Train to Survive in Battle and in Business

How do you prepare for an important business engagement?  Do you prepare as you might have during your school days with an all-nighter?  Or do you spend several days studying your topic, deep in research, maybe conducting a bit of intelligence gathering?  You want to know everything there is to know about your competitor, your adversary, your challenger before you feel ready for the assignment.  So you prepare for the meeting just as you would train for a sporting event or a battle. 

Matthew Eversmann was a leader on the ground in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993.  His actions were immortalized by actor Josh Hartnett in the film Black Hawk Down.  During a presentation in Westminster, Maryland recently I heard him tell the story of the work of his Special Forces unit as he expressed their three fundamental core values of selfless service, moral courage, and commitment. 

Matt talked about how he and his men found themselves completely surrounded and outnumbered 100 to 1 for 18 hours in a situation he identified as Strategic Shock, defined as: 

  • Unpredictable
  • Ubiquitous
  • Indiscriminate

As the leader of his team, he realized that he was in a battle the results of which were going to impact the lives of others for generations.  He experienced the spectrum of emotions from fear for his own life to fear for the lives of his men.  He realized there were no easy answers to their predicament.  He knew that as a leader his role was to solve problems, and they were multiple and immediate.  His team was supposed to be “dropped” into the hot zone from a helicopter 30 feet above the ground.  The men would rappel from the helicopter on ropes.  As the helicopter reached the zone, dust and debris rising from the ground obscured vision and impacted maneuverability.  The result was chaos.  In less than 30 seconds Matt climbed from the helicopter to the ground and was in the midst of a firefight.  He had one critically injured soldier at his feet whom had fallen from the helicopter during the chaotic “drop.”  His men were yelling out status reports as information was being radioed to him from other locations and bullets were landing all around him.  As he quickly surveyed the scene he saw his men doing the job they had been trained for, which allowed Matt to perform his leadership role which was to solve problems.

Matt brought this incredible story down to a business level when he introduced his Success Bullets:   

  • Mission Focus
  • Leadership
  • Followership
  • Training
  • High Standards
  • Values

There were a few highlights from his discussion of Success Bullets that I took particular note of.  First, under Mission Focus, Matt stressed that there can be no ambiguity when it comes to mission.  The mission must be clearly presented to the team. 

Team members always want to please the boss.  While it is acceptable for followers to question the leader about specifics of the mission, Followership is the end result.  All team members must buy into the mission.

Matt described High Standards in an interesting way.  He said that the leader’s job is to push team members to reach their individual levels of deliverability.  It reminds me of the difference between enstress, which is positive, and distress, which is negative.  Enstress moves into distress when we are placed in a position where we are expected to perform beyond our ability to perform, and we discover that we are incapable of meeting the challenge.  Matt talked about holding the team accountable for performing the basics of their job at a Ph.D. level.  Fundamentals are critical no matter what your career path is.  

Days, weeks, sometimes months of relentless training are required before the team is ready to accept a mission.  Training is what enabled Matt’s team to perform in the horrors and challenges of the brutal urban combat of Mogadishu while he performed his leadership role.  In business, relentless training on the fundamentals of communication and performance is what enables us to respond promptly and accurately while in the midst of a selling situation, or during an important negotiation session, or while establishing trust in a new relationship.  Training keeps us focused.  Training keeps us in the game.