Category Archives: Effectiveness

Why Some People Are Almost Always Successful.

Last night I could not sleep, so I decided to watch the pilot episode of the original Star Trek series.

Star Trek

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I was surprised by what I witnessed:

  • Kirk was not the Captain. Captain Pike was in charge and the only recognizable character was Mr. Spock–no Bones, Scotty, or Sulu.
  • The special effects were awful (e.g. rocks on the planet surface looked like paper mache from the set of a middle school play).
  • It was fairly risqué for the time (this was 45 years ago).

The pilot was almost comically bad. Mercifully, it was not included in the original TV series. If it had been, I would not have been inclined to watch further. However, over the next four decades, they improved every dimension–plot, acting, and special effects.

If A Thing Is Worth Doing…

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badlyIt has been said that if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing well. There is wisdom in this. You should put forth your best effort. But another perspective is just as important.

In, What’s Wrong with the World, G. K. Chesterton said, that “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” That’s right–badly.

You don’t have to be an expert or the best in your field in order attempt to do a thing. In fact, you have to do it badly before you are good enough to do it well (e.g. love letters, parenting, your calling).

MBA CHARLESTON SOUTHERN UNIVERSITYWhen I was in high school, I asked my track coach how to run faster. Coach Soranno looked me in the eye and said, “run faster.” He was right. The more you do it, the more capacity you develop. It is like lifting weights and the same principle operates in other areas of life.

talent is overrated

As the research shows in books like Geoff Colvin’s  Talent is Overrated and Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, world-class performers in any field practice more than others. We would like to believe that greatness is due to a particular innate genius, but practice is really the key to success.

What Do You Want To Do?

Do you want to write books? Start blogging. Do you want to teach? How about volunteering to teach a Sunday school class. Want to beat the markets? Practice trading with a free virtual stock fund. Whatever it is, start.

Don’t worry about doing it badly. Over time, you will improve. Remember, it is not where you start, it is where you finish. Take the first step now.

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 30, 2012

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Star TrekNote: If you are interested, you can watch the Star Trek pilot on Amazon for $1.99 (Free with a 1 month trial of Amazon Prime) or you can watch it on Netflix (Free month trial).

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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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The Secret of Getting Your People to Perform for You.

Have you prepared your people for success? If not, why not? If the purpose of management is to equip your people with that which they need in order to succeed, you need to provide them the tools that will help them relate to you.

Soldier

In Soldier: The life of Colin Powell, Karen DeYoung provided Powell’s “How to Survive as My Aide–Or, What Not to Do” list. The list was originally provided to William Smullan after he became Chairman Powell’s communications aide and press spokesman.

This type of tool is invaluable because it creates standards and expectations. Here are Powell’s rules:

—Don’t ever hesitate to ask me what to do if uncertain.

—Don’t ever sign my name.

—Never use your money on my behalf.

—Avoid “The General Wants” syndrome—unless I really do.

—Provide feedback but be tactful to those who ask—talks between you and me are private and confidential. Alma (my wife) has nothing to do with the office.

—Never keep anybody waiting on the phone. Call back.

—I like meetings generally uninterrupted. I ask a lot of questions. I like questions and challenges.

—I like to remain enormously accessible. I like to do things with people.

—I will develop ways of getting to know what’s happening.

—Don’t accept speaking engagements without my knowledge.

—Keep track of whom I have seen.

—I tend to get moody, preoccupied. I will snap but that clears the air.

—Be punctual, don’t waste my time.

—I prefer written information rather than oral.Writing tends to discipline.

—I like to do paperwork—and I do a lot.

—NEVER, NEVER permit illegal or stupid actions.

—No surprises.Bad news doesn’t get any better with time.

—If there is a problem brewing, I want to know of it early—heads up as soon as possible—I don’t like to be blindsided.

—Speak precisely—I often fudge for a purpose. Don’t over-interpret what I say.

—Don’t rush into decisions—make them timely and correct.

—I like excellent correspondence—no split infinitives. (pp. 187-188)

Know Yourself and Help Your People Know You Too.

Powell’s rules are not absolute. There is no one size fits all system, but the idea of providing this kind of guidance is brilliant.

What is the secret of getting your people to perform for you?  The secret is simple. Set expectations for your people to follow. Be clear and help them help you.

Were I to write a list, it would look something like this:

-I believe that you know more about your job than I do and I expect YOU to come up with solutions.

-You are a professional. I trust YOUR judgment. Use it.

