A Lesson in Business from the U.S. Navy SEALs

The U.S. Navy SEALs are one of the most elite special forces units in the world, consisting of some of the best-trained troops on the planet. SEALs have been accomplishing death-defying missions since the 1960’s. There is no question, SEALs are tough as nails – physically and mentally. These men live and breathe a culture of warriors and are among the last people on earth you want to mess with.

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I have been fascinated by military training and operations for quite some time now. After reading Esquire’s article about “The Shooter” (if you haven’t read it, get on that), I wanted to know everything I possibly could about the SEALs. How does one live so selflessly for their country? How do you spend 80% of your life preparing for chaos while remaining “calm, cool, collected”? The more I’ve read about these heroes, the longer my list of “Reasons I love the U.S. Navy SEALs” becomes.

With the start of a new year and the well deserved hype around Lone Survivor (based on Marcus Luttrell‘s book “Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10“) I share with you some key tactics I believe organizations can incorporate— inspired by the SEALs— to build stronger leaders and better teams.

In business, although being a “team player” is considered a prerequisite for most roles, teamwork and collaboration often happen unwillingly on the job. In some organizations (especially the big ones), there is little or no alignment between people or departments. Employees tend to protect their work (typically because they think they are protecting their jobs), while viewing their colleagues suspiciously and contributing to the team when it’s convenient.

SEALs would never approach their team in such fashion because for SEALs, teamwork (and I mean real teamwork) is a matter of life and death. A mission cannot be successfully executed unless the team is functioning as one.

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The priority of teamwork is instilled during SEALs training (BUD/S) which I learned about in Dick Couch‘s book “The Warrior Elite”. BUD/S is designed to test a candidate’s physical and mental limits.

Similar to the business world, competition during BUD/S is present and intense. First place is the best place. The difference is, SEALs would never leave a teammate behind. In The Warrior Elite, the entire class of 228 would be punished if one peer didn’t make the required time. Therefore, it’s great to be a winner but you will receive the same punishment as the loser. The drop out rate for BUD/S is sometimes over 80%. For those who graduate, this is often the greatest achievement of their lives. Completing BUD/S is confirmation to these men that they can achieve much more than they thought possible and that they will never, ever quit, or let a teammate down.

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“Even in great pain, faced with the test of their lives, they had the ability to step-outside their own pain, put aside their own fear and ask: How can I help the guy next to me?” Eric Greitens, a U.S. Navy SEAL and author of the book “The Heart and the Fist

Now imagine that happened at work? (not the photo above because that would be awkward); never having to question the intentions of your colleagues, knowing the people who are leading you are looking out for your best interest (as much as they’re looking out for their own), never having to doubt your team’s ability to follow through on their responsibilities because they are loyal and want the team and your company to succeed. I bet morale would soar through the roof, I am certain business units would become much more efficient, quality of work would improve as would your ability to acquire and retain talent.

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 SEAL Code: a Warrior Creed

  • Loyalty to Country, Team and Teammate
  • Serve with Honor and Integrity On and Off the Battlefield
  • Ready to Lead, Ready to Follow, Never Quit
  • Take responsibility for your actions and the actions of your teammates
  • Excel as Warriors through Discipline and Innovation
  • Train for War, Fight to Win, Defeat our Nation’s Enemies
  • Earn your Trident everyday

 

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“I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.” SEAL Code: a Warrior Creed

[images via: Navyseals.com Photo Gallery]

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