The principles of attraction that the SEALs employ can be seen at work in the most successful companies. Consider that Amazon, Apple, and Google have inspired a generation to become software engineers, developers, and designers. These companies do not really need to recruit, just like the SEALs don’t really need to recruit. What they actually do is separate out the wheat from the chaff in an efficient, effective way. The best way is to attract like-minded teammates with a powerful vision, who will take ownership, and then give them enough autonomy to make that vision come true in a big way.
There are several factors influencing the intense attraction force that these organizations possess, for example, prestige, compensation, challenge, and the ability to work with peers who are also committed to excellence. But the primary explanation for the “moth to flame” effect any organization has is a powerful vision and impactful mission. It’s not enough to just be in business to make money or provide a mundane service or product. A team and the individuals on it want to be inspired, to make a difference, and the bigger the impact the better. The money will follow the mission. Each of the above-mentioned companies has a mission so bold and compelling it attracts the best and brightest, elite operators who are inspired by that vision and want badly to associate themselves and take ownership of, the team and brand.
So, your challenge is to create a bold vision, and a realistic mission to achieve it, that can act as a magnetic force drawing the right people to the team. Can you envision impacting the world boldly and positively? Can you communicate a mission to achieve that impact that requires those who share your passion and commitment to excellence to join you?
Audacious Vision and Mission
At Unbeatable, Inc. we devised the following vision and 25-year mission:
Vision: Inspire a movement for integrated development and world-centric care.
25 Year Mission: Train 100 million integrated, world-centric leaders who serve humanity.
In his seminal leadership book In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters told us to grow with BHAG – bold, hairy, audacious goals. The Unbeatable, Inc vision and mission require that my team and I set goals so big, we must become an elite team capable of fulfilling them.
There are many directions you could go to create this attractive force, but it must be unique, authentic, and come from your highest self. Once you radar-lock on the vision and mission, then you telegraph it boldly and begin to select from the outstanding talent who knocks on your door. But knocking on the door is not enough; your teammates must earn their place at the table. Just because I knew I wanted to be a SEAL, and I earned a chance at it, it didn’t mean that I would make the cut. As you know, in the SEALs only a small percentage of those who get chosen for BUDS actually make it through the selection process. If you don’t make the cut, there’s no judgment or farewell party, just a tacit understanding that the competition was fierce, you did your best, and there were never any guarantees.
Creating a similarly challenging selection program is one thing for a billion-dollar company or major arm of the U.S. military, but it can pose a challenge for smaller, entrepreneurial organizations. Last time I posted a Craig’s List ad for an entry-level position, I received 30 applicants and not a single one showed up for the interview. They were just using me for unemployment insurance! Also, few people will present their authentic self in an interview, or even during their first 60 days on a job; instead they will wear a mask of false expertise or positive attitude to impress you and the team. If you rush things you can miss key signs that someone is masking signs, however subtle, of some emotional dysfunction like being a narcissist, a closet racist or chauvinist, or perhaps they just plain suck at teamwork.
Structure and Process “After Attraction”
Attraction brings them to you, and a thoughtful selection program can flush out negative or non-aligned characters early to save pain later. But you will want to set up a strong process to thoroughly vet and bring a new teammate into the team culture. We rely on a simplified version of the “Topgrading” process, created by organizational psychologist Brad Smart for vetting. Then we leverage a 90-day trial period for new hires which as a lot of training and time with the team as a whole and individual teammates. This allows the team to assess personality type, character, motivation, initiative, and a candidate’s teamwork ability. Knowing the job isn’t sealed for three months puts some pressure on the new hire to deliver results and prove themselves to the team. We want people to come in each day with an elite team mindset, ready to learn, and not treat the job as an entitlement.
Developing a strong vision and mission that attracts great teammates, and a rigorous selection process to onboard (or off-board!) them, is critical to building and maintaining a culture of excellence. It’s relatively easy to teach new skills, but teaching character is a difficult and unpredictable process. As the team leader, you can’t tolerate a lack of respect, suboptimal performance, or anything else that runs counter to your values. Allow employees to move on to a new adventure because the attitudes you put up with will become the culture of your organization. I get many people asking me what to do if they can’t fire a bad apple because their organization is a bureaucracy, or it isn’t culturally acceptable. What I tell them is this: “You should consider leaving yourself, because you will find it very hard to grow in that type of organization. Additionally, these are exactly the types of organizations that will be disrupted in the age of VUCA.
The organization is the house where the team makes a home. That home should be solid, and the occupants functional. The structures and systems, including how you attract, select and groom teammates, provide the boundaries for the collective experience. Those systems have a deep impact on the team cohesiveness and performance – both positive and negative.
Ultimately, for a team to operate at an elite level, all three spheres must each be operating at peak performance level as well. Otherwise, the lagging sphere will adversely impact the others. Each teammate should be seeking a strong body, mind and spirit individually, while simultaneously working toward a strong collective body, mind and spirit of the team. The structure and systems of the organization must align to make this possible, especially as the individuals come together to form a team, train to optimize performance, and then go after their mission. Later we will look at some examples of how structure can impact the team.