It was both an honor and a privilege to have Brent Gleeson on the show. Brent is a Navy SEAL combat veteran with multiple tours to Iraq and Africa and other war torn areas. Upon leaving SEAL Team 5, Brent turned his discipline and battlefield lessons to the world of business and has become an accomplished entrepreneur, author, and acclaimed speaker on topics ranging from leadership and building high performance teams to culture and organizational transformation. You can learn more about his leadership philosophies in his weekly columns on inc.com and forbes.com, which are awesome, by the way. I highly recommend you check those out.
He also starred in several reality TV shows, including NBC's Stars Earn Stripes where he and Chris Kyle of American Sniper, great book by the way, along with other Special Operations professionals were paired with celebrities to compete and raise money for charities like the Wounded Warriors Project. He is also the author of Taking Point: a Navy SEAL's 10 Fail Safe Principals for Leading Through Change, which will be published by Simon and Schuster on February 20, 2018.
The conversation that we had was fantastic. We spoke about peak performance, peak performance culture, peak performance mindset and what it takes to develop a mindset of peak performance and how you can translate that into your sales and your negotiation life.
Guest: Brent Gleeson
Mark: Brent, how are you?
Brent: I'm doing great today. How are you doing, Mark?
Mark: I'm doing great, thank you. Thank you so much for joining me on the line.
Brent: Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here today.
Mark: Yeah, it's really a privilege to have you. I've been interested in your journey for quite some time and I've been following some of the stuff that you've been doing online and your articles on Forbes and your posts online. Super inspiring stuff, especially with what you're doing with Taking Point Leadership, the company that you've got going. For the listeners today, we got Brent on the line because we're going to be discussing peak performance, and what better person to have on the line than a former Navy SEAL who understands all about peak performance, what it takes to be a peak performer. Then we're going to try and relate that back to sales, negotiations, and what is the difference in mindset between someone who has got the mindset of peak performance versus someone who doesn't, and how can people adjust? How can people get that mindset of peak performance? I guess we'll start off a little bit, Brent. Maybe you can give the listeners your background, what it is you do, and how you transitioned from the life of a Navy SEAL to a successful entrepreneur.
Brent: Sure, sounds great. Just as a bit of background, I originally grew up in Dallas, Texas and did my undergraduate education at Southern Methodist University, earning degrees in finance and economics. I had the privilege of studying at Oxford University during that time as well, and never really had any real deep aspirations of becoming a Navy SEAL or an entrepreneur at the time, which is kind of funny where life's decisions take you and how those paths adjust as you go.
I got into the job as a financial analyst with a large, global, commercial real estate investment firm. But I also had a couple close buddies who were going into the Navy, one of whom was a year behind me in school and had a focused goal of trying to join the SEAL training program. This was just before 911, so this was in 1999 when I graduated. So of course people's vision and ideals when they came to join the military were slightly different. Obviously, there was a calling to a higher purpose and service and then the personal challenge that comes with choosing that path but not necessarily the same connection that it does to today's service members, especially those who are choosing a path of Special Operations knowing that they will be going down range, so to speak.
I started training with him while I was working as a financial analyst. He was a senior at SMU. I started becoming more and more, through our conversations and I started reading some books and doing some research on the SEAL Teams and the history of the Naval Special Warfare community, how we came together, and therefore, again to the point of this podcast, I became obsessed with the concept of how to develop and maintain a peak performance mindset, which is critical for anybody to just navigate the first six months of SEAL training alone, much less advanced training and the rigors of being a Naval Special Warfare Operator and going down range for combat and those types of activities. I read every book I could get my hands on, became more fascinated by it.
We started training harder and harder and that, coupled with the somewhat boring nature of my entry level analyst position, I decided to live a life without regret and quit my job. My buddy and I actually moved then to Crested Butte, Colorado, where we trained for another six months for about five hours a day at 10,000 feet altitude to get into the best physical condition that we could, then joined the Navy. I joined Bud's class, 235, in 2000, and then joined SEAL Team 5 thereafter. Only about 23 of us graduated from a class of over 200, so I was beginning to see how mindset translates to peak performance and to achieving seemingly impossible goals. It was starting to become a reality.
