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Small Business

Managing Your Business

From Combat Zone to Conference Room

Former Navy SEAL Shares Lessons in Bootstrapping Your Leadership

Rob Roy

After spending more than 25 years in the military, former Navy SEAL Rob Roy says that lessons from the trenches taught him a great deal about succeeding in the not-so-peaceful business world. In his new book, The Navy SEAL Art of War: Leadership Lessons from the World's Most Elite Fighting Force, Roy shares some insight for developing the discipline and leadership of a Navy SEAL and applying those qualities to your business efforts.

How to Make Sound Decisions Under Pressure and Lead in Any Environment

While in Bosnia, Roy had to think in the moment to get out of danger. “You plan a mission and you're given specific intel from another source with the understanding that information is correct. You get there and it's backward," he says. “You have to figure it out on the fly."

Considering that SEALs must make decisions “at amazing speed," Roy says businesses should train their leaders before emergencies occur. That's why he suggests situational immersion training in lieu of a traditional business team dinner.

“Take them paint balling. Get to the point where they feel stressed. They can't finish unless they're working with a team," he says. It's all about proactively determining how someone will react when pressure hits. “You want to know what the guy is going to do in a crisis. In a crisis, it's not a time to figure out, 'Are these people good?'"

How to Set Expectations – and Quit

Yes, quit! Roy references ringing the bell to quit, just like they do in SEAL training: “Three rings means you're done. The instructors come over, you pack up and you get out of their training command." Roy explains that the bell follows SEALs everywhere they go. “If class is doing an eight-mile beach run, the bell will be on the back of the truck that follows them on the beach."

In business, Roy says resigning may be a result of a cultural clash. “If an employee doesn't agree with [your business] values, he may not be a good fit for the company. He'll perform the best within the first two weeks and then go back to what he normally did if you don't give him the proper tools."

Resources are essential, says Roy. That way you can ensure your employees are equipped. This includes making sure there is an experienced advisor to whom they can look for guidance. “Assign them a mentor and set expectations," he adds.

How to Build Trust

Building trust encompasses a person's character and integrity, notes Roy. “When bullets are flying, can you trust a guy's going to do the right thing for the team?" A person you can trust, he explains, knows what needs to happen and what direction he will take to win in a given situation.

This can be accomplished through training to get all your team members on the same page, he says. He recommends an onboarding process for people to understand and trust the culture of the company.

Above all, Roy says leadership in any venue – the military, the boardroom, a storefront – is “inspiration, direction, guidance and hope. That's what people want. They want to know who you are and what you're going to do for them," he says. “If they believe in you, they'll do anything for you."

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