High-performance team leaders must be experts in the unit’s activity and prepared to function as pacesetters and mentors.
The leadership of a high-performance unit presents a unique challenge. Members of such a unit generally function best under leadership which supports risk-taking, provides feedback, honors goal clarity, rewards initiative, encourages growth and demands excellence. Leaders of high-performance units sometimes become quasi-mythical figures. Vince Lombardi is an example.
Effective high-performance unit leaders recognize that team members require freedom, diversity and challenge. Often impatient and generally frustrated by obstacles, team members accept supervision which, above all, re¬quires accountability for results and emphasizes the team over individuals in managing relationships.
The SEAL approach could be implemented in two ways— as revolution or evolution. Revolution involves creating a high-performance unit very quickly where one currently does not exist. This is essentially what the Navy did when it created the SEALS. Evolution involves slowly changing an existing group into a high-performance unit by utilizing some of the SEAL principles in a more gradual way. There are obvious trade-offs with either approach. Both require commitment and involvement from senior management.
The dangers of elitism. The greatest risk associated with creating a high-performance training unit lies in the perception of elitism. While the word elitism, like politician, is not a negative word, it has been burdened with connotations of snobbery and “above the law” storm troopers. Such a connotation is not conducive to credibility building.
Healthy envy can turn into destructive anger when those not a part of the team feel team members get unfair privileges. Special treatment should only be associated with special contribution.
There are specific steps an organization can take to quell cries of favoritism and unwarranted reward. Foremost is to make membership in the high-performance unit available to anyone. While the entrance requirements should be sufficiently taxing to weed out all but the best, the path to the door should be free to all.
Publicity of team accomplishments, particularly those which increase productivity and work satisfaction, can short-circuit dangers of elitism. Likewise, it may be helpful to explain to others the reasons behind exclusivity.
For instance, requiring first-class air travel not only rewards past achievements and telegraphs specialness, but it rein-forces the feeling that one is first class. Team members emerge from flight in the spirit of greatness.
The concept of creating a high-performance training unit from SEAL principles is admittedly laced with romanticism and intrigue. Executives could misread the mission and leap into the ego-satisfying thrill of having their own in-house strike force. Such an immature response would be unfortunate.
There is also room to use these principles as justification for cosmetic, expensive trappings which provide minimal return on investment. Human resources development already has its share of tacky gimmicks and superficial panaceas. What’s truly essential for success is the recognition that the purpose is proactive high performance which aids the organization in achieving its goals.
By : Chip Bell. Training Magazine.