People always ask me, "Is it more physical or is it more mental?" I think those two things are intimately connected. If you want to train your mind for the physical rigors of something like SEAL training, then you have to train your body for those physical rigors. The harder you push yourself outside your comfort zone, both physically and mentally, the wider that comfort zone area becomes and, therefore, the stronger your mind becomes. Therefore, things that used to seem potentially impossible or almost insurmountable become part of your everyday life. Then you move the goal posts again and again and again and that's how you develop an unbeatable mind, like we talked about on Mark Divine's podcast. It's a similar concept.
911 occurred so that's when we all ... There was a major mindset transformation, a culture transformation, within the Special Operations community in the military in its entirety, of course. My task unit from SEAL Team 5 ended up being the first SEALs operating in Iraq, in and around Baghdad, Ramadi, Fallujah, those types of areas, performing capture or kill missions. This was spring of 2003. Did a couple tours there, did tours in Africa and some other places, and then transitioned. I had not planned on doing it as a career. It was a brief time in the SEAL Teams compared to some, but a very busy time, to say the least, and wanted to parlay those experiences back into the world of business and potentially entrepreneurship. I attended graduate school at the University of San Diego and that's where I started my first company and that's how I've applied many of the principles that forge SEAL culture into building high performance teams and winning cultures in the business world.
Mark: Very cool story. I've listened to that podcast that you did with Mark Divine. I think one of the things that struck me out of that conversation was the collective experience that SEAL Team members have. It almost seems like a shared pain, if that's the best way to put it. You guys have been through such incredible and intense things that you seem to share this bond that stretches beyond organizational or cultural boundaries that's pretty cool. One of the cool things that I read ... I've started reading more and more about SEAL Team culture and what you guys put yourselves through. I just finished Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, great book. He talks about it in his book and you've talked about it before, but it's really just the mindset of peak performance. One of the questions that I wanted to ask you is, what is that mindset? What separates someone who has got that peak performance mindset? What are the things that they think about versus the things that other people think about?
Brent: One of my favorite lines from the SEAL Ethos, which is basically our creed or our culture statement, so to speak, it defines who we are as Naval Special Warfare Operators is: a common man with uncommon desire to succeed. None of us are exceptionally extraordinary, physically or mentally, but one thing that all SEALs have and all students who make it through the first month or two of Basic Underwater Demolition program, where you go through Hell Week and they weed out the majority of the class, is resiliency, determination, and extreme focus on goal achievement. Some of the differences between those people because ... It's a fascinating scientific experiment, so to speak. One could never hand pick, just by looking at a class, a BUDs class, and early stage SEAL training class, nobody could hand pick who they think will be graduating. You've got Olympic athletes who quit, you've got peak triathletes and everybody assumes that the most athletic or toughest looking guys are going to be the ones that will be standing tall at graduation, and that's just not the case. It has nothing to do with the way you look.
Being physically fit is, of course, absolutely imperative because if you're not fit that will also ... Not only will you not pass the important evolutions, but it will also negatively affect you from a mental standpoint because you know you are at the tipping point of failing or being dropped. That's one thing that I tell the guys that I mentor into the program is, "Don't think that those two things are different. My mantra was: always let fitness be the last thing that you have to worry about. Train as hard as you possibly can and worry about the other things, the coldness, the depression, the stress of the possibility of failure or the academic side of the program." But again, going back to that mantra of being ... The fact that we are humble servants to the Naval Special Warfare community and we are just common men with an uncommon desire to succeed. That's what separates us from people who can control their emotions and channel physical and mental negative elements of training into a focused aggression that will push us all the way through to the end. That's the difference between those who graduate and those who don't.