-You will never get in trouble for speaking your mind. Do not keep your opinions from me.

-I want to talk, but put it in writing first. I make decisions when we talk. The writing clarifies thinking and creates a record.

-I hate paperwork but I want you to leave a paper trail for documentation.

-If there is a conflict between two rules, we do no harm to our students (as in baseball, the tie goes to the runner).

-I only measure productivity. I do not measure time in your seat. Just be accessible by phone or email.

-Anticipate what needs to be done. Do not wait to be told.

-Free me from day-to-day administration so I can focus on moving forward.

-Everyone is entitled to an off day once in a while.

I had not previously created a written list, but I am working on one now. I believe that the administrators with whom I work would recognize and even say similar things about how I operate if they were asked.

MBA CHARLESTON SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY

On my first day on the job, I distinctly remember saying “You will never get in trouble for speaking your mind. Do not keep your opinions from me.”   Over time, they have learned how much I hate paperwork and that I only measure productivity. To their credit, they have adjusted to the way that I operate.

While some ways of operating are better than others, there is no one best way to lead. My list is not the right list. It is customized to me. It may not work for you.

What Is On Your List?

Do you have a list? If you manage anyone, you probably should. Maybe it is time you developed a list.

[If you read this far, you probably do care about leading your people well. See my Top 10 Leadership Books.]

So what is on your list? What is on your Boss’s list. I would like to hear your thoughts.

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 26, 2012

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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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How To Deal With Difficult People.

Recently I have been reading about leaders in various organizations and I have been struck by the fact that in every organization–business, government, military, education, ministry–the vast majority of problems are interpersonal. People cause a lot of trouble.

How to manage Difficult people

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

There is a reason that books like Don’t Let Jerks Get the Best of You and Dealing with People You Can’t Stand exist. 

How to Deal With Difficult People.

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In the 8th Habit, Stephen Covey wrote: “The soft stuff is the hard stuff and everyone is coming to know it. That is why leadership is the highest of all arts; it is the enabling art.”

If people problems are the primary issues in organizations, then leaders need to learn to deal with people effectively. Two books I have used for years in my leadership and organizational behavior classes are The Truth about Managing People and Principle-Centered Leadership

Truth about managing people - How to deal with difficult people

The Truth about Managing People is a short little read. It  is like a textbook stripped of all of the unnecessary words. I believe that this is how it was developed. After all, Robbins is known for his best-selling textbooks.

The book is excellent. In it, Robbins explains simple concepts like why “telling your employees to ‘do your best’ isn’t likely to achieve their best,” (p. 47) and  why “the essence of leadership is trust” (p. 87). If you are just starting out in management, read this book. It will help you detect the landmines that you cannot see.

Principle centered leadershipPrinciple-Centered Leadership is one of best books on leadership that I have ever read. [For more, see my Top 10 Leadership Books] The book winds and meanders, but it contains so many gems.

Covey focused on how leadership only exists in the context of a relationship. He explained that: “there are times to teach and train and times not to teach. When relationships are strained and charged with emotion, attempts to teach or train are often perceived as a form of judgment and rejection” (p. 82). As a professor, that passage spoke to me.

In another place he wrote, “there is nothing on earth that can buy voluntary commitment. You can buy a man’s hands and back, but not his heart and mind” (p. 179). How many millions of dollars have been wasted because management did not understand this concept?

A major theme of the book was the simple idea that, “you can be efficient with things, but you must be effective with people” (p. 189).Effectiveness is not the same as efficiency, and confusing the two can lead to disaster. When dealing with people, the shortest path to an agreeable outcome may take more time, but shortcuts seldom work.

If you see the wisdom in these few passages, read the book. You can get it on Amazon for less than $5 on Kindle (immediately) or for a penny (+ 3.99 shipping)  if you can wait a few days.

Want to know how to deal with difficult people? These are the best resources I can suggest. What are your suggestions?
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References:

Covey, S. R. (1991).  Principled-centered leadership. New York: Free Press.

Robbins, S. (2013). The truth about managing people, 3rd Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 22, 2012

Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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The One Thing You Must Understand In Any Negotiation.

Negotiation is so hard because we make it hard. When we attack the other side, we limit our chances for a mutually satisfying solution. We create our own prisons and then we wonder why we are trapped.

Jail

As I write, our politicians are locking horns in a contentious debate that will affect us all.  Debate is nothing new, but the level of acrimony seems to be on the rise. The acrimony is accelerated by the moral superiority that each side feels it has over the other. This leads to more hyper-partisan attacks, but it also reduces the chances that we will arrive at creative 3rd alternative solutions.

