On the Battlefield or in the Boardroom, “Wait” is a Four-Letter Word

(*Guest blog post by Justin Berkenstock)

One of the hottest topics in today’s business world flying around management meetings and among recruiting teams is focused on how to locate and hire employees who can perform under high stress and pressure. People spend thousands of dollars annually going to symposiums and lectures that talk about this very topic. Professional sports teams employ sports psychologists to help their athletes get past mental barriers in an effort to guide better stress-based decision making.

Let’s take a moment to break it down “Barney style” (as we always said in Marine Corps). The military trains for this very thing in every evolution and exercise. It can be boiled down to one simple overall idea – train to make decisions rather than overthink the options. In other words: teach people to just act.

One question I get asked nearly every time someone wants to pick my brain about my combat experience is this: “How could you possibly make the decisions when lives are on the line?” For me, the answer is usually quite simple and I usually get an incredibly sideways look in return. I simply say: “It is really easy, I merely made a decision based on what I felt was the right decision to make.” In short, I followed my instincts that were developed over countless hours of repetitive training and picked what was apparent to be the most positive outcome.

We can break this down even further to an almost instinctual level by simply saying that the decision itself isn’t as critical as the act of making the decision in the first place. For example, in a combat environment the worst thing you can do when you start taking fire is to stay in the same place and think through your options. Instead you assess the situation, move to cover and return fire in an instant. Left, right, forward or diagonal at that point is almost irrelevant compared to the alternative of not making a decision, which usually leads to lives lost. In that incredibly short span of time you have just made several decisions based on the facts at hand to reveal the best possible outcome in your minds’ eye. In the military, we make quick, decisive decisions and follow through with immediate action.

This idea relates directly to the business world. While decisions are not necessarily a matter of life and death, however they can change and influence critical business results. Every day in the business world an individual is presented with several opportunities that can be decided upon or left unchallenged. The person who makes decisions — regardless of whether they are right or wrong — will always excel over the person who waits.

For us at HicksPro, wait is a four-letter word. For example, take a person “A” who makes 100 decisions in a week and gets 60 of them right. One might say they are only right 60 percent of the time. While this might be true they have also learned 40 things that were wrong and will be able to make the right decision on that topic moving forward thus increasing their hit rate for correct answers. Now take person “B” who given the same circumstances makes only 20 decisions in that same one week time span and they get 15 of them right. One might argue that they are correct 75 percent of the time, however they have made 45 less actionable decisions in the week and passed up the opportunity to improve on all the others they could have at least attempted but may have gotten “wrong.” In other words, person “B” has missed out on a large number of opportunities to grow and be better positioned to make those decisions in the future.

So what does this all mean for recruiting teams and hiring managers? I for one would much rather have a person on my team who is not afraid to act. A person who isn’t afraid to move on a decision and assess the outcomes as they trickle down. While it may not always be 100 percent the correct decision, they will fall back on their experience and training and follow what instinct tells them to do. This is just another key factor in the wide array of benefits that a veteran candidate brings into any organization. Even better, veterans are familiar with training and putting in countless hours of effort to ensure that when the time comes to make these critical decisions, the likelihood of a positive outcome is increased many times over.

I’d love to hear your input on this topic or further the discussion. Feel free to contact me at jberkenstock@hickspro.com or 925-299-4049.

*Authored by Justin Berkenstock, HicksPro Veteran Programs Account Manager

Justin served four years in the United States Marine Corps as an infantry machine gunner and vehicle commander/team leader where he achieved the rank of Sergeant with a heavy weapons platoon called CAAT (Combined Anti-Armor Team) with 2nd Battalion 1st Marines, Weapons Company. He was in from 2003 to 2007 during which time he had two combat tours to Iraq in support of operations Vigilant Resolve, Iron Hammer and Steel Curtain; he was awarded a Purple Heart for wounds received in December of 2005.

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