Business lessons from a Navy SEAL

Jeff Boss says he learned many lessons during his 13 years of service as a Navy SEAL that can be applied in the business world.

One of the biggest lessons is how to be adaptable to a changing and challenging environment.

Boss faced many such situations in the military. During his years of service, Boss was shot twice and experienced four parachute malfunctions. He received two Purple Hearts and four Bronze Stars with valor attachments.

“As a SEAL we operate in pretty complex situations,” he said. “Many times there wasn’t a clear answer. We had to forge them.”

Today, Boss is a business consultant, the founder of Adaptability Coach, a founding member of the SEAL Future Fund, a contributing writer to Fortune and Entrepreneur magazines and the author of a new book, “Navigating Chaos: How To Find Certainty In Uncertain Situations.”

Boss will speak at a Brookfield Chamber of Commerce event on Friday, May 1, from 7:30 to 9 a.m.at the Sheraton Milwaukee Brookfield Hotel, 375 S. Moorland Road, Brookfield.

Like many Navy SEAL veterans, Boss declined to provide details about his military service. He says he served eight deployments in combat zones in, “Iraq, Afghanistan and other places.”

When coaching business leaders on how to improve their adaptability skills, Boss tells them to examine their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strengths and weaknesses. Leaders should get an understanding of what their strengths are and use those skills to help solve problems, while also understanding the weak areas that they need to improve on, he said.

Working with a military unit also teaches teamwork skills that can be beneficial in a business setting, Boss said. Business leaders need to communicate to their employees to make sure they clearly understand the company’s mission and to understand their role and how and why their duties will help the company achieve its goals. Leaders must provide frequent follow-up communications to make sure the message is getting through, he said.

A lack of adequate communication is a common problem for businesses, Boss said.

“There is a lot of miscommunication or lack of communication about what the goals are,” he said.

When that happens, employees fill the vacuum of information with their own conclusions and then act on those, Boss said.

“People do what they think is right if they do not know,” he said. “Without information, people will create their own reality.”

Business leaders need to arm their employees with as much information as possible about the company’s goals, how the company is performing and the competitive landscape, Boss said.

Only with that information can employees make sound decisions and act in a timely manner to adapt to critical situations facing the business. Business leaders need to trust and empower their employees to handle situations that arise, Boss said.

“That sort of environment, that’s what ensures adaptability,” he said.

Andrew Weiland is managing editor at BizTimes Milwaukee.

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Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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