On my last deployment in the SEALs, one of the juicier targets we hit spanned multiple compounds in a valley in northeastern Afghanistan.
This valley was — and still is — a hotbed of insurgent activity.
Before going in, we consulted with the battle space owner (conventional forces) since they had the most insight into the local population. After all, they were out there doing patrols every day and interacting with locals (read getting attacked) on a daily basis.
“We don’t go in there [the valley] with anything less than 400*. How many are you guys bringing with you?”
“40*.” (*these numbers have been altered for reasons of security)
“What!? Forty! I always heard SEALs were crazy, but that’s just insane!”
Not to us. To us, large numbers were crazy, but small numbers made sense.
That’s why we were a force multiplier.
The Force Multiplier Effect
The essence of being a force multiplier is this. If you want to multiply your impact, focus on two things:
- What you can affect (influence)
- What you can effect (change or control)
When everybody on your team abides by the team norms that make the team great, you get what’s known as the force multiplier effect, where:
3+3=7…or 8 or 9 or 25 or some other number that doesn’t equal the sum of its parts.
That’s why teams — true teams — work. Because their collective effort multiplies results.
3 Considerations For Becoming A Force Multiplier:
1. Team Fit
I’m not talking about how many pushups you can bang out but how well the personalities within your team gel together. I shared an example in my book Navigating Chaos: How To Find Certainty In Uncertain Situations of my BUD/S class gelling in real-time and the conversational tactics we employed to keep it a safe environment. Simple stuff, but not easy.
The story of Ernest Shackleton is another example of the importance of team fit. Without the hiring process Shackleton employed, who knows whether he and his crew would’ve survived the extreme environment they did.
Without healthy team dynamics to serve as a calling for employee connection and belonging, you’re leaving the door open for talent to leave and find them elsewhere.
2. Succession Planning
It never ceases to amaze me the short-sightedness of many leaders today.
When I ask CEOs, HR managers or sales leaders what their succession planning looks like, the look on their faces is one of embarrassment — because there is no plan.
What this means is that every time talent leaves the company needs to reinvent the wheel. Every time there’s an internal promotion, they need to scurry and transition the promotee’s replacement because somehow the promotion was a surprise to everyone. This is the same rationale as aimlessly walking into traffic during rush hour and wondering why you got hit.
In the SEALs, the second a new guy showed up to the team he was under the watchful eyes of his teammates for signs of leadership, decision-making, ability to learn and adapt, and of course, performance. If he didn’t display the fundamental characteristics that underpin what it meant to be “elite,” then he was immediately under the microscope (or worse, his reputation tainted forever).
But, he was always given the benefit of the doubt and always, always after having a simple conversation with his new “manager” (I’ll spare you the Navy jargon).
Why? Because we needed to maximize the talent we had. We needed to force multiply under-optimized talent.
Success, in anything, is a process, and in order to get from A to Z you need to endure B through Y. The beginning of this process, at least, for us, looked like this:
- Assign a “sea daddy.” (think of this as a mentor)
- Clarify roles and responsibilities for you (the new team member)
3. Clarify roles and responsibilities for the team and each member in it
4. Establish weekly one-on-ones at a set time on the same day every week for performance updates
5. Trust until proven otherwise (you can’t move forward without it)
There’s also another element to succession planning that’s worth noting here: profiling. Not racial profiling, but aptitude profiling. Within every job description, role, or responsibility comes a certain physical, mental, and emotional aptitude, and by identifying what those aptitudes are relative to the demands of the job, you can set your candidate/employee up for success from the get-go, which means you also set the team (and by default, the organization) up for success. This is both an art and a science and never 100% accurate, but it certainly narrows the playing field by telling you which “field” to even practice on.
As aspirational as predictability may seem in today’s complex environment, it’s not so far-fetched after all.
Think of it this way. If I understand mission intent, the decision-making boundaries that enable autonomy, the available resources at my disposal, the character and competence of each operator and how their personalities fit into their job roles, then I already have a leg up on Murphy when he shows his ugly mug because I can immediately dispatch myself, my teammate or another asset to deal with unknown factor “X” when it emerges. Having a complete understanding of your operating environment is what allows you to move with the depth and breadth of a larger force and the agility and speed of a small team. It’s a force multiplier.
The beauty about predictability is that it enables adaptability. When you block off chunks of time throughout your day to focus only on this or that, you actually afford more time to focus on things you didn’t anticipate later.
Focus on what you can affect and effect, and develop a contingency plan for those that you can’t.
Becoming A Force Multiplier In The Workplace
When you push the conversational envelope with your team past the surface-level conversation of…
“How was everybody’s weekend?”
“Great. Never better.”
“Good, glad to hear it.”
…and into the depths of connection, you unearth talent that you never knew existed. Here’s what I mean…
Every BUD/S class has someone who’s a “bad guy” — a single person that everybody else loves to hate.
The BUD/S instructors see this. They see the chemistry of the class, they know which classes have come together (i.e. gelled) and which ones haven’t. Most important, they know why they the classes have or haven’t gelled, and it’s typically due to personality mix.
One day an instructor came in and said to us, “Everybody close your eyes and lower your heads.”
“Now,” he said, “raise your hands if you have a problem with John Doe.”
Guys raised their hands, including me.
“Now,” he went on, “open your eyes and look up. And if you lower your hands because you don’t want John Doe to see, then you are a fucking coward.”
Uh oh, accountability, we all thought.
John Doe looked around at the half dozen or so guys with their hands raised.
Then the instructor said, “Okay. Now, starting with [name], tell John Doe what your issue is with him and why. Go.”
After the dozen or so of us explained ourselves, the instructor told John Doe to do the same:
“What’s your beef with them?” After all, the feeling was mutual — we didn’t like him, he didn’t like us.
What happened after that was completely counterintuitive…
We became friends. Why? Because we understood each other.
How To Optimize The Talent You Didn’t Know You Had
Have a “low performer” on your team you want to motivate but don’t know how? I hate to break it to you, but it’s not gonna happen. You can’t motivate me and I can’t motivate you. Motivation is intrinsic; it comes from deep within the bowels of purpose, passion, values, belief and all the other “soft” stuff that is extremely hard to find if you haven’t found it yet. What you can do, however, is set the conditions — the environment — for motivation to occur.
Set the conditions for them to find their own motivation and apply it to the team. That’s how you become a force multiplier.
Jeff is an accredited leadership coach who applies his experiences from the pinnacle of the Navy SEAL Teams to management and startup teams. His top military awards include four bronze stars with valor, two purple hearts, six combat action ribbons, and two presidential unit citations, among others. He’s co-founder of The Adaptability Metric which measures individual disposition toward change and certified in administering the Hogan Business Reasoning Inventory and EQ-i 2.0 assessments. Jeff is the author of two books, weekly contributor to Forbes and Entrepreneur, speaker at The Harry Walker Agency, holds a Masters in Organizational Leadership from Norwich University, a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Ohio State University, and a Ph.D. in whiskey and sarcasm. Learn more at www.jeff-boss.com