Letter from John: The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday

My friends who spend time in the world of Navy SEALS -- either by exercising in a local park, or engaging in more serious work overseas -- are familiar with the motto of the highly disciplined special ops team:

The only easy day was yesterday.

It's a nice phrase. It's simple, clear, sort of catchy. And it's slung around a lot during a mentally and physically grueling qualification training. Slung around for a reason -- 90% of NAVY SEAL candidates drop out during training, unable to take the intense demands.

The work of any successfu l leader is to recognize that every day can be hard. If you're leading well, and your team is growing, the days gets harder and more complex -- more often. If you're leading well, and you're learning from your challenges and successes, the harder work begins to become a new norm. It doesn't become easier, but your ability to engage well increases.

It might seem odd for me to be quoting the Navy SEALS but I've recently been thumbing through a book a friend who operates in that field gave me.

"Small Unit Leadership" is built around the very real principle that "platoons (small units of soldiers) seal the fate of armies." The front line leaders of those small units, the sergeants and corporals, can determine the success or failure of armies.

I'd suggest the same is true of any organization. Your front line managers determine the success or failure of your organization.

We recently started new efforts with several organizations focused around targeted coaching to strengthen the focus, skills and leadership of mid-level managers -- small unit leaders, in the military vernacular. While the intention of our coaching work with these managers is not to put them through Navy SEAL training, our team believes that effective coaching involves a lot of stretching, clear outcomes and accountability.

It's exciting to be able to add another dimension to the work we can offer our clients, and to see our management/leadership coaches, Debra and Jim, apply their unique talents.

Of course, it adds to the complexity of our work. Raising the bar on ourselves as an organization is in our DNA, and it often means that the only easy day was yesterday.

That, we'd argue, is the nature of doing our best work.