How to Become Successful in Business By Leaning Into A Community

“Sir, are you a Rambo?” yelled my tormentor when he asked me why I had tried to overturn an 8-man inflatable single-handedly.

“No, sir, Instructor Smith!” I called back over the pounding winter waves of Coronado California (home of Navy SEAL basic training called BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training).

I had violated one of the core conventions of SEAL training: do a job alone. In 1991, the “Rambo” film series, starring Sylvester Stallone, was still fresh in the minds of our SEAL instructors, and the term “Rambo” had become synonymous with trying to be a “hero.” A “lack of teamwork” is strictly forbidden in BUD/S, so the Instructors are careful to check for this attitude and will drop candidates accordingly. They routinely reminded us before each evolution, “No Rambos Allowed!”

I spent my young adult life honing my “CEO” leadership skills by leading Navy SEAL platoons. As a train driver, I had to take on full “P&L responsibility” in order to plan and carry out targeted team assignments efficiently and effectively. This means not only ensuring that each team member has been adequately trained in their respective roles, but also developing a strong sense of camaraderie and teamwork within the platoon. Mission success comes from the collective effort of all members, not just one or two individuals. It is not considered a successful mission if only one person is responsible for its success. SEAL Team is always about the team.

Twenty-five years and several positions as Founding CEO later, I find myself applying the same leadership principles I was taught as a young SEAL platoon commander: lead teams effectively and maximize goal achievement. My job as a leader is to identify the unique strengths of each team member and bring them together for shared success. Ultimately, great achievements can only be achieved through joint effortssomething one person cannot do alone. This principle was my guide to lead companies to successWithout the help of a strong team, even the best plans can fail. It is only with the right combination of talent and dedication that goals become achievable, making a good leader indispensable in any organization.

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I have achieved many different goals in my life, and while many may appear as individual accomplishments (author, athlete, inventor, public speaker, mountaineer, father, and founder, to name a few roles), not even one has been achieved as such “Rambo”. Every single achievement in my life has been made possible by a community of teammates who have supported me. All too often I find that people neglect the most important part of achieving meaning: building a team and setting goals that they can measure and track. I owe all of my success to measurable goals, building goal teams, and creating commitment to drive daily action.

As Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of GoalBud, PBC – which I believe will be my final CEO role – our sole focus is helping people see the tremendous power and potential of combining measurable goals with engaged communities. When people realize that others are supporting them on their journey to achieve something new for them, they are encouraged to keep going. The power of community responsibility can push people out of their comfort zone to unleash their potential for success.

I’ve experienced firsthand the importance of strong team leadership, from my very first role as a Navy SEAL platoon commander, to being the CEO of the fastest growing consumer products company in the United States (Inc. 500 #4 in 2009) to my current role as CEO of GoalBud. In my more than 30 years of leadership experience, I have reduced my success as CEO to three key measures:

  1. Set a measurable goal
  2. Form a goal team
  3. Create (and report) weekly goal commitments
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As simple as these actions may seem, they represent the essence of success. Having a goal gives your team direction, focus, and purpose; and making it measurable gives them a constant source of energy and motivation: Progress! Without the ability to track progress, your leadership energy is wasted on keeping your team focused and motivated. But when a team can see their progress, it will make them push harder. The secret of success in any business is making sure you hold yourself accountable for taking the necessary steps towards your goals. All too often I meet great people with tremendous goals and significant team potential who end up failing because they don’t really live up to their commitments.

Achieving something ALWAYS begins and ends with daily action. The road to CEO success depends on your ability to set goals, build teams, and execute on the goal every day. The more you embrace the concept that business is a team sport and that true success has no place for “Rambos,” the more success you will find in whatever field you seek. And as you make progress and achieve your goals, you’ll discover the biggest challenge of your career: imagining even bigger goals!

Written by Alden Mills.
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