat racing. The top boats in each Olympic and Paralympic class are selected annually to be members of the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics. US SAILING supports these elite athletes with funding, coaching and training. The title sponsor of the team is AlphaGraphics; other sponsors include Rolex Watch USA, Atlantis WeatherGear, Sperry Top-Sider, LaserPerformance, Harken Team McLube, Trinity Yachts, New England Ropes, Group Experiential Learning and Bow Down Training.


Founded in 1897 and headquartered in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, US SAILING is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. US SAILING offers training and education programs for instructors and race officials, supports a wide range of sailing organizations and communities, issues offshore rating certificates, and provides administration and oversight of competitive sailing across the country. For more information about US SAILING, please visit: For more information about the US Olympic Sailing Program and the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics, please visit:

Tags: leadership development, teambuilding, USSTAG

Jack Welsh's take on developing leadership skills

Posted by Jay Palace on Tue, Apr 12, 2011 @ 10:19 AM

The idea that you will get better at things that you emphasize is a universal concept, and one that especially applies in the area of leadership development.

One business leader who placed a great emphasis on developing leaders was former General Electric CEO, Jack Welch. Christopher A. Bartlett and Meg Wozny examined Welch's approach in great detail in an HBS case,  "GE’s Two-Decade Transformation: Jack Welch’s Leadership."

Welch not only required the top executives at each business unit to identify future leaders, but he made coaching, training and developing them a performance metric carrying practically equal weight to financial results.

One paragraph from the HBR article which leapt out at me highlights how Welch continued to invest, and actually increased spending when a major corporate focus was cost cutting.  Sound like the environment we're in today?

"A key institution that Welch harnessed to bring about this cultural change was GE’s Crotonville management development facility. Welch wanted to convert Crotonville from its management training focus and its role as a reward or a consolation prize for those who missed out on a promotion to a powerful engine of change in his transformation effort. In the mid-1980s, when he was cutting costs almost everywhere else, he spent $45 million on new buildings and improvements at Crotonville. He also hired some experienced academics—Jim Baughman from Harvard and Noel Tichy from Michigan—to revolutionize Crotonville’s activities."

Welch’s emphasis on leadership development is one of the major reasons why GE posted a 23% total shareholder return per annum during his twenty-year tenure, and underscores the importance of investing in people.

This is especially true today, as many companies have reorganized their business units since the 2008 economic downturn, and may be asking employees to do more work with less resources. This environment requires more rather than less collaboration between business units.  Cuts in layers of management have increased spans of control, but leading a larger team requires ratcheting up soft skills dramically and effectively communicating a vision to members of a team, who are fired up to execute with little top-down supervision.

I'd wager that most of the companies that have thrived in the midst of our recession are led by individuals who have successfully shared a vision, focused their teams on collabaration and continued to invest in their people.

Turning back to GE, the organization is still a powerhouse years after Jack Welch's retirement.  And of course, it just so happens that GE has utilized GEL's BoatWorks program in the forging of a new group in the organization.  The video below provides a taste of their experience.

Visit our BoatWorks Service description to learn more, or ask us for help designing a custom initiative for you.

Information from Christopher A. Bartlett and Meg Wozny’s GE’s Two-Decade Transformation: Jack Welch’s Leadership, published by the Harvard Business School, was used in this post. It can be purchased by logging onto the Harvard Business Review’s website, which is linked here.

Tags: leadership development, teambuilding