7 Effective Lessons That US Navy SEAL’s Can Teach You about Leading through Organizational Change

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US Navy Lessons

Let us start with a truly captivating story. A Navy SEAL served for years on end in the Special Forces. His quest for knowledge ultimately took him to college. After graduation, he launched his own start-up. He soon realized that fighting an enemy out on the battlefront as a Navy SEAL isn’t much different from leading an organization change.

He drew some interesting parallels between business and war, and shows us how to lead through organization change whether you are in a battlefield or in a meeting room, in his book “TakingPoint: A Navy SEAL’s 10 Fail Safe Principles for Leading through Change”. The proponent in limelight is Brent Gleeson. In this article, you will learn seven lessons that can help you navigate your organization through the choppy seas of change and put all your change management woes to rest.

Related: 10 Principles of Change Management for Project Managers.

7 Lessons About Leading Through Organization Change

1.     Culture Is Everything

Ask any successful entrepreneur or business leader today and they will tell you that establishing a positive culture is more important than creating a winning strategy. Successful companies lay a lot of emphasis on organizational culture, especially when it comes to leading change because they know that culture is a major driver for change and can help them implement change easily. Companies that keep culture above everything else reap the benefits of higher efficiency, employee engagement, customer satisfaction and long-term growth.

2.     You Reap What You Sow

Trust fuels your change engine and is an instrumental factor that helps you implement change across your organization in a hassle-free manner. A survey conducted by the Human Capital Institute has proven that employees working in companies with a higher growth rates assert that their leaders, managers and even peers are trustworthy. Sowing the seed of trust can help you keep the employee turnover rate in check and boost employee morale.

Brent Gleeson shares his SEAL experience in his writings, “In SEAL training, we learned early on about the importance of team trust. We don’t always get along, but we willingly run to the sound of gunfire — together — keeping the safety of those to our left and right in mind.”

3.     Peer To Peer Accountability Works

The best kind of accountability on a team is peer-to-peer. Peer pressure is more efficient and effective than going to the leader, anonymously complaining, and having them stop what they are doing to intervene.”—Patrick Lencioni

Another lesson that Brent Gleeson learned during his days in the US Navy SEAL was one of total team accountability. Peer reviews determine your success or failure. This creates a conclusive environment for peer-to-peer learning, with no room for error. Implement the same concepts in an organizational setting and you can easily hold your employees accountable for their actions. If all the employees take ownership, it will have a positive impact on the productivity and growth of an organization. This is very important when an organization is evolving and is in the throes of a transformation.

4.     Mindset Does Matter

Whether you are a commander leading your troops through a skirmish or a business leader guiding your team through a challenge, your troops or employees will always look up to you. Your mindset and beliefs about your mission will reflect in your team’s performance as well. You might be deemed fit to lead the organization in a moment of urgency, but that does not make you eligible to lead your organization through change, as it requires a different outlook. If you want to lead your organization in the future, you must focus your energies on considering new ground realities.

5.     Have a Plan(s)

Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”—Alan Lakein

Did you notice the small “s” enclosed within the bracket? Do you know what it represents? It shows that sticking rigidly to a single plan cannot get you much further in the face of adversity, so you must have multiple plans at your disposal and be prepared for whatever life may chuck your way. If one plan falls through, you can quickly switch to another. However, even a plethora of plans fails to yield if you do not know how to execute these plans to perfection.

As a SEAL embarking on a mission, Brent always collected intelligence from both internal and external sources. He leveraged it to create a plan for the mission. All the troops are considered a part of this phase, which not only gives the commander some insights from the frontline troops but also makes soldiers feel that they have a voice. Business leaders can implement the same tactic to make effective plans. Abraham Lincoln sums it up brilliantly when he says, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

6.     Communicate Your Vision

Good leaders must communicate their vision clearly, creatively, and continually. However, the vision doesn’t come alive until the leader models it.”—John C Maxwell

No matter how good your vision is, if you are unable to communicate it to your troops, it is worthless. Integrate your vision in everything that you do, until your team is well-drilled in it. Leverage the prowess of storytelling and myriad information channels, both formal and informal. Make sure that your vision is aligned with the strategic objectives of the organization. The more consistently the vision is communicated, the better it is, as it emotionally connects your team members with the mission to bring out the best in them. A task management system can help you in this regard.

7.     Survival of the Resilient

Instead of taking the reactive approach to organization change, you must take proactive route. Just like on the battlefield where soldiers take the fight to the enemies, you should push change aggressively despite criticism. Don’t worry about initial jolts of failures that might put you off your targets. Do not let these initial hiccups come in the way of your change efforts.

How do you lead organization change? Feel free to share it with us in the comments section below.

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