May 23, 2021

Top 5 Training Tips from Special Warfare Leaders

Sam Caucci

What happens when two special warfare leaders come together to talk about the future of training?

If you know 1Huddle, you know we’re all about continuous development and training. We believe investing in your people is the most important thing every talent leader can do, but you don’t have to take it from us. You can take it from Jeff Williams and Dave Wylie: a former Navy SEAL and Navy veteran who now serve in senior leadership roles at Strategos Consulting, a management consulting firm that specializes in serving senior executives in the defense, aerospace, and homeland security sectors.

After all, who understands the importance of lifelong training better than the people who have spent their careers serving in and training our nation’s most elite special forces? 

When I sat down with Jeff and Dave on a recent episode of Bring It In, they shared insights on how leaders across industries can set their people up for success by creating and implementing great training programs. Jeff and Dave have a ton of specialized knowledge on training and development that every talent leader needs to know, so we’ve rounded up their top five training tips for workforce leaders who want to fire up their people and succeed in the future of work:

1. Individual and operational readiness all tie back to training.

When Jeff came on the podcast, one of the first things he talked about was close-quarter combat training.

The first time he ever participated in close-quarter combat training, Jeff remembered seeing a person in the middle of the room wearing a rain jacket. But he didn’t really see them, because he hadn’t yet been trained on what or who to look for.

But after months of Navy SEAL training, Jeff said he could see everything. 

By the hundredth or thousandth time Jeff entered that room, he knew how to look for every single detail: SEALs are trained to see the color of the telephone, the color of pillows, the color of someone’s eyes from far away. He could tell whether the other person in the room was a hostage, a terrorist, or a fellow SEAL, because he had received ongoing, continuous training on exactly what to look for. 

“You’ve got to be able to see all of that in a moment and adjust what you’re doing at that moment,” Jeff said. “All of that is the basis of all that training and repetition. It all ties back to individual and operational readiness. Training is the core of that. It will always be the core of that.”

2. Humans are more important than hardware

“You can have all the great equipment in the world, but that equipment can break. Humans will get the job done.” 

If we want our people to be able to get the job done, we have to give them the resources to do it. 

When he was training to become a Navy SEAL, Jeff wasn’t only trained on his individual ability; he was also trained on his ability to work within a team, and on his ability to serve as a leader within that team.

At the end of the day, humans are the ones who create and operate the hardware we need to get the job done, so our top priority should be giving people the tools they need. Most of us will never have to fly a Blackhawk Helicopter or capture a high-enemy terrorist, but we all need tools to do our jobs well.

Yet, in America today, 33% of workers lack digital skills. If we are going to create a more equitable, competitive, inclusive, and accessible future of work for every worker, then we need to have a real discussion about workforce infrastructure and start treating workers like they’re more important than hardware.

3. Training has to be continuous to be successful

Training doesn’t work if it isn’t continuous.

When you’re training to become a Navy SEAL, you spend about a year in basic-level training, then you move on to advanced training, and then you get to a SEAL team where you spend 18 months with that SEAL team doing personal training. The first six months are personal development training, then six months of core training, which is finally followed by another six months of advanced training. 

After those 18 months, a SEAL can finally deploy overseas with their shield team. But SEALs aren’t always deployed as soon as they finish training. They have to wait for a mission. And while they’re waiting, the most important thing they can do is to continue that training so they don’t experience knowledge decay and lose the skills they’ve worked so hard to obtain.

Like Jeff said: “We have some courses that individuals will learn a skill set, but they won’t deploy for a year. So what’s happening in that year, how are they retaining that information? How can you support them in that year.”

In 1Huddle’s recent Future of Work study, we found that less than 10% of companies offer their people ongoing training that is available 52 weeks a year. So how are they supporting their workers during that time? Short answer: they’re not. 

Whether you’re a Navy SEAL or a frontline worker at your first job, training and learning only work when they’re ongoing, lifelong processes and not a one-and-done experience. 

4. Training must be accompanied by ongoing analysis

If you ask Dave what the foundation of any great training program is, he’ll give you a one-word answer: analysis. 

You can’t really evaluate the progress your people are making (or not making) if you aren’t using real-time analysis to track their strengths and weaknesses. 

Most training programs are like taking attendance: everyone shows up, but their teacher or coach never really knows how much they take away because they don’t have a metric to analyze where people are succeeding and where they’re struggling.

5. Great training breeds courage and bravery

“Being a former SEAL, people initially think of courage in a gunfight, jumping out of an airplane, or diving into dark water. But because of training, I don’t remember being scared or apprehensive during those events.”

This was one of the most powerful points Jeff brought up during our chat. 

The only way we can become courageous and brave is through experience and preparedness, which is what effective training gives us. Think about the first time you tried to ride a bike: it’s scary and you feel off-balance and unprepared. At first, someone probably helped guide you or held on to the back of your seat so you could get a feel for things, and soon you were able to ride by yourself. We all remember the first time we did something new and challenging like riding a bike, but we never remember the 47th time or the 63rd time we did it. That’s because of training and practice breed courage, confidence, and bravery. You can’t remember the 84th time you drove a car, because by then you had enough training for it to become almost second nature.

Whether you’re a Navy SEAL on a high-risk mission or a worker in an everyday office job, you learn to become great at what you do through training that gives you the tools to succeed. 

These were just five of the best training tips Jeff and Dave shared on their episode of Bring It In. If you want to hear the full episode, you can listen now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google Podcasts. A full transcript from Jeff and Dave’s Bring It In episode is also available on 1Huddle’s website!

Sam Caucci, Founder & CEO at 1Huddle

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