A matter of life and death – what we can learn from the Navy SEALS.
In the Culture Code, Daniel Coyle has tried to define what makes a successful and well-functioning group. I can reveal one thing: the competence and intelligence of the individual team members is not the determining factor.
One of the high-performing teams Coyle presents is the Navy SEALS Team Six.
“Having one person tell other people what to do is not a reliable way to make good decisions (…). How do you develop ways to challenge each other, ask the right questions, and never defer to authority? We’re trying to create leaders among leaders. And you can’t just tell people to do that. You have to create conditions where they start to do it.”
The leader of Team Six, Dave Cooper, has understood that traditional management – one person controlling everybody – doesn’t work. The hierarchical structure doesn’t allow employees to make wise decisions and, carried at extremes, it can be dangerous. When soldiers are on a mission, they must dare and be able to make informed decisions based on the given situation. In that situation, it’s impossible to wait for orders.
It’s rarely a matter of life or death at a more typical company but Cooper’s conclusions are still valid. From a Challenger perspective, it’s about creating a solid ground for self-driven employees to be able to make wise decisions for the whole. In the long run, it creates a pace and mobility that makes the company adjusted to constant change.
How do you get employees who challenge, ask smart questions and don’t fall back into hierarchical behaviors? Cooper has a point when he says that it isn’t possible to just demand that kind of behavior. To get a living culture aimed at the company’s passion, you need to really work with the culture and integrate the company’s attitudes in the work of the entire organization and have the leaders to act as role models.
The Culture Code -The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, Daniel Coyle (2018)