Backstage Interview: Know When To Rest

Are you willing to change the requirements to protect your team's effectiveness?


An exclusive backstage interview with Rorke Denver, from Leadercast Live 2015! Rorke speaks into the leadership lesson of recognizing when the “push” of continued long hours and arduous work begins to have a negative effect on team effectiveness, achievement, motivation, and accuracy.

It’s the responsibility of leaders, Rorke says, to know when to change the requirements or move the delivery date in order to support and protect those you lead.

Yeah, my team was in Iraq and we were on a very, very violent deployment and we had lost two of our teammates on that deployment, a lot of other guys injured. Very, very aggressive. Not like most of our deployments aren't, but this was a particularly powerful block of time. And I could tell that we had been going so hard as a team that we were starting to make little errors. There were just little things that I could see that were dropping off. Not as much focus on rehearsals before we'd go do a mission. On the mission, guys maybe forget gear or taking a cavalier attitude or something you can't manage that way.

So I could tell our team was kind of riding for a fall. We were ready for our crash and that, in our line of work, could be catastrophic. So I remember calling my boss, I called my commanding officer, I said "Hey, I think we're in a bad place. I know we have responsibilities, I know we have a deck of missions that we're responsible for. We need to take some time off." So actually he approved it and I got my team together as if we were about to launch on a mission. I blew that mission cold. We drove over to a chow hall that we almost never got to eat at, you get ice cream, pizza and good food, so we did that. And we honestly goofed off for three days.

Very, very different decision. I think not something that most people would do. We don't get taught to have a left-handed or off-handed softball game with your buddies so everyone looks like they're no longer an athlete. We had water balloon fights. We started attacking Marines with fighting positions of water balloons and they got involved and we just, honestly, unplugged for a little while. And you could just tell, and I think that's the job of the leader, is you have to know what your team is capable of, but also where they are in the moment. If that moment means take your foot off the gas as opposed to put your foot on the gas, then you've got to do it. And I was lucky to have a leadership team that supported me in that. They may still have thought it was new or different, but I knew it was what my team needed.

I think for the startup or the CEO is just to recognize that you probably have a larger context of what you're trying to achieve. But in the steps leading to whatever that ultimate goal is, you start breaking people, you start missing steps, you start getting ahead of yourself to the point where you're not going to perform, well then you've reduced your capacity to achieve what you're hoping to get to. So I think there's a premium on hard work and effort and time you put in, but there's also a price. So you have to be aware of what that price is. If that price gets too high then the value isn't there for the team. So you just have to manage that and you can't be scared and say, "Hey, we were supposed to be ready in October. If it's going to break my team to be ready in October, then let's push it to a month later."

Rorke Denver

Commander Rorke T. Denver, founder of Ever Onward, has run every phase of training for the U.S. Navy SEALs and led special-forces missions in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and other international hot spots. He starred in the ...

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