That's also, by definition, somewhat of a bit of what that peak performance mindset requires and what that anatomy of that mindset looks like. It's having a vision and having an unwavering focus on achieving that vision and transforming your mindset to align with that vision, mitigating any distractions that will stand in the way of achieving that goal. For example, myself and, I assume, the majority of other guys who decide they want to become SEALs and especially those that I've mentored, when they make that decision, whether it's in high school or in college, they will transform their lives to meet that goal. They will mitigate all distractions that stand in the way of achieving that goal. They will train. They will change their training regimen, their diet, their social life, the things that they focus on, what they study, what they read, their hobbies. They'll remove anything that stands in that way because they know how hard it is, how competitive it is, just like becoming an Olympic athlete or anything else like that you think of when you think of peak performance. Those who thrive at the top, whether it be in military, business, or athletics, are those that remove those distractions that stand in the way of fulfilling the vision of whatever it is they're trying to accomplish.
If you had to put it into one word, it's discipline. That word can encompass many different things, but it takes extremely high levels of discipline to be able to do that. One of the reasons that ... it's timely, but I hate New Year's resolutions. I think the concept of New Year's resolutions are for people who don't typically achieve their goals. I do believe in time bound goals, I believe in annual goals for businesses, sales and all those types of things. But what does January 1 have to do with a peak performance mindset? What does January 1 have to do with achieving lofty goals? It has nothing to do with it, and I think that ... I only mention that because it's kind of funny because at the time of when we're recording this podcast, but it has nothing to do with, "Now I'm really going to buckle down because next week is January 1."
Well, why not today? Why not last week? Why not November? Why did you need to wait until a certain date to begin to try and transform your mindset? Now, this year, I'm really going to be a peak performer. Now, this year, I'm really going to hit my sales goals. This year I'm really going to hit my physical goals for fitness. It should be an every day thing. It should have nothing to do with January 1. Again, time bound goals are good so you have dates and milestones to push yourself to achieve those goals, but at the same time it's an every day you get out of bed type of discipline, not something that I'm going to start next week.
Mark: Yeah, I think that's important for people to recognize is that ... The whole concept of goal setting only works if you're willing to put the work in to achieve those goals, which ...
Brent: It seems so simple now.
Mark: You know what? All of the best ideas are simple sounding but really difficult to execute on. I think that's what a lot of people don't think about. When they hear someone like you saying things like this they're like, "Oh, that sounds simple." But, man, the work associated with that is insane. The amount of work associated to getting to your goals cannot be understated. I think a lot of parents are guilty, and I know I'm guilty of doing this with my kids, saying, "You can be anything that you want to be. You can achieve anything you want to achieve." But I think what a lot of people forget to add, what a lot of parents forget to add is, "Yeah, you can do that, but the work associated to that is significant. As long as you're willing to put in the work, then yeah. Go for it. Go nuts. You can achieve whatever you want. But the amount of work that you have to put in to get there is the separating factor between people who are successful and not successful: how much work you're willing to put in, how many hours of sleep you're willing to let go, how many days away from your family you're willing to endure. Those are going to be the determining factors."
Brent: And there's actually a lot of studies to your point. As a parent of three, I think about these things all the time. There's studies that show that naturally gifted kids in certain areas, let's say it's athletics or something like that, are often times those that will peter off or give up later on or just get burnt out, as opposed to the kids that really have to work hard at becoming skilled at a specific sport or discipline or music or whatever it has to be, because they've had to forge that type of mindset that they're not naturally gifted. They're going to have to work harder than those who seem to have been born with a natural gift in a certain area. But what that does, what that hard work and focus and discipline does, is build that unbeatable mindset, that peak performance mindset, that they will overcome those challenges. They will set a vision, set a goal, and they're going to achieve it and they know they're going to have to work harder than others to achieve those goals. Then they do it again and again and again throughout their lives, whether it be in academia, sports, in the military, business, sales, whatever it is.
