5 Principles Of Dragon Boat Teamwork And How This Helps Me In My Daily Work

Dragon boat team in Hong Kong

It’s that time of the year again – the waterfronts become lively with the sound of beating drums and fiery paddlers. For myself, I take great pride and joy in being a part of a competitive dragon boat team. Whenever I look back upon the obstacles we faced and the accomplishments we achieved together, I find that those same insights can be easily applied to another team-based environment such as the workplace.

01 – Stay Synchronised with the Team

This will sound cliche but teamwork makes the dream work! A standard dragon boat fits up to 22 people and weighs 250 kilograms all on its own. No matter how strong of an individual paddler you are, your team will not move quickly past the water unless they are entirely in sync with each other. In the workplace with multiple complex initiatives, it becomes even more important that everyone in a team is unidirectional and stays focused on achieving their desired outcomes & goals. Having a clear focus means that individual team members will be made clear of their responsibilities as well.

02 – Give Open and Honest Feedback

Whether attending regular training sessions or racing against other boats, we are constantly looking to improve ourselves with every stroke of the paddle. This means that we need to have each other’s backs. I need my team to look out for me and tell me if my form or technique needs improvement. To that effect, I always have the mindset to give and receive constructive feedback from my colleagues. Self-reflection can only go so far, and that is why we must actively hold each other accountable as a team.

03 – Have Trust in Each Other

In a race, I can only see the teammates in front of me. I have to trust that everyone is pulling their own weight to carry us all across the finish line. This includes the people sitting behind me, the drummer setting the pace of our boat, and the steersperson keeping us in a straight line. Building that same kind of trust in the workplace is both essential and rewarding. When a team has trust in each other, they are less likely to have fear of conflict and become more willing to solve complicated situations that often come with difficult conversations. A team with trust will stay committed to deliver results that benefit the group or organisation as a whole, and not just for personal gain.

04 – Respect the Process

When I started dragon boat as a newcomer, there were a lot of actions that I didn’t understand at first. I didn’t get why I had to hold the paddle a certain way, why I needed to lift it up as high as I needed to, or why I had to sit in a particular section of the boat. As I became more familiar with the sport, I realised that all of this fed into integrating me as a solid member of the team. Similarly, I believe that respecting and following the process should be a fundamental tenet for solid teamwork. We all agree on the established ground rules and to uphold the ways of working together, thereby making all implicit expected behaviour more explicit for the benefit of the team.

05 – Show Gratitude and Celebrate Team Contribution

As mentioned before, a dragon boat is incredibly heavy. If only half the team shows up for training, then the other half would have a much harder time moving the boat across the water. And if only half the people showed up to a race, then they wouldn’t even be able to compete at all. Give credit where credit is due. When working as part of a team, I find it absolutely vital to cherish the experiences shared together and to be vocal about the successes of our accomplishments. Also important is to recognise every individual’s contribution and efforts – no matter how small it may seem. This can make all the difference in keeping the team driven and motivated to reach their goal.


Written by Winson Chan, Regional Product Team.

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