Deep in the forest somewhere around Dahlonega Georgia a band of Soldiers move through the late fall night without a sound.
Weapons at the ready, sweat drenched despite the cold night air they move skillfully through the night under the 100-pound packs on their back. A man in the front puts his hand up and makes a fist. Through the eerie green light of night vision goggles, one sees the sign and repeats it. As rehearsed time and time again, each man repeats the motion, and everyone freezes in their tracks. A small red light comes on and you can make out two men crouching over a map. “This is it” one says to the other. “That makes 8 kilometers, we are 200 meters from the patrol base” A sigh of relief comes from one of the weary men as he places his pack on the ground without a sound and sets up the machine gun to pull security. “Finally, we have been walking for hours and its 2:00 AM” he whispers. “Send the recon team forward” states the leader. Without any further discussion a team moves forward and starts the process of conducting a recon of the place where the exhausted team will spend the night, their patrol base. Everyone knows they still have at least an hour of work ahead of them conducting patrol base operations but the fact that they have made it is comforting to the team. Alternate rally points, fields of fire, sector sketches, personal hygiene and many more items must be done to prepare for every possible disaster and ensure the health of the team. Could the enemy locate us? Do we have cover and concealment? Who will cover this area and where are the blind spots? Is the machine gun up and running? The team works together to accomplish all these tasks before they get what they really want, to rest. From the outside looking in they are a well-oiled, seasoned team. One might guess they had been working together for years. The truth, they are in the second phase of Ranger Leader School. They have been together for only a few weeks. What makes them more cohesive than teams in the private sector who have worked together for years? Its not that they are elite, though some absolutely are, the majority are your average red-blooded American from all walks of life. They are half way through some of the most challenging training the United States Army has to offer.
They have trained more for this school than anything else they have done. They have attended Airborne school, so they can exit an aircraft at 800 feet above ground and land safely under the canopy of a T-11 parachute. Most went to pre-ranger school where they get a leg up on the tasks they will master at Ranger school. They have been organized to work under high pressure and in austere environments with little guidance and a clear chain of command. They have discipline and integrity, they know their tasks and weapons like the back of their hand, they are what our enemies fear and the nation celebrates as the best, they are Rangers. So how do you turn this type of experience into something that can be done within your team? How do you turn your employees into the Rangers of your industry? There are some best practices that can come from Ranger Leader School that will help you organize, motivate, and lead your teams toward your organizational goals regardless of what they are.
Define your processes and practice them regularly.
Processes should be clear, definitive, and answer all contingencies possible to the best of your ability. Where is the form stored, how do you fill it out, why do you fill it out, when do you use it, what do you do with it when its complete and who do you tell? The reason a Ranger knows what to do is not because he has superior intellect or problem-solving skills. Its because there is military doctrine that tells him how to handle it and he has practiced and rehearsed the situation until it was second nature. Its called “muscle memory”. The first time your employees see a problem should not be when they are in front of the customer.
Create Pride in your organization.
The proudest moment in my military career was the day I graduated from Ranger School and placed that black and gold Ranger tab on my shoulder. It was mine forever and I would wear it with pride for all to see. That pride is hard to replicate in the private sector. If you speak to your team as if they were elite, they will feel that way. Talk to them about the goals of the organization and get buy in from them. Celebrate the groups successes and lead them to new levels of success through training, resourcing and guidance. If you show pride in the group and treat them like winners, they will feel the pride grow. Most importantly talk about your work with passion yourself. If you can’t get excited about what you are doing and pass that on to your group why should they?
Celebrate the challenging times.
Military teams are formed through tough times. Soldiers returning from combat have a bond that can only be described as remarkable. They have been through challenges that forged their teams into life long connections. This is not because it was combat it was because what they did was hard. They had to come together to get it done. When you put attainable but difficult tasks in front of your teams and then lead them through it they form a bond. Teams don’t sit around talking about the easy days. They revel in the challenge that they got through. The time they didn’t think they would hit that target, but they did. If you don’t challenge them they will disengage, and your business will stagnate.
The journey to become a Ranger is long and difficult. That’s why people do it. The result of that adversity is a stronger, more prepared Soldier. Your team can go through the same transformation if you challenge them to do so. Adopt some of the techniques used by the military and mold your team and its processes into something special. Make them the Rangers of your industry…