It's all relatable going back to the focus of what we're talking about is developing that peak performance mindset. People ask me that. They say, "Well, is that just ..." Those people, who, let's say, make it through SEAL training. "Are they already just naturally gifted from a mental perspective in that form? Are they naturally gifted physically in that form?" The answer is, no. Sure, there are some people who will fly through those early months of training with no significant injury or no significant difficulty with the timed runs and swims or obstacle course or what have you. I personally didn't have any specific challenges for me. The challenge was the overall, encompassing nature of the daily grind and the stress and the exhaustion and the fear of failure was my biggest demon, and trying to quiet those voices in your head and the actual voices of the instructors telling you that it's not for you. There's both literal and physical voices telling you to quit, every single day. It is, again, that peak performance mindset, though, are those that have the ability to quiet those voices and maintain a disciplined focus on the goal that you're trying to achieve.
That's what I tell the guys that I mentor and that's what I also tell people who ask me what it is, what is that biological and physical and mental or cognitive anatomy of a person who can make it through SEAL training. We've actually invested, the NSW has invested, millions of dollars in studies and research and trying to figure out what that is because, again, going ... Let's think of it from a sales perspective, since that is, in a large part, kind of what we're talking about too. When you think about it from a sales perspective, there's that sales funnel. We're trying to put better "leads", warmer leads, into the top of that funnel so we can graduate larger classes of SEALs because we need more SEALs and we still don't have enough bodies to fulfill the NSW mission because Special Operations is still at the tip of the sphere of this war on terror as it expands globally.
We've discovered not a lot. We don't have a great return on investment from those millions of dollars spent, other than those less measurable qualities of grit, resiliency, determination, discipline and accountability. Those are the qualities that we're looking for in our Naval Special Warfare operators, and those are the qualities that any business owner, leader or manager is looking for in a great salesperson or whatever role someone might take in a business organization.
Mark: Yeah. I think there's a huge correlation between success in a multitude of fields, regardless of whether or not it's SEALs or sales or negotiations in general. I find that the people who do the best are the people who are willing to get comfortable with discomfort. In negotiation specifically, and one of the things that I teach is, if you want to get great at negotiation, get comfortable with awkward situations and get comfortable with uncomfortable situations because that's really the only way that you're going to be successful in your negotiations. The more comfortable you get with uncomfortable situations and angry people and potentially dangerous situations when it comes to business, then the better you're going to get at your negotiations. It seems to be that that's exactly what the SEAL Teams train and teach as well: get comfortable being uncomfortable. Would you say ... The reason I'm talking about this is because I want to figure out, what is it that we can leave the listeners with in terms of ... If they don't have that mindset right now, that peak performance mindset, what is it that we can help them to work on to start developing that mindset?
Brent: Again, it's one of my favorite SEAL philosophies is to get comfortable being uncomfortable. You learn that from day one and then those that can embrace that and expand their mindset to embrace the suck, as we say during SEAL training or actually just the entire SEAL career. It's sort of a funny misconception is that once you finish BUDs that things get easy. The training actually gets more challenging in a different way, so that concept of getting comfortable being uncomfortable goes back to what we were talking about earlier as far as mindset expansion and expanding your comfort zone. To your point, the more you do that, whether you're ... It goes back to training, so to speak. The more you put yourself in and embrace those uncomfortable situations in a negotiation, in a sales perspective, on a sales call or in a personal sales meeting. We've all been there.
The same thing applied when I transitioned into the world of entrepreneurship, which is terribly frightening because, again, it has a very similar failure rate as SEAL training does. This might shock you, Mark, but you don't come out of the Navy with a huge savings account. We don't get paid a lot. There's not a lot to fall back on. So, we went out there and I, for the first company, ended up doing a friends and family round. Then we did a series A round for about a million dollars. Then you've got those negotiations to deal with. You're a new entrepreneur and I don't care if you're a SEAL, a Green Beret, whatever. This is a different world. You are going to be scared. You're going to be nervous. You're going to be uncomfortable because your new life is on the line, just in a different way.
