Tip #5: Stay Together

March 4, 2009 -- Sal Silvester

If you ask one of the professional guides at the Colorado Mountain School about the four rules that experienced teams always abide by in the backcountry, they will tell you: (1) stay together, (2) stay together, (3) stay together, and (4) never split up.

In the army, leaders live by the principle of “take care of your people and they will take care of you” and soldiers “watch their buddies.”

Decisions made in the backcountry and in the military come with consequences that are far more severe than any we would expect in corporate America. If you want to build an innovative team, check out these four lessons from the experts:

1. We must travel together. Traveling together assumes that everyone on the team knows where they are and where they are going. In the corporate world we call this a shared vision. Everyone must understand what the team is trying to achieve and be on board to support the team’s mission.
2. We must be flexible enough to adapt the plan. When things don’t go exactly as expected (and they never do in the backcountry and on the battle field), survivors have the wherewithal to adapt and adjust. In the business world, everyone on the team must recognize that change is inevitable and that plans need to be flexible to meet changing priorities. It’s important to be focused on the task at hand, but not overly focused to the point that the big picture (and ultimately the shared vision) is lost.
3. We must know the job of the person above us and the person below us. Every member of a special operations team has a deep technical skill (e.g., first aid, weapons, and communications). But if the communications operator is wounded, everyone else on the team can take over that role. In the business world we must understand what the people beneath us do and we must understand what our boss’s boss needs.
4. We must watch each others backs. In the back country we constantly monitor each other for signs of dehydration and altitude sickness because we know the impact it may have on life and limb. In the business world we must be willing to go beyond our “job description” to help, coach, and mentor each other. Trust, in any relationship – business or personal – is not a “nice to have”, but a “must.”

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