More Leadership Insight From General McChrystal
Continuing on with some incredible leadership insight I learned from General McChrystal’s TED talk: in Leadership Wisdom From Four-Star General Stanley McChrystal, I shared how important it is to not just train your team for battle, but make sure they come out alive. The need for that was only made clearer to me when he shared the following story:
“I stood in front of a screen in Iraq one night with one of my senior officers and watched a firefight from one of our forces. I remembered the senior officer’s son was in that force. I said, ‘John, where’s your son and how is he doing?’ John said, ‘Sir, he’s fine, thanks for asking.’ ‘Where is he now?!’ And he pointed at the screen and said, ‘He’s in that firefight.’ Think about watching your brother, father, daughter, son, wife in a firefight in real-time, and you can’t do anything about it.”
While General McChrystal says to think about it, it’s something that I can’t even imagine! What could it have possibly been like for that senior officer? One of his most precious assets was in a place where the only thing he could hope for was that his boy was trained. Not trained well enough, but trained so well that there was no way he WASN’T coming home. That’s the moment you don’t want say, “I could have been a better leader.”
“Over the past decade, arguably no single American has inflicted more fear, more loss of freedom and more loss of life on our country’s most vicious and violent enemies than Stan McChrystal” – Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
While I don’t believe that any of the folks reading this are sending their team members into literal firefights, I do believe that plenty of us send them into emotional and mental firefights. And since we don’t see them coming back with physical injuries (or not coming back at all) we don’t realize what kind of damage happens on the inside.
When I do StratPlan or coaching calls, I find a lot of companies that have seriously broken team members. When I continue to dig, I discover that most of the time it was due to leadership not preparing their people for battle. And when I say I find it, I mean the leader(s) discover it through questions I ask.
As a leader, your job is to make your team successful! If you are so caught up in your success and what you’re building for yourself, then you may be building a team that is falling apart. So what can you do about it?
- What’s wrong with me? – Always start by asking yourself what it is about your leadership that is holding your team back. If you’re impressed with how many daily tasks you have, then I bet you’re not spending a fraction of the time you need to with your team. Take a look at what it is you’re doing on a daily basis to grow each team member in the area where they work. What things do you need to do to make sure they completely understand how to win at their job?
- How’s my style? – Ask your team what it is that you can do differently. Not enough leaders are willing to get with their team members and ask them what it is about their own leadership that’s hurting the team. Why? Because it sucks! Your team will tell you the truth. And it can make you feel defeated. The Germans have a saying, “Defeat is good for the corrector if you take it the right way.” If you can get outside of yourself, you can find that inside of you is the ability to make your team strong. The downside is, if you’re a leader who leads by fear, they won’t tell you what you need to know.
- Hey, what do you see? – Have other leaders who you trust give you an outside opinion. Again, difficult because it requires someone you can trust and someone who can see what’s going on? If you don’t have this person professionally, then perhaps it’s your spouse. Many times your spouse is so in tune with you they can see what areas your team needs help in. Yet again, a tough conversation, but potentially phenomenal.
The important thing to remember is that a team properly trained is a team that can succeed. Train your team!