Those are early days of negotiating with investors is scary because you just don't know what you don't know. We often give up too much of our companies when we're trying to negotiate investors to come in and help support us. They're skeptical. They're buying, more so, you than they are the product or service, often times. Then if you do, God willing, their money is given to you and you accept their money for however much equity that you're willing to give up, then you've got other people to satisfy. I always put it in this order. You have to keep three groups of people happy in any high performance organization, a company that's designed to generate continual positive financial returns. First and foremost, that is your people, your team, because if your team is happy and they're engaged and they're thriving, then your customers are going to be happy and then therefore, hopefully, that translates to happy shareholders, but not always. I've been in many awkward board meetings where the investors are just ripping apart the financials and asking all types of questions, questions that we didn't necessarily have the answers to.
Those situations were very, very uncomfortable. I used to get so nervous before every board meeting, just because I knew that certain board members didn't care about the vision or the culture or people practices of even, necessarily, the products or services we were selling. They were just looking at the numbers, and that's who they were. That's what they cared about. Those things are important, but it was always an uncomfortable situation. But just like anything else, the more you train, so to speak, the more you put yourself in those situations, you realize those situations don't have to be as uncomfortable as your mind is telling you they're going to be. Any sales experience I've ever been in or a big pitch, trying to pitch a huge new client that we probably aren't even ready to take on or an uncomfortable board meeting you know is going to be a nightmare because you had a shitty quarter, whatever it might be. Usually, once those experiences are over you look back and you say, "That wasn't really as bad as I thought it was going to be. I'm still alive. I'm still here and, quite frankly, I learned a lot from that experience and I'm going to apply those learnings to the next uncomfortable experience that I'm going to have next month or next week or tomorrow, or whatever that situation is going to be."
Your mind grows stronger, and therefore you build confidence as you go, just like when you pass ... In the SEAL Teams, or in sales when I do a lot of keynote speaking, I equate that philosophy of answering the question, "How do you eat an elephant?" Well, you eat it one bite at a time. It's the same philosophy in how you make it through SEAL training, how you build a company, how you build a great sales pipeline. If you're going to set a lofty goal and a lofty vision, you first set that goal, set that vision, and then work backwards to find a path to achieving that goal. Then you set time bound milestones and goal posts and intermediate achievements along the path to the achievement of that ultimate vision so that you can also identify, okay, what do I need to achieve by next week to push me further down this path? Where do I need to course correct? What data can I collect? What information can I absorb to make sure that course correction is or is not needed?
If you can do that, that also simultaneously gives you the opportunity, whether it's within yourself or if it's a team goal you do it. It gives you the opportunity to celebrate quick wins, which is crucial in sales. It's critical for any organization facing any type of growth or challenges or change or adversity. When you can celebrate those quick wins, those intermediate milestones that are pushing you further towards the achievement of that vision, it keeps yourself and your team energized. It keeps you focused on the achievement of the vision. It, again, goes back to helping mitigate distractions that really don't have any value towards the achievement of the goal you're trying to accomplish. It mitigates competing priorities that will seep in and tell you, "Hey, Brent, there's an opportunity over here that could be good too, but you're going to have to take some time away from achieving the goal you already set."
That's one of the differences between, in my opinion, peak performers and salespeople who are always at the top of their game and they're always the ones winning the awards at the annual sales meeting that I'm usually the keynote speaker at. They're the people who can stay focused and not allow competing priorities to distract them from achieving what they're trying to accomplish. It really is that simple, but it just goes back to discipline and personal accountability, or team accountability if you're the manager of that sales team. It's when you can celebrate those quick wins and almost manufacture those intermediate goalposts and milestones, then everybody stays focused. Everybody stays energized. It combats what I call battle fatigue, but I think about it from a business battle fatigue perspective because often times, to your point earlier, achieving those lofty goals takes a lot more work than we can originally anticipate and there's a lot more pain to overcome. We realize that getting comfortable being uncomfortable is not as easy as it sounds.
