Situational awareness is a fundamental part of managing a team when you’re on the battlefield. It’s imperative that you know the terrain and the environment you are entering. You need to have the right equipment to get the job done, and you need to understand the enemy — your competitors.
For example, if you’re doing a beach landing, you need equipment that doesn’t get you stuck in sand. The last thing that you want is to jump out of a plane with your flippers on, only to land somewhere other than in the water. It sounds simple. But you would be surprised how many of these simple principles are overlooked in planning.
The Marines teach clear and concise planning, which is also valuable to you as a corporate leader. You must formulate a very clear business strategy. It doesn’t have to be the ultimate plan or remain unchanged for all time, but it has to be a plan that you and your team believe in. In an environment that requires everyone to work very hard — whether it’s because you’re getting the business off the ground, changing direction, going through difficult financial times or up against a big, competitive threat — it’s vital to have a strategy that you can communicate clearly and will be understood by those following you.
While he or she must have a strategy and a plan of action, a leader also needs to make sure that the plan is flexible, understanding when and how you will need to adapt or improvise in the future. Marines are taught the key skills of improvisation, adaptation and perseverance, particularly in times of duress. There is no room for fear, because it will only cripple you. Instead, make sure you have a plan that accounts for many possible outcomes and can adjust depending on how these outside forces affect it. You may be banking on a strategy, but you should be flexible enough to adopt a new strategy and execute on it when you need to. If you see things aren’t working with Plan A, you should always have a Plan B and be prepared to implement it. That said, if you and your team believe you have the right market and the right product, you should persevere until success is achieved and your mission is accomplished.
Lastly, it’s valuable to learn strategies on how to identify problems in advance and how to identify your leading team members. You don’t always have a chance to contact HR when you’re on the battlefield. This isn’t necessarily the case in most of corporate America, but in companies that need to be agile, it’s important to understand the issues that employees are facing in advance, before they become a problem at a critical time. When it comes to planning effectively, people are always the key to success or failure. So staying aware of your people’s thoughts and feelings, and of course, taking time to judge yourself as a leader is a critical piece. Do you look at yourself honestly to deal with your own strengths and compensate for your weaknesses?
In the business world, you must know the market you’re in — what world you’ll be landing and fighting in — so that you can know whether or not you have the right equipment to win there. It is critical that you have the right product, the right team and the right mindset for the environment you’re going into, but don’t forget, it also takes a well-thought-out strategy to ensure success.
Nariman Teymourian is chairman and CEO of Gale Technologies. He spent 20 years in the Marines, including seven years of active duty in Marine Recon and four years of combat, he and participated in more than 50 missions. A CEO and COO for more than 15 years, Nariman has held executive positions in several large companies, including TRW, MicroAge and Lockheed-Martin, and he has extensive government experience as a senior adviser, consultant and researcher with the U.S. Departments of Energy, Defense and State and related government agencies such as the RAND Corp., Council on Foreign Relations and the World Bank.
Being a 20-year veteran of the Marine Corps and a 15-year veteran as a CEO and COO, I’ve come to realize how relevant Marine Special Forces training principles are to achieving success in the corporate world. The leadership training principles offered at the Officer Candidate Training program link to decisions that corporate leaders have to make daily to run their businesses. This is especially true when it comes to leadership training.
First, Marine commanders must lead by example to earn the respect of the men under their command. This means that during every drill you must give it your all, be prepared, be on time and work hard whether it’s being the first to finish the obstacle course or the first to cross the line during the morning physical training runs. You need to get to know your men and be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Likewise, as CEO, I do my best to earn the respect of my team. I don’t ask my team to do anything that I am not prepared to do myself. I try to be on time, work hard to be prepared for my meetings and pay close attention to what they say. You should know your product as well as you can and know every aspect of the business as well as possible. Get to know the employees and their goals and aspirations. Finally, when the times are hard and you are asking for sacrifices, make sure your sacrifice, financial or otherwise, is bigger than theirs.
Another key aspect of leadership is being able to give clear and concise instructions. You can’t afford to be vague in battle when it’s a matter of life and death. Amazingly, the same principles apply in business. Your orders must be understandable as well as succinct. Your team needs to know where you stand and you must commit to it. If you are uncertain about what you want them to do, it is better not to make any decisions until you are sure. Don’t send them to do something unless you have made the goal absolutely clear to them and yourself. This will require that you get the best advice you can get from your men and make sure they are comfortable giving you their best advice. Listen carefully, do your homework and then make a decision. If it fails, you have no one to blame but yourself.
Above all, protect your troops and bring them home safe. Your number one duty is to your men and protecting them at all costs. This is a core principle for a Marine commander. As a CEO, it is your job to worry about all aspects of your company. Your team does not need to worry about finances, personnel issues or board problems. These are all your problems. Keep your employees informed but let them know they need not worry. It is no one else’s job but yours. Do not send them out to do a job they are ill-equipped to do. Make sure they are trained well, have the necessary resources, have a well-defined objective and are comfortable asking you for support if and when they need it. If they fail, then you have failed to recognize their limitations and sent them to do something they were unable to accomplish. This means you failed to protect them.
Nariman Teymourian is chairman and CEO of Gale Technologies. He spent 20 years in the Marines, including seven years of active duty in Marine Recon and four years of combat, and participated in more than 50 missions. A CEO and COO for more than 15 years, he has held executive positions in several large companies, including TRW, MicroAge and Lockheed-Martin, and he has extensive government experience as a senior adviser, consultant and researcher with the U.S. Government’s Departments of Energy, Defense and State and related government agencies such as the RAND Corp., Council on Foreign Relations and the World Bank.