What You Need to Know About Finding Talent

Team Capital Guest Blog by Jeff Boss, a former US Navy SEAL who served 13 years across eight combat deployments.

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Talent is everything. It can be a magnet that attracts more top-shelf candidates and builds the brand, or it can leave a sour taste in the mouths of those who already work there and cause them to wonder, “Why did I accept?”

Finding the right “fit” for employees ultimately boils down to two possible scenarios. On the positive side, the right fit serves as a primary motivator for getting out of bed in the morning and seeing work as just an extension of one’s life. Or, on the Negative Nancy side, the wrong fit can compel you to hit that snooze button again, and again, and again, hoping that Groundhog Day will soon be over.

However, in today’s constantly changing world, attracting talent is not enough. There are plenty of smart, highly motivated and energetic young (and old) people out there who need a job—a job—but not necessarily at your firm. New hires must be the right talent that serve as the right fit for your company and, as a result, paints your company’s name and what it stands for in the right light namely, one where candidates are fighting to get through the door to become a part of its legacy (you do have a legacy, don’t you?).

The question is, how can you, as a leader, create the special ingredient that your competitors simply cannot replicate? What can you, as a leader and as a company, do that nobody else can—or even wants to?

Strategy and HR: A Match Made in Heaven

It has been said before and continues to be repeated today. If human capital is what wields financial capital, then the number one priority for any CEO, President, or alike should be to link his/her strategy to that of HR. In other words, the strategy for finding the right people, who will create the right culture, and who will execute organizational strategy to wield the right results should be inextricably linked. A change in corporate strategy directly affects not only the people who work for you but also the type of people whom HR hunts.

Let’s face it. The hardest part of a leader’s job is moving the pieces of the organizational puzzle around such that, at the end of the day, all the pieces assembled together actually resemble the puzzle! A single change in sales impacts two changes in marketing which impact a change within R&D and so on, and these changes arise sometimes for selfish reasons such as power struggles, ego, politicking, or external influences such as pricing wars, the economy, or competitor response. The underlying problem here, though, isn’t so much the practice of these behaviors but the acceptance of them; the routinization of politicking and ego-plays without any intention of correcting them towards True North. My question is, what does this teach your new hires? If you wouldn’t raise your children in this negative light, then why are your employees any different?

Purpose: Define it. Share it.

After spending thirteen years in the SEAL Teams and enduring eight deployments—gunshot wounds on two of them—surviving four parachute malfunctions, and losing more friends than some people can count, there was something that kept me going, an intangible element that always answered my “why?” Standing on a ramp at 20,000 feet about to jump out into the night, or creeping up to a target wondering if yet another AK-47 barrel would poke its ugly head out of a doorway were not natural phenomena despite having done them hundreds and hundreds of times.

But misfortune, discomfort, uncertainty, and hardship are no match for purpose.

The one “thing” that makes abnormal conditions feel comfortable and keep the operator or individual yearning for more, is purpose.

You see, from day one of Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL (BUD/S), each trainee is exposed to a sense of higher purpose—an aspiration to reach beyond oneself and focus on what will serve the entire class rather than personal need. Trainees quickly learn that selflessness is the foremost metric that helps shape one’s personal—and ultimately, organizational—brand.

Aside from character and competence, there are three criteria against which SEALs measure each other that ultimately determine personal—and team—brand: Mission. Team. Self. The purpose—the main reason for being—is the mission itself. All decisions are based upon their relative impact upon mission success. The second area of focus is the Team. If the team isn’t healthy or capable then the mission is at risk. This was something instilled during BUD/S because if your swim buddy was wrong for whatever reason (at it was probably just existing since it was BUD/S), then you were wrong, too and you were wrong because you didn’t “fix” him. Being accountable to the team is everyone’s responsibility. Finally, the individual always comes last because he is the smallest—the least important—link in the chain.

The recipe for creating a “we” culture in the SEAL Teams is quite simple: have your people sit in cold water for five and a half days with no sleep, and when they get out, tell them to run around with a boat on their heads. Just kidding.

Seriously though, if you want to breed a we rather than a me culture, then begin with the simple things you can change such as physical spaces, office lingo, titles, and incentives. Below is an example derived specifically from the SEAL culture to share with you, but keep in mind that the same principles can be applied anywhere:

– We’re called the SEAL Teams.  We do everything together. Beginning day one of BUD/S, each student has a “swim buddy” (which is just another student in the class) everywhere he goes. If he needs to take out the trash, he grabs a swim buddy. If nature calls and he has to use the bathroom, he takes a swim buddy. If he has to face a SEAL instructor for punishment, he solicits a very unhappy swim buddy and they both endure punishment together (misery loves company, right?). Everything is done together because that’s what a Team is about.

– We refer to each other as Team guys, not “SEALs,” not “friends,” not “coworkers.” It doesn’t matter one’s age, background, or previous arrest record (it happens). Everything and everybody a Team Guy serves is for the betterment of the Team. Period.

– We work in Team rooms. At each SEAL command exists Team Rooms that house the smaller teams that comprise the larger command. Each room is one large, open, shared space that—by simple design—fosters transparency and inclusion rather than silos and separation. Each Team Room has its own personality depicted by team pictures, memorabilia, quotes, and upcoming team trips that all serve to create the unique identity of the operators within.

– We share a Team motto. A common saying among the community is “Teams ‘n’Sh*t,” which refers to two things that determine our focus:
1) The Team.
2) Everything else.

If you want to attract, train, shape the right people, or interject more of a “we” culture, there is just one ingredient you need, and it’s not a special ten-step framework, or four-letter acronym to remember now that will become obsolete in six months. Just do it. Take a chance, step forward, and see what happens. When you’re receiving incoming fire, for example, it doesn’t matter which direction you move, just as long as you move somewhere.

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