If you're even a semi-regular reader of mine, by now you know I love the reality series The Selection: Special Operations Experiment, which airs Thursday nights at 10 p.m. EST on History. (Or you can catch up on the show's site.) Thirty people with no military background undertake extreme physical and mental challenges; their instructors are combat veterans from various U.S. Special Operations units including Navy SEALs, Special Forces Green Berets, and Army Rangers.
In past weeks I've had the honor of talking with a number of the instructors: Navy SEAL Ray Care about perseverance, developing the right mindset, and how the only limits we really have are self-imposed; Army Ranger Tyler Grey about adaptability, attitude, mental toughness, and how in life there is no finish line; and Navy SEAL Sean Haggerty about pushing through doubt--and how ability is so important in business and in life.
This week, just in time for the season finale, I talked to Navy SEAL Marcus Capone, a 13-year veteran and business executive, about leadership, developing people, mentoring high-performing individuals and teams...and the one quality every leader needs most.
Is it fair to say you push people past their limits...but only so those small failures can create teachable, even transformational moments?
Here's the thing: Not everyone will break, at least not physically.
We're more interested in mentally breaking them down. We have to push them as hard as we were pushed, or as hard as a particular class needs to be pushed. We want to mentally break them down so they figure out problems.
Of course that means some people will quit, and that's OK. If you get through training and it seemed at all easy, that means you didn't learn anything. Ultimately, we want people to learn, especially about themselves.
That's where real growth comes from. That's where real confidence comes from.
That requires keeping people under constant pressure and stress...which is something we're conditioned to think we should avoid.
That's the nature of high performance, though. In the broader world, BUD/S [Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training] gets a lot of attention, but it's just the start. Once you finish that training, there are still more phases to complete. You get pushed until the last day of training.
And yet the pressure doesn't end there. The pressure never ends. You're constantly being pushed, and learning, and dealing with pressure and stress.
There's a very good reason for that. When people who are not used to being put under stress are put under extreme stress, they can't react and function because their heart rate goes up, they can't think straight, they don't remember things...stress takes over.
When you deal with stress all the time, and then a stressful situation occurs, you can fall back to "been there, done that, know how to react" frame of mind. So that's why we train that way. When you learn to take the pressure, the stress, and still solve problems and still succeed...that's when you can accomplish anything.
When you're developing people, how do you figure out which buttons to press for certain individuals?
Initially, everyone starts on the same scale. People come in different sizes, different shapes, different backgrounds...so initially you put physical stress on them to see how they react.
Their personalities will emerge when they're under stress. Start turning up the pressure and people start to show their true colors: the ones that put out 100 percent, the grey men [people who blend in and don't stand out], and the ones that sit back.
Right away, we pounce on people sitting back.
Ultimately, we're trying to figure out who really wants to be there, and under pressure the people who are there for the right reasons start to emerge.
That includes a wide range of people. Great athletes may start out to be stronger or faster but when they get beaten down, they don't know how to deal with that and they quit. A lot of times, the best athletes don't get through training. Sometimes it's the grey men that do: They're not the biggest or strongest and you don't notice them right away, but they're working hard...and you see something in their eyes that says they're a little "off."
You have to be a little "off" to do what we do. We're looking for people who enjoy going through that pain. For example, no one enjoys being cold...but some people understand why they're doing it and therefore they relish it while they're doing it. They know why they're doing it, and what they will gain from it.
Trust me: None of us like being cold...but we knew we had to be cold.
When you're a leader and you're developing people--and pushing people--how do you put aside the natural desire to be liked?
The majority of us don't care if any of the students like us.
I don't mean that in a bad way. We look at it this way: In the SEALs, I'm there to find a person that will work with me in the future, will take on a huge responsibility in a platoon of 18 guys that will rely on them...so our job is not for them to like us but for us to find the right people. Our job is to weed out the ones who can't make it, who aren't there for the right reasons...and build the ones who are into warriors.
So, they all respect me 100 percent, and at the end, they usually do like me. They know if I'm raising my voice there's a reason, and they respect that. I try to be informative.
That's a lot like coaches. The ones I respected the most--and liked playing for the most--were the ones who pushed me to be the best I could be.
Absolutely. You respect the people who don't let you take the easy way out. We should all pray for a life where everything doesn't fall your way, because when it does, you don't grow.
Pray for a hard life, for challenges, for speed bumps...because then you're constantly growing and learning.
What advice do you have for people who train and develop others...which is basically every small-business owner?
There's this assumption that everyone in the military yells. I'm not a yeller. Anybody can yell. Anyone can yell and try to motivate people that way. That's not me.
If I raise my voice, or I'm speaking to someone in a direct way, it's for a good reason. I don't speak much. The things I do say I have thought through.
I try to step back and take in the whole picture and say, "How would I do this differently? How can I teach this individual in a way they will best understand?"
When you're talking instead of yelling, people listen. They ask questions. They comprehend.
If someone talks to me, and explains to me, and shows me, that's huge. Lots of special ops guys are guys that need to see it, feel it, touch it, and then do it.
Take the time to talk. Take the time to show. Take the time to let people do what you've shown them. That way, you've covered the full spectrum of how people learn...and you've shown them that you care enough to take the time to make sure they learn.
Even though you're putting people under pressure, you're also setting up an environment where they can succeed, not fail.
We never set people up for failure. In the military, on The Selection, or in the business world, you never want to set people up to fail.
Your primary job as a leader is to give people every opportunity to succeed. That doesn't mean making things easy, though--it means pushing people to learn to grow and adapt and perform at the highest level they possibly can.
When you find the right people,that's what "success" means: doing the absolute best you can.