Navy Seals and Employee Appreciation

“The only easy day was yesterday!”


There have been several movies recently about the Navy Seals and the raid on Osama bin Laden ( Zero-Dark Thirty and  Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden) as well as numerous magazine and newspaper articles.  The movies stirred up a lot of controversy for alleged breaches of confidential information as well as certain inaccuracies.

BUDsBut what cannot be denied is just how different a Navy Seal is from the average individual serving in the military.  These are the elite of the elite, the top 1/10th of 1 percent.  And if you have ever spoken with a member of the Navy Seals, then you quickly realise they are different from the rest of us, not just in their physical fitness and mission readiness, but also in the way they think and behave.

Navy Seals don’t require external recognition or appreciation.  They don’t need to be told they are doing a good job.  These men have a different psychological make-up.  The job is the reward.  Self-respect is the motivation.  The mission is the motivation.  The team is the motivation.  Their drive and motivation is internally induced, not external. The world of the Navy Seal is a very special, one-off world and this is the type of psychological make-up required for success, and survival.

Then there are the rest of us; the “normal” people, who, especially in the work environment, are more motivated and perform better with external appreciation and recognition.

Employee Appreciation:

Numerous studies by the Gallop Group and several universities and consulting firms all point to the business benefits of employee recognition and appreciation.

  • Increased individual productivity – the act of recognizing desired behavior increases the repetition of the desired behavior, and therefore productivity. This is classic behavioral psychology.
  • Greater employee satisfaction and enjoyment of work – more time spent focusing on the job and less time complaining.
  • Direct performance feedback for individuals and teams is provided.
  • Higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers.
  • Teamwork between employees is enhanced.
  • Retention of quality employees increases – lower employee turnover.
  • Better safety records and fewer accidents on the job.
  • Lower negative effects such as absenteeism and stress.

Yet I often hear senior executives react in the following ways: “We will recognize and appreciate that team when the task is over.  It’s too early in the game to give appreciation; they haven’t accomplished much yet.”  Or this statement: “If we give them recognition now they will just slack off!”

Leadership lesson:  Your employees are NOT Navy Seals.

They are real people like you and me and recognition for effort and ideas along the way, handshakeis motivational.  In many work environments where employees are distanced from the “mission” or “purpose” of the business or distanced from the actual customer or end-user, recognition and appreciation is a critical part of the performance and productivity equation.

Unless you have been hiring only former Navy Seals, I suggest you review your beliefs about employee appreciation and recognition.

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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4 Responses to Navy Seals and Employee Appreciation

  1. Frank Tempesta says:


    An extreme example of what you suggest is Ben Zander’s approach of giving everyone an ‘A’ at the beginning of an endeavor. He also asks those to whom he gives an ‘A’ to write/project ahead on why they will have deserved an ‘A’ at the end of the endeavor.



  2. Raunak says:

    John, I have been guilty of not always appreciating the fact that motivation works in different ways for different people. I belong to the group that does not look for appreciation from others to motivate myself. Its a challenge that motivates me and not the reward. I realized very early in my career that it was a mistake to think that everyone else thinks the same way and if they don’t then they must. I guess I inherited this thinking from the Army family I grew up in.
    Managers should not view employee appreciation as a “soft skill” or compulsion but as an effective objective tool. In recent times I have realized how it can be used to yield desired results.It should be hard-wired into project management.


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