Identity.

The core of the problem is that each side sees their position as their identity. We have forgotten that when you attack the position, you attack the person.  Stephen Covey wrote:

3rd_AlternativeAlmost everyone identifies with one alternative or the other. That’s why we have liberals against conservatives, Republicans against Democrats, workers against management…spouse against spouse, socialist against capitalist, and believers against nonbelievers. It’s why we have racism and prejudice and war.

Each of the two alternatives is deeply rooted in a certain mind-set. For example, the mind-set of the environmentalist is formed by appreciation for the delicate beauty of balance of nature. The mind-set of the developer is formed by a desire to see communities grow and economic opportunities increase. Each side usually sees itself as virtuous and rational and the other side as lacking virtue or common sense.

The deep roots of my mind-set entwine with my very identity. If I say I’m an environmentalist or a conservative or a teacher, I’m describing more than what I believe and value–I’m describing who I am. So when you attack my side, you attack me and my self image. (pp. 9-11)

The One Thing You Need To Understand.

 Strongly held positions = Personal identity.

I am a Christian. For me, this is a primary identity. So when secularists attack Christmas  (e.g. renaming a Christmas tree a “Holiday tree” in order to embrace people of all faiths), I understand how many Christians experience this as an attack on them and their values.

I am a Conservative. So when the far-left seized the opportunity to advance their gun-control agenda in the wake of the tragedy at Newtown, I quickly penned three articles in defense of 2nd Amendment rights:

[Note: I believe that most ordinary Americans–even those who are now rethinking gun-control–simply want to ensure that a similar tragedy is not repeated. These people are different than those with a prepackaged agenda.]

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Notice that I said “I am” a Christian and “I am” a Conservative. I did not say that I think that Christianity or the Founding Fathers provided  rationally superior systems of thought. It is simply not that abstract. This is what I mean by identity. 

The point is this: If you are a Conservative, do not demonize Liberals if you wish to make any progress.  Remember:

Strongly held positions = Personal identity.

It Is The Same Way At The Office.

At work, if you have just disparaged Todd about the XYZ account at the last staff meeting, you are not likely to get Todd’s support on most basic items on your agenda.

If you say 2+2 =4, he will not attack your math, but you had better be prepared for him to ridicule your elementary thinking or your inability to think outside the box.  Why? He worked hard on the XYZ account and when you attacked it, you attacked him.  You violated his identity.

Whether you are in Congress or at the office, the one thing you must understand in any negotiation is that in order to gain cooperation you must not attack the other’s identity.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you ever experienced an attack on your identity that prevented your cooperation?

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 20, 2012

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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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Gun Control: How to Think Like the Founding Fathers (Part II – Solutions).

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Gun Control: How To Think Like The Founding Fathers

After writing Gun Control: How to Think Like the Founding Fathers, I received a number of comments on the blog, by Facebook,  Twitter, and  email.  While the comments varied, the majority of questions could be summarized as follows:

“Yes, I like the Founding Fathers too, but they wrote 200 years ago and times have changed. Don’t just tell us that the problem lies in the heart of man.We want a solution.”

So, here I would like to discuss solutions, but I would like to do so within the Founders’ framework.   Please allow me set up the discussion with a few of their own words:

Franklinface

Ben Franklin

“They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

John Adams

John Adams

“We have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

Robert Winthrop (Patron of Winthrop University)

Robert_Charles_Winthrop“All societies of men must be governed in some way or other. The less they may have of stringent State Government, the more they must have of individual self-government. The less they rely on public law or physical force, the more they must rely on private moral restraint. Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled, either by a power within them, or by a power without them; either by the Word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible, or by the bayonet. It may do for other countries and other governments to talk about the State supporting religion. Here, under our own free institutions, it is Religion which must support the State.”

Winthrop was not a “Founding Father” but a member of the next generation. I included his statement because it summarized the type of thinking I have been talking about. If we are internally controlled, we do not need external control. If, on the other hand, we do not control ourselves, we will lose liberty and demand that the government control us.

James Madison ThumbnailOn the floor of the Virginia Ratification Convention, James Madison asked:

“Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks, no form of government, can render us secure.”

