Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ideas for Building Your Elite Team

Elite teams and organizations dominate their chosen field of battle.  What makes them different?  How do they sustain their success?  What do you have to do to incorporate these ideas into your organization?  Let's look at organizational principles and standards that set certain  units apart.

Ranger battalions, Special Forces groups, SEAL teams, and Marine Recon battalions all share certain organizational principles, standards, and effectiveness which sets them apart from the rest of the military and from your organization.  Special Operations Units have a distinctive sense of urgency, individual accountability, unit pride, mission focus, and adaptability, which create an environment for sustainable success.  Special Operations are expected to take initiative, be resourceful, be self-reliant, and complete their assigned missions in situations where regular forces would fail.  Special Forces Units rely on a system of personnel and performance standards that dictate recruiting, training, and leadership competencies which ensure they will succeed.  No sniveling, no excuses - they just get it done.

Special Operations units recruit, test, select, and forge the best members of their respective services into confident and competent leaders and team members.  It's hard to make it into a Special Operations unit and it's hard to stay in the unit.  All tests are pass/fail; excellence is expected.  These units cannot afford to have people who are not committed and able to withstand and overcome extreme mental and physical challenges on a continuous basis.   Judgement is constant and the consequences for lack of performance are harsh and swift.  Members who fail to make the standard are quickly transferred back to the "regular" services.

Leaders in Special Operations units are different as well.  They know how to lead leaders.  They know how to enforce standards to make the team better, and they know who to unite and how to prepare a team for exceptional performance.  They lead by example; they are completely committed to their mission and team, and they take accountability for all that is done or not done in their unit.  These leaders keep the units elite with their relentless adherence to the standards required for mission completion and energetic preparation and problem solving, and personal example. You never rest as a leader in an elite unit - there is always more to be done. As the saying goes, "The only easy day was yesterday."

This combination of mission focus, operating standards, performance standards, and leadership create organizations with unique spirit, teamwork, capabilities, adaptability, and resolve.

Can you create this in your organization?   Yes.

Will it take time, money, expertise, and commitment?  Yes.

Will the investment be worthwhile?  I don't know.  It depends on what it is worth to be the best in your field or industry.

How should you start?  Here are seven ideas:

1) Confirm your organization's mission, market, and definition of excellence in clear quantitative and qualitative terms.

2) Check your operating standards.  Can you meet your mission objectives based on your current definitions of success?  If yes, drive on and ask yourself what's not happening.  If no, change your standards of performance.

3) Create measurable operating standards and accountabilities for every person and every team in the organization.  Start at the top; ensure there are no exceptions.  Leaders have a greater expectations in elite units.  It's just the way it is.  If you don't like it, leave.

4) Share profit and risk in greater proportion than your competition.  Extraordinary chemistry exists in elite units because risks and rewards for failure and success are relatively equal.  Mistakes can be fatal for all ranks; rewards such as promotions, medals, and additional training are available for all ranks as well.  Create systems that spread the risk and rewards throughout the organization to align energy and focus.

5)  Make your recruiting process tougher and get rid of slackers sooner.  Invest in a system that finds, tests, and re-tests potential team members.  If you want to be the best organization, you need to have the best talent and attitudes available.  If they make it into the organization and their performance is lacking or their attitude slips, get them out of the organization as soon as possible.

6)  Invest in leadership development systems at all levels.  Create a system that will identify the individuals who can solve the problems the organization faces today and can create the possibilities for a successful future.  Give them real company issues to address, so they can experience and grow as individuals and ensure they "profit" from the problems realized from their leadership development "exercises".  Your leadership development system should provide your organization with sufficient leaders for the future and solve tangible problems at the same time.

7)  Be committed for the long haul.  Creating greatness and an elite culture will not happen overnight.  It will take time. You will face resistance and there will be unforeseen challenges.  But don't take the easy path and stay Regular.  Embrace the idea that you will have "to move further, faster, and fight harder" to be elite and that surrender is not an option.

Drive on.

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