Recently my friend, Yacov Wrocherinsky, founder and CEO of Infinity Info Systems, and fellow “entrepreneurial adventurer,” was invited by the US Navy, along with 10 other Young President Organization (YPO) members, to spend 24 hours aboard the recently commissioned USS George Bush; the latest of the Nimitz class aircraft carriers
After he returned, Wrocherinsky burst into my office, arms waving, excited to share his experience. I was so enthralled by his story that I agreed to spread the word and summarize the top four lessons he learned from his experience:
One: You must be a team player.
The whole ship operates as one huge coordinated team. Everyone on the team has a clear role. “I watched groups of pilots and sailors continuously stage, refuel, maintain, and clear planes of all shapes and sizes,” he said. Every member of the team relies on every other member to do their job superbly. Lives depend on it. “This floating airport operates day and night, 24/7 with a team that runs like clockwork,” Wrocherinsky said. “It struck me as I was sleeping (or doing my best to with all the noise around me), that I was lying in a sailor’s bunk with hundreds of tons of steel racing on and off the flight deck above.”
Yacov realized that the entire operation was based on a set of systems, some simple, others complex, but most importantly, these systems were adhered to. He realized that in his own business, everyone needs to be clear about their roles and how they interact with everyone else’s role in order to be successful.
Two: You have to believe.
While touring below deck, cruising at somewhere around 20 knots, he noticed everyone was intensely focused on a particular task. He noticed a sign above the door of the room that had a single word on it: Believe. He asked one of the crew members to explain the significance of this sign. The veteran sailor turned around and said, “We are trained to believe in everything that this aircraft carrier is about. We believe in each other, that everyone else around us is doing their job perfectly, we believe in the cause that we are engaged in, we believe in being the front line to protect our country, we believe in the core values of each person, of the team, of the ship, of the Navy, and of our nation.” Returning from his trip, Wrocherinsky presented at his company-wide meeting, and spoke about how his experience reinforced the importance of passion and living the firm’s core values.
Three: Act with pride.
The aircraft carriers are not just used to fight wars. They also are assigned to humanitarian efforts, including aiding in the recent disaster in Japan. No matter what goal the Navy has set for any given operation, the entire crew operates with pride, knowing that each one of them plays their part in making the entire operation a success. “I find this critical in the office as well,” said Wrocherinsky. “People should be working at something that they love to do, that they are passionate about, including working for a company that they are proud of.”
Four: Get training and develop yourself.
Everyone on the carrier emphasized accountability and constant improvement. No one felt like they had totally mastered the job. There was always more to learn, and habits to reinforce. “Time after time, the people we met on board told us that the Navy measures everything,” Wrocherinsky said. “All systems have to function as close to perfect as possible. It made me think about my firm and how we make a big deal about publishing our own key performance indicators. Hearing this from such committed, passionate people just validated the importance of accountability for our own team.”
I asked Wrocherinsky what lesson resonated the most with him: “My visit to one of the most sophisticated and powerful places in the world left me with an impression and some lessons that I will keep with me for the rest of my life. My favorite? ‘Believe!’”
Charles Bernard, founder and president of Criteria for Success, Inc., helps CEOs bridge the gap between their vision for their company and their bottom line by implementing systems and behaviors that enable their salespeople to reach and exceed targets. Please visit www.criteriaforsuccess.com for more details. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.