Mark: I totally agree with you. I think being able to prioritize effectively ... I think one of the big things that I really love about your work is you talk a lot about: when you set your goals, prioritize your goals. In fact, in an Inc column that you did recently, you had three steps for envisioning the win and exceeding your goals. I'll just list them out because I think they're so perfect and so succinct. Number one was select and prioritize your goals, which is exactly what we just talked about. Gain and develop a mental picture, that's number two. So, having that vision, having that mindset, envisioning what your goal is. Then number three, which is what we've talked about as well, is work hard and persevere. I think so many people get caught up on the third point where it's work hard and persevere. There's a great quote. I think it has been attributed to Seneca and Jefferson and Mark Twain. I don't know who originally said it but it said, "I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them have never happened." So many people get caught up by this mindset of fear, that they're going to fail or something is going to go wrong.
I'll be the first person to admit to that as well. I've definitely been caught up in that mindset in the past. But as soon as people start to realize that it's really just fear and there's no real danger associated to it ... I mean, we perceive danger, but it's not like we're risking our lives here. It's not like we're in the middle of Iraq taking direct grenades or anything like that. Business, really, you're not risking your life. There's no real danger associated with what you're doing, and so your fear is really just based on a perception more than anything else. As soon as you start to change that perception, then you can start to change how your mindset approaches business. You can start to change how your mindset approaches sales, negotiations, whatever it is that you're doing, and then you can really start to achieve your goals.
Brent: Absolutely. We can talk about the new book I have coming out later, but Chapter Four is all about mindset transformation and preparing. The book is about business transformation which, like everything else we're talking about, is really scary and fear, whether that fear resides in the board room at the C-level, all the way down to the bottom, which it usually does, depending on the behaviors and mindsets of the senior leaders and managers in an organization. Any business, which today is pretty much all of them, any business facing the need to face change or challenges or grow faster than they have the ability to because the world is changing faster than it ever has before and the business world is more volatile. It's more uncertain, it's more ambiguous than it ever has been before. Therefore, business leaders and managers and, quite frankly, team members at all levels are having to face challenges together, which causes fear.
Fear can cause ... I think it is from one of my favorite old school movies, Point Break, where Patrick Swayze says, "When you allow fear to enter your mind, that's when your worst nightmares become a reality," or something to that effect. To your point, those situations that cause fear typically are never as bad as you think they're going to be. In every business situation I've ever been in ... Let's say we lose our largest client. In my perspective, one of the biggest takeaways I've had from the benefits of combat, I say that somewhat facetiously, is to learn how to manage fear and manage stress, because if someone is not trying to kill me, then we will probably figure it out. Those problems that cause fear, especially in business, usually aren't as scary as you think they're going to be once you dip your toe in the water and say, "Okay, let's pull the team together. Let's see what the real challenges are. Let's see what's really going on here. Let's develop a plan and let's execute that plan. We're going to execute it together and it's going to be alright." If you have a positive mental attitude, you maintain focus on the vision for overcoming that challenge.
Then when you achieve it, you look back and you do your after action review, or AAR as we call it in the SEAL Teams, and you analyze how you did, what went right, what went wrong, why that challenge became a reality in the first place. Then you realize, "Okay, that wasn't as bad as we thought it was going to be. That wasn't as scary as I thought it was going to be." Then you take that mindset and those learnings and you apply it to the next challenge that you're going to face, whether that is in the next two hours, the next week, the next month, the next year, whatever it is. You just have to keep rolling those lessons learned, as we call them in the military and in business. As long as we're applying those lessons learned to course correction and adjustments in strategy and tactics, then you're going to be better equipped to face those changes that you're inevitably going to have throughout the lifecycle of any business.
Mark: Yeah, I agree. Let's talk about the book for a second. It comes out in February, right?
Brent: Yeah. The book drops February 20. It's being published by Simon and Schuster. Again, the title is Taking Point and the subtitle is A Navy SEAL's 10 Fail Safe Principles for Leading Through Change. It's a very timely book because the 21st century business organization, those businesses that are thriving today, structurally, culturally, mindset-wise, look a lot different than the 20th century organization that many companies are still built as.
