How prepared is your team to rise to the challenge of an existential threat to your business? Does everyone understand and support your mission? Do you have a strategic intention that aligns everyone’s contributions towards a worthwhile end result?
Imagine being on a rooftop at dawn, with insurgents firing track-fed machine guns at your face, RPGs battering your supporting walls and mortars exploding shrapnel into your body, with your limp arm hanging by tendons. I've been in some boardrooms that have felt like that, but this really happened to Mark Geist.
I heard Mark speak recently at the YPO Canadian regional conference and then got to talk with him in private afterward. He was one of 6 security contractors that came to the rescue in Benghazi, Libya during the now infamous 13-hour firefight. I've seen some shit in my life like you have but nothing to compare with what he described went down.
Six really well trained men counterattacked the US diplomatic outpost that had been stormed and taken over by a small militia force. They regained control and then fought off the second wave. A lot more people got out alive than would have if they failed to act.
My interest in the conversation was about teams and missions. What I was impressed about was that 6 people, who had not worked much together, but had emerged from a common operational and training ethos, could come together so quickly in the face of something so dire and pull off something so breathtaking.
Central to the training was developing the emotional and psychological strength to manage what he called saturation in a dynamic decision-making environment. Saturation is the overwhelming feeling of being flooded with so many tasks, stresses and fears that a person begins to shut down. He was very clear that, in such intense tactical environments, decision authority needs to rest with the operators with an intimate view of an unfolding situation, not solely the commanders. “Whenever I see leadership pushing decisions down from the top it ends in failure." A top-down decision-making process is too slow and often cut-off from reality.
His key learning: In the heat of the moment the mission comes first. A singular intention directs all tactical action in real time and that actions tends to stay generally aligned.
Interested in sorting out your intention so your team can stay aligned with you? Brett Wilson, John Francis and I offer some great perspective on that topic in our book on Simplicity. Order yours here.