A Navy SEAL's Guide to Thriving in Close Quarters, Part 2: Engagement Tactics

How to engage with teammates and build bonds that make us unstoppable.

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By Alden Mills

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In my last article, I introduced to you the acronym R.E.M.O.T.E., which represents the six essential actions for operating in close quarters. Whether you are working inside a submarine (like I did) or inside an apartment, these R.E.M.O.T.E. actions will not only help you survive but also help you and your teammates thrive during these times.

To recap, the first action in R.E.M.O.T.E. is Routine, which is all about developing a structure to keep you focused via physical, professional and personal routines.

The second action is called Engage, and before I go into the details I want to share a brief story with you. One of the most well-known Navy SEAL training tests is called Hell Week. During this week of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training, candidates conduct around-the-clock drills doled out by three shifts of instructors, and are denied all but about three hours of sleep for the entire week.

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The attrition rate of BUD/Sis extremely high — and Hell Week accounts for a large percentage of the roughly 80% of candidates who drop out. After you make it through Hell Week, you are assigned a new swim buddy, someone who has also made it through Hell Week. Statistics show that those who remain engaged with their swim buddy have better chances for making it through the rest of SEAL training.

Do you know why?

Because when you engage with someone, you connect with them — you form a human connection that can empower you to do more than you originally thought possible. Engaging is about connecting emotionally not just electronically. Do not mistake "connectivity" with "connection." Today, we have the highest level of connectivity in the history of the human race. But guess what other historical highs we have: suicide and addiction rates. When we build human connection, we feel more connected with each and begin a shift from selfishness to selflessness. But that only happens when we commit to truly connecting with each other. When we share our ups and downs, when we cry and laugh about our sufferings and joys, when we make ourselves vulnerable and transparent, we build bonds that can help us be unstoppable...together.

Engage Rule 1: Be present

When operating in close physical quarters, you may be physically close to family all day long, but that's not nearly as important as being emotionally and mentally close, i.e., being present. We have plenty of devices to distract us, so being present requires proactiveness, such as putting your phone into airplane mode or closing your laptop. When you sit for a meal, shut down TVs, game stations and smartphones. You will have plenty of time with those devices later. The same focus on family presence holds true when engaging with your external teammates (those not in the same location as you). Nothing says "I don't care" more than someone multi-tasking during a videoconference call. In fact, now more than ever, your actions are magnified. When we operate remotely, the time you spend conferencing with others is limited, and so it is critical to make each moment count by staying present. Give yourself time before each virtual meeting to clear your distractions and collect your thoughts. Your teammates will appreciate your presence and so will your business!

Engage Rule 2: Safety first

Crisis occurs when the certainty of our daily lives is abruptly replaced with uncertainty. We find ourselves in a reactive state and naturally switch our focus inward toward taking inventory of our current situation, (i.e. we become selfish.) Safety becomes the no. 1 focus. Now, everyone deals with uncertainty differently — what may not seem like a big deal to you could mean the world to some else. Seek to understand what safety means to your colleagues. Safety is not a one-size-fits-all definition. Make learning about their safety needs your first priority. I guarantee you that is all they are thinking about.

Related: 10 Ways to Engage Your Audience During an Important Meeting

Engage Rule 3: Humor, heart and then head

Conducting classified combat mini-submersible missions is exhilarating, exhausting and terrifying. To help lighten the mood just before launching a mission, teammates would come up with creative ways to make each other laugh. Moments before I left for a particularly grueling dive, a teammate cut the tension but singing out: "M-I-C….K-E-Y….M-O-U-S-E!" I laughed and then spent the next 12 hours humming that Disney tune to keep myself calm. The point is, use humor to get to peoples' hearts. And once you reach their hearts, you can help them reason with the work at hand. There is plenty of humor to share these days and it can be a powerful tool to connect people by putting their stress into perspective and reminding them that they are not alone.

Related: 5 Hyper-Efficient Ways Brands Can Engage Daily on Instagram

Engage at every opportunity

The hardest part of working remotely is dealing with isolation. We are social creatures by nature. Situational depression can quickly take root if we are not active at engaging both emotionally and mentally. When you put these three simple rules of engagement to work you will find yourself feeling closer and more committed to your family and teammates than ever before. The struggle that inherently comes with uncertainty can also make us stronger.

Stay tuned for Action #3 of R.E.M.O.T.E., and in the meantime, stay in the rhythm of Routine while putting the rules of Engage into daily practice!

Alden Mills

Entrepreneur, CXO Advisor, Navy SEAL, Author and Speaker

Alden Mills is a longtime entrepreneur, founder of Perfect Fitness, a three-time Navy SEAL platoon commander, speaker, and author of Unstoppable Teams.

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