Let's think about it from a military perspective. In our post-911 reality, right after those attacks happened, our military in its entirety and Special Operations entered these conflicts essentially as a very siloed, structured, hierarchical, command and control, 20th Century organization. Think about your old-school corporate structure that looks like any org chart you would imagine, a pyramid. It's top down, very siloed horizontally and vertically. We quickly realized that, to move at the speed these wars required, to be dynamic, to be nimble, to share information vertically, horizontally, inside and outside of our organizations, then we would have to transform our mindsets, our structures, our process, and even the culture of Special Operations and even the military as a whole, to fight and defeat a more decentralized enemy. Therefore, we as an organization had to become more decentralized so that we could learn and adjust to their tactics and strategies because they will learn and adjust to ours as we go.
As the old war mantra goes: the longer you fight the same enemy, the more you're going to have to become more nimble and adaptive because they're going to continue to adjust to your tactics and strategies. So it's an ongoing cycle and now that we've been in these conflicts ... Afghanistan, for example, is the longest sustained conflict that we've ever been in. People kind of have the misconception that that's over. It is far from over, and of course we still have other conflicts looming and other things that are going on around the world that don't get captured yet on CNN or FOX News. But the same applies in today's more volatile, uncertain business landscape. The organizations that are thriving are transforming their mindsets, their structures, their process. They're decentralizing decision making capabilities. They're pushing leadership down the chain of command. They're replacing old hierarchies with networks and ecosystems of decentralized teams with actually empowered and engaged leaders that are more nimble and adaptive and can make decisions at a faster pace with the use of better data.
Now, the problem with that, unfortunately, is that to create an organization like that and to lead change or transformation in any business requires the participation and engagement of as many people in the organization. Not just somebody in the boardroom or a visionary CEO or a middle management person in the area of the business that is perceived to need the most change. It's got to be everybody. That's the problem because unfortunately, according to a lot of research and studies out there and McKinsey and company and Gallup, 67% of the global workforce is defined as "disengaged". Disengaged team members, whether they be in a sales team or marketing, research, finance, or just across an organization as a whole, are hard to identify because they're not usually negatively vocal. They're sometimes even relatively happy, but they do the bare minimum. They punch in, they punch out. They do not go above and beyond. They don't have a peak performance mindset by any means, but they just do their job so they're kind of hard to identify. Usually, often times, they meet their goals, barely meet their goals, so they're good enough.
Then that leaves only 15% of the workforce that is defined as "engaged". Those people are emotionally connected to their work. They know how their work matters to fulfilling mission success. They have a "go above and beyond minimal" attitude. I always joke that the great thing about the SEAL Teams is that we have 100% employee engagement, which no other organization has. Even we don't, probably, have 100% employee engagement. But when a business is facing change or overcoming challenges or growing pains or competitive challenges, structural challenges, engagement of the team is critical. But statistically, engagement in most organizations is pretty low. If you do the math, that leaves 18% of the workforce that is actually disengaged, meaning they are working against the organization and usually outwardly and outspoken about it. Obviously, those are the types of people that need to be removed and given the opportunity to work somewhere else. But when you're talking about transformation of any organization, engagement is absolutely critical. It's a challenge, but again, all challenges are also opportunities for leaders and managers and organizations that can embrace a peak performance culture and manage that culture, align that culture with the strategy, with the vision of the organization.
That's what a lot of organizations lack when they're trying to achieve a peak performance culture as a whole is A) defining what their culture is, B) aligning that culture with the strategic objectives of the organization or the vision that they're trying to fulfill, C) managing that culture and protecting it to make sure that the culture isn't attacked inwardly or outwardly by things that will stand in the way of transformation or goal achievement. Those three things together, most organizations and even good leaders and managers that are well intentioned, we get distracted oftentimes and don't manage those things. Like the saying goes: anything important in business must be managed and measured. Then you think about the things that don't show up on your balance sheet or your sales report, things like internal and external trust, internal and external accountability. How do you manage those things? Understanding the economic impact those things have an organization is critical.
