I remember flying back from San Diego having visited the SEAL training facility. If you ever want to be encouraged about the best of the best fighting people, arrange a visit. These people are among the most impressive I have ever met. They exude confidence without arrogance.
I believe it is the culture of the entire organization that permeates everything.
If we could duplicate that culture in our business, we would be a force never to be challenged. The program’s indoctrination (BUDS) is designed to weed out the 80% who do not have the mental toughness and commitment to become a SEAL.
What if you made it a privilege to be part of your organization? How would that impact your company?
Seeking insight, I found a command person and asked, “What is it that you do that separates your SEALS from others?” He answered that they have nine guiding principles. I’ve translated that to apply to business, and added a tenth principle of my own. Answer these questions for your business, and see how you stand.
The Nine Guiding Principles for Business Excellence
- Instructor. The quality, commitment and ability to share the necessary knowledge were the most important. Do you have the right people doing the right thing at the right time who are aligned with your vision?
- Curriculum. Are you constantly asking yourself how we can put more into our material? Is what we are teaching simple enough to grasp without being too simple and boring? Just because we did it this way the past couple of years, is it still relevant? Where are we slipping?
- Training support. Do we have the right facility? Is there a newer more effective way to make training relevant for the times? Who should be doing what to make the experience powerful?
- Human performance. Are we pushing people beyond their limits? Do we put the concerns of their family above other non-essential factors? I found it most informative that they faced directly the prior high divorce rate because of long deployments and have instituted solutions. They recognized how critical one’s mental state is to staying focused and doing the job at hand requires a strong home life. Are we sensitive to our employees’ mental state especially as it is related to home life?
- Personal Character. Here is a challenge. Integrity is critical to them: Do what you say you are going to do, when you say you are going to do it. I would add say please and thank you. It drives me ballistic when a person says ” no problem”. What happened to “thank you”? Leadership sets the tone and expectations for character. Do you seek feedback in your business on ways to improve character? Fellow workers and consumers of your service or product can tell the difference.
- Trust. Confidence and enjoy their company are the next measure of the SEAL culture. Imagine what your company would be able to accomplish if you could state with high levels of confidence we excel in each of these intangible tests!
- Reputation. Wow, how powerful is that one? How do others see you? Do they want to emulate your behavior? Are you a person whose code of conduct truly reflects who you are? A reputation can be destroyed so easily. Look at the example of VW or Wells Fargo Bank. How long will it take to rebuild trust in those brands? I had a bad experience with one of the major auto brands several years ago. Will I ever go back to them again? Doubtful. Loyalty is something every business owner wants. It is so easy to squander. The SEAL Teams cherish their reputation and root out any bad apple.
- Self awareness and 360 degree feedback. Sharing honestly between subordinates and command is ingrained in their culture. Who best to be honest with you in a loving and caring way but others who work closely with you? Having been a naval officer, I found it interesting the informality that exists between enlisted persons and officers. One must look very carefully to determine the difference. They truly work as one unit. That is worth aspiring to in all our organizations. They rank your performance not by a number, but rather by observation exceeding, meeting, or not measuring up. If ranked that way, how would your business come out?
- Avoid fraying. As a person with a maritime background I immediately had a clear picture of the meaning. When ropes are pulled too hard and are used beyond their capability, loose threads begin popping out. The rope actually becomes weaker because it has been abused. If we push ourselves or others beyond our endurance we begin to fray. That is a clear sign of excess. That can bring failure. In battle that could mean death to your fellow SEAL. That is not the desired outcome. There is a saying within Alcoholics Anonymous– HALT. Hungry, angry, lonely and tired. That is another example of fraying. When is the last time you found yourself hungry, angry, lonely or tired? How did you act to those around you?
- Excellence. Only take the best, do not compromise on your standard!
In my new book American Fathers, Sasha starts an idea exchange discussion group call SIFT Coalition. Seeking Individualism and Freedom Together. I think they would have a hearty discussion over my reflections of what makes SEAL Teams envied warriors.