Once, when our platoon was preparing for a mission at one of our shooting ranges in Iraq, I had failed to reload one of my pistol mags after the previous night’s operation.
Our point man, the best-selling author of No Easy Day (under the pseudonym Mark Owen), discovered my mistake. To this day, I still think about the look of disappointment on his face.
The experience drove home the importance of good habits. The term habit generally has a negative connotation, but if you form the right habits that drive you toward success, you can’t lose. To be an effective team member, people usually need to break old habits and develop new ones by letting selfishness fall by the wayside. The SEAL community forces you to break habits that don’t positively contribute to mission success. If you can’t make that happen, you’re done.
I’ve gotten these habits right, and I’ve gotten them wrong. But those mistakes of yesterday have forged me into a better leader and team member today. If you want to be part of an elite team and are going to shed old habits, make sure to keep these!
1. Be loyal. Team loyalty in the corporate environment seems to be a dying philosophy. Loyalty to the team starts at the top. If it’s lacking at the senior executive level, how can anyone else in the organization embrace it? Loyalty is about leading by example, providing your team unconditional support, and never throwing a team member under the bus.
2. Put others before yourself. Get up every day and ask yourself what you will do to add value to your team, such as simply offering your assistance with a project. The challenge is overcoming the fear that your team member might say: “Yes, I really need your help with this project…tonight.”
3. Be reflective. Reflective people often spend too much time analyzing their actions. But imagine if you could harness this talent into something highly valuable? Reflecting on your mistakes, such as mine in Iraq, ensures you never repeat them.
4. Be obsessively organized. Some of us innately have this ability, often to a fault, and some have to work at it a bit more. You have to find a process that works for you. I’ve known people who will put something on their to-do list after they did it and then cross it off to feel a greater sense of accomplishment! Whatever your system is, make it work for you.
5. Assume you don’t know enough. Because you don’t. Any effective team member understands that training is never complete. It’s true in the SEAL teams, and it’s true in any elite team. Those who assume they know everything should be eliminated. Those who spend time inside and outside of the workplace developing their knowledge and skills will provide the momentum for their team’s forward progress.
6. Be detail-oriented. Attention to detail is one of our company’s values. Do we get it right all the time? Of course not. Imagine, though, if all members of a team are obsessed with detail in their delivery? My lack of attention to detail in the incident in Iraq could have had catastrophic results. Don’t ask yourself what you are going to do today to be successful; ask how you are going to do it.
7. Never get comfortable. Always push yourself outside of your comfort zone. If you do this continually with every task you take on, that boundary will continue to widen. This process will ensure that you are continually maximizing your potential, which will positively impact your team.
You may be wondering how you could ever have a relaxed life if you maintain all of these habits. But that’s the beauty of it. If you enjoy what you do and form good habits, it all becomes second nature. Maintain these habits, and encourage your team members to do the same.