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How to Value People and Empower Teams

The "V" in the SERVE Model

By Bruce Witt    [Tweet This Article]

(Editor’s Note: This article shares content from Bruce Witt’s upcoming book, SERVE: The Five Leadership Disciplines for Extraordinary Results. Due for release in Fall 2016.)

When developing leaders we need to answer the following basic questions of Why, How, and What. We’re continuing a detailed dialogue about The SERVE model that we use in training scenarios around the world connects with all three of these elements.

The Hunt for Osama Bin Laden - The Navy Seals Team at Work

Shortly after eleven o’clock on the night of May 1st, two MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters lifted off from Jalalabad Air Field, in eastern Afghanistan, and embarked on a covert mission into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden. Inside the aircraft were twenty-three Navy seals from Team Six, The raid was scheduled for a time with little moonlight so the helicopters could enter Pakistan "low to the ground and undetected".

As they hovered above the target, however, the first helicopter experienced a hazardous airflow condition known as a vortex ring state. The helicopter's tail grazed one of the compound's walls, damaging its tail rotor, and the helicopter rolled onto its side. With the Black Hawk pitched at a forty-five-degree angle astride the wall, the crew sent a distress call to the idling Chinooks.

The pilot quickly buried the aircraft's nose to keep it from tipping over. The helicopter landed outside the compound and the SEALs scaled the walls to get inside. The SEALs advanced into the house, breaching walls and doors with explosives. The interior of the house was pitch dark, because CIA operatives had cut the power to the neighborhood. Robert O’Neill, who later publicly identified himself as the SEAL who shot bin Laden, rolled through the door and confronted bin Laden inside the bedroom. Seymour Hersh reports that, according to his sources, Bin Laden was found cowering and shot dead.

Select, Know, Care

The United States Navy's Sea, Air and Land Teams, commonly known as the Navy SEALs, are the U.S. Navy's primary special operations force and a component of the Naval Special Warfare Command. Among the SEALs' main function is to conduct small-unit maritime military operations. In total it can take over 2.5 years to completely train a Navy SEAL for his first deployment.

The selection process is unbelievable. Before getting accepted into Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, a prospective candidate must pass a certain number of both mental and physical requirements. These tests include: Pre-enlistment medical screening and physical screening test. SEAL training is extremely rigorous. The attrition rate fluctuates, but averages at about 80 percent. However, it is not uncommon for BUD/S classes to see up to 90% of the students wash out.


The Navy Seals act as small units or teams that are functional, mobile, and empowered. They train and work so hard together that the teamwork is at its very highest level. They have specific roles and different responsibilities in the team yet act as one. The Osama story illustrates this.


Among the SEALs' main function is to conduct small-unit maritime military operations. Throughout this time the amount of coaching and guidance is remarkable.

Value your People

When something or someone is valued, it is held to be precious or of high worth. It is treasured and sought after and often times very rare. This is exactly how great leaders feel and treat their people – a precious and rare resource that needs to be protected and invested in rather than used or milked.

People are your great resource and they are the ones who will deliver the service and results. All people (customers and workers) need to feel cared for. Teamwork empowers people through knowing their strengths and engaging them accordingly. Create a caring community of mutual respect and trust. Keep organization flat. Valued people will value others including the customer.

Remember these Best Practices:

- Select, Know, & Care for your People

- Empower the Team

- Coach your People

Next month, we’ll take a closer look at how to align, people, work, and mission to execute your process in the workplace (the “V” in SERVE). In the meantime, please share your comments in this post – thank you