Vannoy & Ross

When in battle, if a comrade is hit and falls, the urgent cry comes from the field, “Man down! Man down!” And within seconds the other soldiers move with common purpose: Do whatever it takes to ensure the life of their companion.

Jay is a SVP of national accounts for a company in Oregon. He served in the military. (Thank you, Jay.) Recently, I asked him, “Jay, can we safely assume that not everyone in a military unit likes each other?”

Jay laughed and said, “Of course. Some despise each other.”

“Well then, why would there be this sort of rally to help any and all soldiers who fell in the field?”

Jay’s answer was quick and certain: “Because without that promise and understanding that your teammates would save you, no one would stick their neck out. No one would take risks. Which means you would certainly lose in your cause.”

Jay and his military friends can help a business accelerate their results. Do you know of meeting rooms where the well-intentioned have taken risks, perhaps by:

  • telling the truth
  • offering a radical idea
  • offering a counter perspective
  • or (heresy!) suggesting their boss revisit their strategies?

Then, in response, only to be shot down? These bullets are not uncommon:

  • “That won’t work.”
  • Shaking of heads
  • “I disagree with you” (ensuring that it becomes personal)
  • and “here’s what you don’t understand,” (implying you’re the village idiot)

Ironically, it seems every boss is asking – wishing – their team would take more risks, yet the bullets fly.

What would happen if we simply replicated the “Man Down!” mentality?

Challenge your team to pay attention for those moments when they see their colleagues take a risk by speaking up, offering an idea, telling the truth, etc. Then, even if we have a different perspective than what they’ve shared, rally with purpose to their side by publicly stating your appreciation for the risk they just took. Let them know: We may disagree, but I’ve got your back.

What hill will you conquer this week knowing you can take the risks necessary to get to the top?



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