Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: This Harvard Business Review article has many good insights from a former Navy SEALs instructor. One of the key insights is to reward “excellence” not “competence.” In many organizations today being competent will get you a promotion, but only excellence will do so in the Navy SEALs.
How the Navy SEALs Train for Leadership Excellence
by Michael Schrage! Harvard Business Review, MAY 28, 2015.
Produce Excellence, Not “Above Average”
The first describes where Webb simply would not professionally go. “Being very good wasn’t good enough,” Webb declared. “Training programs shouldn’t be designed to deliver competence; they must be dedicated to producing excellence. Serious organizations don’t aspire to be comfortably above average.” “I honestly don’t even want to focus on good or competent,” Webb wrote, “it’s not in my nature and I don’t want to be part of any team or organization that is willing to set this standard. ‘Aim high, miss high,’ and you can quote me on that.”
In other words, training divorced from excellence is mere compliance. It is more “box ticking” than human capital investment. Is “above average” training really worth the time, energy and expense? A kaizen—continuous improvement—ethos is one thing. But customer service and leadership training that only enhances rather than transforms capabilities and skills doesn’t buy very much.