Semper Fi Leadership

Posted: April 30, 2010 in Marine Corps, Uncategorized
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Are you looking for a challenge?

I recently read a challenging leadership book from a much different perspective than I am accustomed to. Semper Fi: Business Leadership the Marine Corps Way, Dan Carrison & Rod Walsh, challenged me to think outside the normal corporate box that we can often get sucked into in the normal business world. The authors use a great method of comparing Marine Corps practices to those in the business world and share insights as to how business organizations could improve their effectiveness by incorporating some of these practices.

The book will challenge your thinking provoking resistance along the way, but it will also provide you with some powerful insights to incorporate into your organization and make it more effective at executing your mission.

Here are some of the key insights from the book.

  1. Attracting the Best: This practice aligns very well with Jim Collins conclusion that great companies concentrate on First Who, Then What.  The Marine Corps has to secure 40,000 new recruits each year to maintain their numbers. Their approach to getting the best of the best is a challenging message all organizations need to listen to. Here is some highlights of their approach:
    • Rotate the company’s top performers through a tour of “recruiting duty”
    • Build a human resources department of “believers” from within
    • Emphasize training over screening
    • Make the challenge to belong part of the corporate appeal
    • Fill the workforce pipeline with quality candidates
    • Make use of contracts and bonuses
    • Introduce the “tour of duty” concept
    • Don’t be in a rush to “snag” a qualified candidate
    • Publicize the pay scale (How would this work in your organization?)
    • Place hiring and training responsibilities under one senior manager
    • Make human resources a rite of passage for your managers
    • Provide HR with all the necessary tools to attract the best
    • Make HR an active participant in the employee’s career planning
  2. Basic Training
    • Upgrade corporate training so that it becomes an industry wide credential
    • Reward top performers with a “tour of duty” as a company trainer
    • Train all personnel from a common starting point
    • Constantly remind the employees that they are something special
    • Build leadership capacity incrementally
    • Cultivate, rather than weed out
    • Implement role-play seminars where responsibilities are greatly increased
    • Create “real” experience through realistic simulation training
    • Recognize peer pressure as a management tool
    • Re-enact symbolically the company’s past successes
    • Remember that sometimes a “chewing out” is better than a quiet entry into the personnel record
    • Isolate the trainee, and the trainer, from outside distractions
    • Expose the trainee to responsibilities outside his position
    • Delay official recognition, so as to increase its value
    • Require all associates to go through “basic training”
    • Institute the Crucible concept: the defining moment of transition from trainee to associate
  3. Supervision: Leading the Rank and File
    • Standardize the promotional requirements so that all supervisors will have credibility and the respect of the rank and file
    • Create a corporate culture that exalts the workforce
    • Balance management with promotions from within
    • Inspire through personal example
    • Understand that the employee who feels cared for will care about the company
    • Combine fire-breathing enthusiasm with solicitous mentoring
    • Empower those closest to the task to make decisions
    • Institutionalize the supervisor as the corporate teacher
    • Recognize followership as the precursor to leadership
    • Convert personal ambition into commitment to the corporate mission
    • Implement a “manager’s school” for all levels of management
    • Require and support continuing education
    • Empower and delegate, but be available to your subordinates
    • Expect all associates to keep with the strides of the organization
    • Implement company-wide “subject readiness” tests
    • Promote constructive competition within the organization
    • Provide all associates with a communication path all the way to the top
    • Reach out to the families of the workforce and managerial staff
  4. Middle Management: Leading the Mission
    • See that every manager feels entitled to lead
    • Ensure that managers can never distance themselves from a subordinate’s failure
    • Understand that the wider his perspective, the more effective the leader
    • Lead by personal example
    • Put the concerns of your personnel before any task
    • Keep your people fully informed
    • Personally exemplify mental and physical readiness
    • Encourage and empower your subordinates to find the solution
    • Prepare your subordinates for two jobs—theirs and yours
    • Encourage questions, even in urgent situations
    • Be prepared to occasionally withhold guidance and praise
    • Never promote beyond the next organizational step
    • Avoid close personal relationships with anyone under your authority
    • Be especially motivating to those who are unhappy in their positions
    • Ask for a verbal or written confirmation of your instructions
    • Create a team culture of self-sacrifice
    • Make use of peer evaluations at all levels of management
    • Be a teacher, not a boss
  5. Senior Management: Leading the Organization
    • Recognize, and tout, the company’s contribution toward a better world
    • Understand that small can be good
    • Apply a “no-frills” culture across the board, and it will be accepted by the employees
    • Instill confidence in the organization—in the employee, the stockholder, and the customer
    • Display corporate power for the benefit of the workplace
    • Discourage “personality worship”
    • Issue a corporate Core Values Card
    • Recognize that loyalty is a matter of reciprocity
    • Respond to scandals immediately and forthrightly
    • Celebrate the company’s birthday
    • Don’t stray from the company’s “core expertise”
    • Visit the “front lines” often
    • Understand that preventing workplace violence is a leadership issue, from the top down
    • Implement a “CEO’s Reading List”
    • Instill a strong habit of courtesy throughout the organization
    • Strive to leave the organization in better hands than your own.
  6. A Few Good Women
    • Recognize that gender has absolutely nothing to do with leadership
    • Create a corporate culture of scrupulous equality
    • Realize that every leadership principle in this book applies to women associates, managers, and executives as well as men.
  7. Leading to Victory: Ten Winning Strategies
    • Create a “culture of courage”
    • Understand that the business skills of the past have not been rendered obsolete by technology
    • Make your employees feel as if they are doing the most important jobs in the world.
    • Assign realistic and attainable goals
    • Make every employee believe he or she is on the “front lines”
    • Never be lulled into a “peacetime” mentality
    • Know your competition (and prevent if from knowing you)
    • Don’t push your personnel, inspire them to follow you
    • Prepare your people to see victory within their grasp, rather than defeat.
    • You must not fail

Key Learning Points

  • Attract the best, reminds me of Jim Collins conclusion in Good to Great that it is more important to decide first who then what. The Marines put high regard on getting the best to join their ranks.
  • Recruiting the right people foundational to success
  • Training foundational to success
  • Position team to attract the best
  • Make your training program industry standard
  • Reward top performers with a “tour of duty” as a company trainer
  • One key practice that contrast most corporate practices is the marines practice “to cultivate over weeding out”

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