Solutions

Let’s begin with suggestions that would not work (or are 180 degrees from the thinking of the Founders). These include:

  • Gun-free school zones (Sandy Hook Elementary was already a gun-free school zone. Criminals tend not to follow the rules).
  • Expand gun-free areas to all public spaces (see comments above).
  • Additional gun control legislation (20 or more laws were broken at Colombine. It is yet to be determined how many laws were broken in Newtown, CT, but let’s assume criminals have little respect for the law. Do we believe that another law will help or is this an effort to feel like we have done something?)

Here are the most workable solutions I have heard:

  • Moral and religious revival (a bit difficult to implement, admittedly).
  • Cultural shift that does not glorify guns and violence (unlikely while Hollywood and Rappers exist).
  • Focus on moral and ethical training of our children (which will be difficult in a society that can no longer agree on what is right and what is wrong).
  • “Resource officers” – More police stationed at schools (please reread the Winthrop quote above).
  • We have Air Marshals–why not have School Marshals too? (or armed administrators).
  • More armed auxiliary police (e.g. deputized civilians who can be called on in crises–expanding this number is cost-effective compared to the other models. We have a lot of vets who already have training).
  • Adopt a Swiss Model (There is a reason the Nazis did not invade Switzerland–they realized it would be too costly).

Get your MBA Now from Charleston Southern UniversityThe first two suggestions are internal. The latter are external and somewhat expensive, but if we are unwilling to do the real work of dealing with the root of the matter (the heart), we will be required to vigilantly monitor an ever-growing number of bad guy.

A colleague that I deeply respect emailed and privately wrote this about the Gun Control: How to Think Like the Founding Fathers article :

“I’m not sure how to improve [your argument]. Fact is, there is no way to remove all exigencies. Liberty requires character because it means taking responsibility for your own actions. Unfortunately, it also means bearing the cost of others misusing it.”

President Obama described the school shooting as his “compass moment.” If it is, this may be the political leadership issue of our time. I am convinced  that a departure from the Founders’ thinking will not lead us to the promised peace and security that we crave.

What Are Your Suggestions? I’ll add them to the list.

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 18, 2012

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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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Gun Control: How to Think Like the Founding Fathers.

The school shooting in Newtown, CT was a terrible tragedy. The loss of innocent life is simply heartrending.  With what seems like a rash of mass shootings, politicians and political pundits have been asking whether meaningful gun control legislation is not overdue. Even President Obama has pledged to “use whatever power this office holds…in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. Because, what choice do we have?”

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Sweedish sculpture of Non-Violence by Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd

What Choices Do We Have?

Let’s begin with Michael Moore, the maker of Bowling for Columbine.  The day of the memorial service, he tweeted the following:

Michael Moore

This is simply illogical. Moore is equating legal ownership of guns and rape. But let’s be clear: Rape is a crime. Murder is also a crime.

According to the National Criminal Justice Reporting Services, in the last year for which we have data, “victims age 12 or older experienced a total of 188,380 rapes or sexual assaults” in the United States.

Now, this is 188,380 too many, but let’s apply his reasoning to rape and his tweet might read: “The debate is over! Rape has to stop now. We need universal male castration!” To borrow from Madison, the cure is worse than the disease.

Thinking Like the Founding Fathers

Placing this discussion in context is important. I will not here rehash the common arguments from either side of the gun-control debate (e.g. Gun don’t kill people; people kill people or “Fewer people would be killed if guns were illegal.”) I want to focus here on the way that the Founding Fathers thought through such issues.

I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the way the Founding Fathers thought and reasoned during the Constitutional Convention and ratification debates. You may never have heard of me, but I know what I am talking about here. I borrowed Madison’s language from Federalist 10 because it is one of the clearest expositions of the Founders’ thinking about important political issues.

In Federalist 10, Madison was specifically was talking about factions (or what we call partisan politics). We don’t tend to like the bickering that goes on in Congress, but have you ever noticed that in countries where the lawmakers all have the same opinion, there is not a lot of freedom?  When we consider the alternative, Congress does not look so bad.

Let’s examine how the Founding Fathers thought. Madison wrote:

There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.

James Madison

James Madison – Chief Architect of the Constitution

There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.

It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that it was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

The second expedient is as impracticable as the first would be unwise. (Federalist 10)

Let me recap.

Madison reasoned that you only have two choices: remove the causes or control its effects. If we try to remove the cause, we destroy our own liberty. The only viable solution is to control the effects.

 The First Amendment Has A Dark Side Too

In the wake of this tragedy, the Westboro Family Cult (I refuse to dignify them with the term “Baptist Church” as this is an insult to Baptists everywhere) announced that it was going to protest at the funerals in Connecticut.

