Navy Seals have this well-deserved aura about them. Hearing one speak always makes me glad they are on our side. I recall watching a video a few years ago featuring Seal Commander Rorke Denver, who shared a fundamental principle by which Seals work, that to “Constantly Improve Your Position.” Rorke reminded listeners that there is always room for improvement. The same is true in leadership and life.
When I first heard this admonition, it prompted one of those déjà vu moments. It took me back in time to a naïve 23-year-old graduate of Georgia Tech. I had just completed a challenging curriculum at a prestigious Engineering school and for a fleeting moment thought my learning was over; it was time to go to work and make some money.
I quickly discovered that my classroom had merely changed décor. During my early years at Southern Bell, I became immersed in learning what it meant to be an Outside Plant Engineer. My academic instruction may have concluded, but my education had just begun. Over the next 42 years with BellSouth and AT&T, I witnessed the transition from a copper-only environment to one where the best description of copper was the word vanishing. Copper became fiber. Analog became digital. Wireline became wireless. And now in the 21st Century, new technologies continue their explosive path into the future.
It soon became apparent that learning is never really over. Always learning, always growing isn’t just a necessity, it is the key to success. And when I heard this retired Seal explain the Constantly Improve Your Position tactic, I remembered a lifetime spent not dodging bullets, but rather developing professionally as a leader and a manager, and personally as a husband and a father.
“Do you know the secret of the true scholar? In every man there is something wherein I may learn of him; and in that I am his pupil.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
I learned that being a manager and a leader are two very different things. And managing an outside group of technicians, who were mostly male, requires a different set of skills than managing an inside group of technicians, which were often predominately female. Managing my time was just as important as managing people. Being a good communicator started with being a good listener.
As important as it was professionally to grow and develop, the same could be said in my personal life. Growth as a husband, a father, and now a grandfather was and is my constant focus. The reality was that I never stopped learning, never stopped improving my “Position.”
Life is a classroom if we embrace a mindset of “Always a student.”
“You are always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forward.” — Conrad Hall
So I thought I’d share a few thoughts on how to “Constantly Improve Your Position” that are universal in their practical application.
- Pray for wisdom.
- Develop a spirit of gratefulness.
- Be a good listener
- Learn to discern — become an observer of details.
- Learn from the mistakes of others.
- Don’t just regret your own mistakes, learn from them — never let a good mistake go to waste.
- Find good role models and imitate them.
- Learn to ask appropriate questions. ASK=Always Seeking Knowledge.
- Seek the counsel of the wise.
- Have a mentor who you can call at any time.
- Have an “accountability partner” who has your permission to challenge you and hold you accountable for any behavior.
- Acquire a decent sense of humor, learn to laugh with people not at them.
- Learn to say “I am sorry,” “I apologize,” “Please forgive me.”
- Be a servant leader.
- Focus on hospitality, not entertaining.
- Keep your priorities straight. The Lord first, family second, everything else third.
- Read, Read, Read.
- Have an “Always a Student” mindset. The best teachers are lifelong learners. The most successful people always view themselves as students who learn from others.
No doubt this list could go on for pages. What would you add?
As I grew personally and professionally, I also found encouragement in the Scriptures to acquire practical wisdom.
Proverbs 4:7 “The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom and with all your acquiring, get understanding.”
Proverbs 19:20-21 “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days. Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord will stand.”
So now, you can see why I resonated with the message delivered by Seal Commander Denver. Whether it be professionally or personally, we all need to be continually evaluating and improving our position. The good news is, you don’t have to be a Navy Seal to “Constantly Improve Your Position.”
You just have to remember that you are ALWAYS A STUDENT.