If you think about that, let's talk about it from a sales perspective. Trust, for example, on the SEAL Teams, is at a premium. You have to be able to trust one another in order to go confidently on to that battlefield. The same thing applies in a business organization that's going to achieve great financial returns and exceed their sales goals and grow beyond what the competition is able to grow. Trust, internal trust amongst team members, is critical, but think about it from a sales perspective. External trust is almost easier to measure because you're talking about building not just transactional relationships with your customers or clients, but meaningful relationships where there is transparency and communication, everyone is accepting of constructive criticism and feedback. Then you win and grow together. But many organizations or sales teams or even CEOs, are just not, frankly, good at managing and measuring those aspects of the business because they are oftentimes harder to measure. They don't show up on a PNR or the balance sheet. You just think, "Sell, sell, sell," or "We're not growing enough so sell some more."
It's not that simple. If you're not meeting your goals as an organization, let's say from a sales perspective, it's not, "Let's just sell more crap to more people." It's, "Maybe we have to look deeper at our fundamental issues, our foundational issues, our cultural issues, to see what's holding us back from achieving those goals.
Mark: Yeah, I totally agree with you. I love what you said about trust. I think trust is such an undervalued part of business that I don't think enough people place enough emphasis on. There's a great sales trainer based out of the States, his name is Anthony Iannarino. He talks about trust in sales and how important trust is in sales. He says, "Sales is not something that you do to someone. It's something that you do with someone and for someone." You actually have to care about the person that you're selling to. You have to care about their business. You have to care about what it is they're buying from you and that level of care, that level of trust that you're showing them is only going to be reflected back to you in spades. It's only going to come back and benefit your organization. I think trust is super, super critical.
I think we've touched on probably the most important topic today, which I think is ... In order to develop that mindset of peak performance, that mindset of achieving growth and achieving what it is you want to achieve, regardless of whether or not it is in business or your personal life or in leadership, you need to be ... Let's cover those three main points that you talked about in your Inc article, which I thought were perfect. Select and prioritize your goals, gain and develop a mental picture, and work hard and persevere. I think as long as you can crystallize those three points in your mind, then there's really no reason for you not to achieve the things that you need to achieve, as long as you're willing to follow point three, which is work hard and persevere.
I would love to leave the listeners with where they can potentially see what you're doing online, see where your business is going, and see how they can follow what you're doing with your book and all the things that you've got going on. What's the best place for people to reach out to you and learn more about what you're doing?
Brent: My website is brentgleesonspeaker.com. That gives the listener more information about my background, the types of organizations I have spoken to all over the world. I speak anywhere from 70 to 100 times a year and I'm really passionate about sharing many of the things, quite frankly, that we've been talking about today, to those audiences. As you can imagine, by the nature of that I do a lot of annual sales meetings, whether it's talking about how we did in 2017 or focusing on lofty goals in 2018. Again, it's not just about motivation. I don't particularly care for the term "motivational speaker". Yes, I aim to motivate and inspire, but motivation is fleeting and motivation is not self-discipline. Discipline, accountability and resiliency are the qualities that are going to help anybody who is listening achieve the goals that they're trying to set.
My site is brentgleesonspeaker.com. You can follow me on twitter just @brentgleeson, and my new book, Taking Point, is coming out Feb 20. You can pre-order it now on Amazon or any of the other retailers. You can look it up on Amazon or you can get there through my website. One point I do want to make, though, that's important to me and important to those that will buy the book, and a lot of it is what we talked about today, but a large portion of those proceeds are going to the SEAL Family Foundation. I'm on the executive board of that foundation and we support the families of our fallen, injured, and active duty SEAL Operators. Our main mission is family resiliency, so creating healthy warriors and therefore healthy marriages, healthy families, and supporting our Special Operators because they support us every single day.
Mark: Fantastic. That is a worthy cause. For the listeners, I'll be linking out to all of those sites in the show notes, so no worries if you didn't catch any of that. I'll make sure that you have all the URLs so that you can access any of that. Thank you so much, Brent, for spending time with me today. I really, really appreciate it. I love what you're doing and I love the inspiration that you're providing to people and to businesses. Looking forward to catching your book when it comes out and look forward to doing this again soon sometime.
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