They protest against America, reveling in God’s judgement. They disrupt funerals of fallen soldiers and other solemn venues (e.g. the Holocaust museum as pictured below) in order to gain publicity and attract lawsuits when their rights are violated. It is a shakedown operation using protected non-profit “church” status and the First Amendment as foils for the venom that they inject into society.

WestBoro Baptist Church

Condemn them, ignore them, or  encircle them with bikers as Patriot Guard Riders have done at funerals (in order to drown out their protests). But, do not compound the evil by attempting to remove the cause. As horrific as the the Westboro Family Cult is, it would be a far greater tragedy for the government to remove non-profit status for churches or restrict 1st Amendment religion or speech rights because of their abuses of the system.

The Solution

Madison concluded, “that the CAUSES of faction cannot be removed, and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its EFFECTS.” Why? Because the “causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man.”

Now this is point. If the problem is internal (e.g. the heart of man), external solutions will not work.

The Second Amendment

We think of guns as a useful means to ward off criminals. It is, but it is more than that. It is also a preventative measure to thwart future tyranny.

In its historical context, the Founders reasoned that the people would never be subdued by an oppressive government (theirs or another) as long as the people were armed and free.

Get your MBA Now from Charleston Southern UniversityLiberals who rabidly defend the first amendment should apply the same logic to the second. We can destroy the liberty of citizens by removing firearms, but if the problem is the heart of man, strict controls on firearms will not cure what ails us and we will lose liberty in the process.

Guns in Newton, CT; machetes in Rwanda; improvised explosive devices (IED) in Iraq. What’s the common denominator? Evil in the Heart of man (not guns). Unless you can change the heart, your only remedy is to control the effects.

What do you think? I would like to know.

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 17, 2012

UPDATE:  Looking for solutions? Have a solution? Read my next article:

Gun Control: How to Think Like the Founding Fathers (Part II – Solutions)

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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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What Navy SEALS Can Teach Us About Teamwork.

Why are Navy SEALS so effective?

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US Navy SEALS Freefall from Air Force C-17. Photo courtesy of U.S. taxpayers (from .gov website).

SEALS  go anywhere (Sea, Air and Land).  They are the best conditioned, best trained, best equipped fighting force on Earth.  But is there is more to the story?

One often overlooked element is an unsurpassed dedication to the team. This is not the kind of “teamwork” that we talk about in business or sports.

In business, teamwork often happens begrudgingly. In many organizations, there is little or no alignment between people or departments. What we often call teamwork is more like the strained alliances of fractious parties in a parliamentary government. Each individual protects his own turf, viewing others suspiciously while contributing as little as possible to the team. This is not real teamwork.

SEALS on Teamwork

SEALS view teamwork differently. Teamwork is a force multiplier. Teamwork is a matter of life and death. Teamwork is born in training and demonstrated when members give their last full measure for the team.

Lone-Survivor

In his book, Lone Survivor:  The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and The Lost Heroes of Seal Team 10, Marcus Luttrell illustrated how SEALs understand teamwork.

After their position was exposed by a goat-herder on a mountain in Afghanistan, Luttrell and 3 fellow SEALS fought off an overwhelming Taliban force.

Soon after the firefight began, Lt. Mike Murphy was shot in the stomach, but he “was ignoring his wound and fighting like a SEAL officer should, uncompromising, steady, hard-eyed, and professional.”

Shortly thereafter, Marcus wrote that he saw Danny Dietz’s thumb “blown right off. And I saw him grit his teeth and nod, sweat streaming down his blackened face. He adjusted his rifle, banged in a new magazine with the butt of his hand, and took his place in the center of our little gun line.”  Danny would continue to return fire in spite of each of the five wounds (including one to the neck) that would eventually take his life.

When Luttrell saw Matthew “Axe” Axelson  shot in the chest, he recorded:

This could not be happening. Matt Axelson, a family fixture, Morgan’s best friend, a part of our lives. I started calling his name, irrationally, over and over. Privately I thought Danny was dying, and all I could see was a stain of blood gathering in the red dirt where Axe was slumped. For a brief moment I thought I might be losing it.
But then Axe reached for his rifle and got up. He leveled the weapon, got a hold of another magazine, shoved it into the breech, and opened fire again, blood pumping out of his chest. He held his same firing position, leaning against the rock. He showed the same attitude of solid Navy SEAL know-how, the same formidable steadiness, staring through his scope, those brilliant blue eyes of his scanning the terrain.

