Lessons From the Lone Survivor


Many leadership lessons  can be learned by observing and studying the United States Armed Forces.  Companies big and small turn to the military to learn how to better lead their teams, accomplish their goals, and execute their plans.  I was reminded of just how much can be learned from our solider’s this weekend when I saw Lone Survivor at the theater.  Of course Hollywood has a way of turning a story into a blockbuster film by adding dramatic elements that may or may not have actually happened but at its core Lone Survivor offers several lessons we can all learn from regardless of profession.

No matter what you do for a living you can be a leader.  The SEAL creed says,  “We expect to lead and be led.  In the absence of orders I will take charge, lead my teammates and accomplish the mission.  I lead by example in all situations.”  Whether a Petty Officer, Captain, or Lieutenant every solider is expected to lead and be led.  In business this can be seen in the execution of plans handed down from the executive team, up to and including the initiative someone takes beyond the scope of their job because something they saw needed to be done and they did it…for no other reason that it was the right thing to do.

I’ve blogged previously about accountability.  No where is accountability more visible, and demonstrated with authenticity, than by our Navy SEAL teams.  “We demand discipline.  We expect innovation.  The lives of my teammates and the success of our mission depend on me – my technical skill, tactical proficiency, and attention to detail.  My training is never complete.”  How many in the business world live this philosophy?  Do you believe your technical proficiency is critical to your success or the success of your team?  Which do you place first?  Are you willing to improve your skills even if it requires you to take action after hours, in the evenings, on the weekends?  All for the sake of your team’s success?

Finally, how many in business give up when things become difficult?  You stop making sales calls because you’ve already made 20 in a row and need a break.  Or you put off a customer until tomorrow because you don’t feel like getting into a problem at 4:45 pm knowing it will take you beyond the closing bell? “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.”  Do you quit too easily?  What are you doing to ensure you’re in the best shape you can be, mentally and physically, to meet the demands of your job?  Do you get up every time you hit an obstacle or do you take some time off?

Recently I had the privilege of having some 1:1 time with General Stanley McChrystal.  Now retired and running his own consulting and leadership development firm, I asked him what the biggest difference is he sees between the military and business.  His reply?  “In business no one dies from a bad decision or mistake.”  Talk about putting things in perspective.

Check out the SEAL creed.  Read it.  Think about it.  Challenge yourself to push your limits, your boundaries, your abilities.  Take accountability for who you are, what you do, and the results you produce.  And above all, thank your lucky stars that there are those that do possess the mental and physical toughness to protect our freedom…no matter what the cost.

An Awe-inspiring Sales Encounter


I’ve been in Sales my entire career. When you add up the years I spent as a kid going door-to-door to cut lawns I’ve in effect sold for more than 30 years. In that time there have been only a handful of occasions when I have been truly astounded, in a positive way, by a sales professional doing their job. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been on thousands of sales calls in that time and have seen some incredible selling skills, influencing, and relationship development happen before my eyes. But this week I experienced not just an awe-inspiring sales encounter but one that carried with it an incredible lesson of the human spirit and will to succeed.

Like most of the country this week, Philadelphia, where I live, was trapped in a deep freeze. We were well below zero for 2 days this past week and for the rest of the time we were single digits to teens. Simply said, it was cold. The kind of cold that inhibits motor skills if outside for more than a few minutes. The kind of cold that rattles your brain and activates the fight or flight emotion within humans to find warmth…shelter. The kind of cold that many sales professionals would use as an excuse for not going on calls. Many but not all.

My doorbell range at 7:30 pm Thursday evening. I walked to the front door thinking it was one of my kid’s friends. I turned on the front porch light, looked out the window and to my surprise saw a lady standing on my front doorsteps with a bright red Comcast coat and employee ID hanging around her neck. She had an armful of materials which she held with her gloved hands and wore an incredibly huge smile. I opened the door…a bit leery if not completely skeptical truth be told…to a warm and heartfelt greeting from this lady. Within the first 20 seconds she told me who she was, her company, and managed to get in names of two of my neighbors she just “signed up” for Comcast’s new Triple Play program. And while it was below 20 degrees outside she exuded a warmth and passion for what she was doing which in her words was all about “putting money back in my pocket”.

I’m not blogging about this to share details on her sales skills which by the way were excellent. No. Instead I am blogging about this to prove the power of the human spirit to overcome most any obstacle we can face and persevere. She had goals and she loved people, and most of all she enjoyed “putting money back into her customers pockets.” She had a level of authenticity that I find doesn’t always exist in today’s sales professional. She was real, she was knowledgeable and most of all she was honest. How do I know that? Because one of the products she was selling wasn’t the right fit for us and she told us so. She didn’t try to force a sale by masking the problems or shortfalls of that specific service relative to the service I currently use.

Her ability to build trust and rapport rivaled some of the best pros I’ve worked with over 30 years including those selling into the C-Suites of Fortune 100 companies. Pure determination coupled with an intense focus on her specific goals and a mastery of listening and customer assessment skills makes Marie one of the most impressive human beings, and yes sales person, I have ever encountered.

So when it’s too cold out, or too hot. Whether you’re too tired or just not in the mood, think of Marie. Push yourself, drive yourself and get moving. Get out the door and engage your human interaction skills.