After being shot in the stomach earlier, Lt. Murphy was hit again–this time in the chest. He asked for another magazine and continued to fight. Then, what happened next was simply unimaginable. Luttrell wrote:

He groped in his pocket for his mobile phone, the one we had dared not use because it would betray our position. And then Lieutenant Murphy walked out into the open ground. He walked until he was more or less in the center, gunfire all around him, and he sat on a small rock and began punching in the numbers to HQ.
I could hear him talking. “My men are taking heavy fire…we’re getting picked apart. My guys are dying out here…we need help.”
And right then Mikey took a bullet straight in the back. I saw the blood spurt from his chest. He slumped forward, dropping his phone and his rifle. But then he braced himself, grabbed them both, sat upright again, and once more put the phone to his ear.
I heard him speak again. “Roger that, sir. Thank You.” Then he stood up and staggered out to our bad position, the one guarding our left, and Mikey just started fighting again, firing at the enemy.
He was hitting them too, having made that one last desperate call to base, the one that might yet save us if they could send help in time, before we were overwhelmed.

Only I knew what Mikey had done. He’d understood we had only one realistic chance, and that was to call in help. He knew there was only one place from which he could possibly make that cell phone work: out in the open, away from the cliff walls.
Knowing the risk, understanding the danger, in the full knowledge the phone call could cost him his life, Lieutenant Michael Patrick Murphy, son of Maureen, fiancé of the beautiful Heather, walked out into the firestorm.

Greater love

 His objective was clear: to make one last valiant attempt to save his two teammates. He made the call, made the connection. He reported our approximate position, the strength of our enemy, and how serious the situation was. When they shot him, I thought mortally, he kept talking….
An act of supreme valor. Lieutenant Mikey was a wonderful person and a very, very great SEAL officer. If they build a memorial to him as high as the Empire State Building, it won’t ever be high enough for me.

A memorial was built. The guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) was commissioned on October 6, 2012.  Murphy was also awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112). Photo courtesy of the U.S. Taxpayer (from .Mil website)

The guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112). Photo courtesy of the U.S. Taxpayer (from .Mil website)

What Motivates This Level of Dedication to the Team?

Get your MBA at Charleston Southern UniversityMaybe it is because the SEALS are selective. After all, they only take recruits who are in top condition.

Maybe it was because these men had endured some of the most difficult training that the military has to offer. SEAL training (BUDs) lasts 25 weeks.  By all accounts, it is grueling both physically and mentally.  All a recruit has to do is ring a bell to make the pain stop, and this is quite a temptation when recruits are cold, wet, and exhausted.  Two thirds of those selected for BUDs wash out of the program. Or, maybe it is something more.

For me, two primary lessons stand out.

The first lesson was revealed in the following  passage of Luttrell’s book:

One time during Indoc while we were out on night run, one of the instructors actually climbed up the outside of a building, came through an open window, and absolutely trashed a guy’s room, threw everything everywhere, emptied detergent over his bed gear. He went back out the way he’d came in, waited for everyone to return, and then tapped on the poor guy’s door and demanded a room inspection. The guy couldn’t work out whether to be furious or heartbroken, but he spent most of the night cleaning up and still had to be in the showers at 0430 with the rest of us.
I asked Reno about this weeks later, and he told me, ‘Marcus, the body can take [expletive deleted] near anything. It’s the mind that needs training. The question that guy was being asked involved mental strength. Can you handle such injustice? Can you cope with that kind of unfairness, that much of a setback? And still come back with your jaw set, still determined, swearing to God you will never quit? That’s what we’re looking for.’  (p. 102)

The lesson being taught was mental toughness. In the academic literature, it is called “grit.”  Dedication was developed by training that required SEALS to be comfortable with the hard realities of warfare–to recognize that life is not fair.

The second lesson is the actually the first lesson that SEALS learn in BUDS training. It is drilled into every SEAL.

The SEAL creed:

I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight. (p. 7)

I wonder how different things would be if individuals in organizations had even a fraction of this mentality.  What if we acted like teammates and we defended one another with our eyes fixed on the mission? What would happen if  we determined that we would never quit. What if  we decided we would “draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect our teammates and accomplish our mission.” I think we would have fought our way out of the recession by now. What do you think?

The Professor’s Recommended  Reading:

Seal of Honor

and

No Easy Day

If you are interested in additional leadership lessons from the military, you might also want to read the article: Love the Suck.

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 7, 2012

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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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