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3 Hiring & Promoting tips the Army teaches us

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing an ex Australian Army Special Forces soldier. A real eye opener to say the least.

The calmness with which he spoke about events that would leave a normal person in the fetal position was, if nothing else, inspiring. Rapidly puts in perspective the challenges and woes us normal people have in our day to day lives.

You cut me off in traffic? Eh, not a problem, don’t worry about it…

It was during this interview, specifically focused on how the Army builds and leverages trust within it’s ranks, that three huge take-away’s came out. Things that every business could learn from the Army about hiring, promoting and team building.

No matter the size, type or location of the business, there’s something to be learnt for everyone.

1) Merit Based Hiring and No Promotions for 2 years

In the Australian Special Forces, when a soldier is placed (or promoted) into a new role, there is a strict “No Promotion inside 2 years” rule.

This is not something that gets bent, or is open to interpretation – it’s a no exceptions rule.

Which means, that when every soldier finds themselves in a new position, they know instantly that there is absolutely no chance of them getting promoted to a higher rank inside of two years.

Get on with the job

The result is, they simply get on with doing their job. There’s no internal politics, no white-ant’ing or back stabbing, they simply get on with doing their job as best they can.

Everyone is on their own timeline, so whilst you may have a peer soldier who is either slightly better or worse than you, it doesn’t matter because their timeline is different, their opportunity for promotion comes at a different time to you. Thus, you have no competition.

Ambitious Alpha Personalities

When you’ve got ranks full of alpha (fe)males, ambition generally runs pretty high!

Preventing promotion inside of two years means that even the most ambitious of soldiers simply cannot be promoted. So, the only option they have is to get down to business and be the best soldier they can be.

They’re promoted based on how good they are, not how ambitious they are.

Imagine applying that rule in your business. How much better would output be?

2) True Colours Under Extreme Stress

It’s an extremity that we in business cannot go to, but the story is there.

We’ve all heard of the training regimes that go into the upper echelons of army forces. The grueling courses, the lack of sleep, extreme conditions and minimalist diets.

On the face of it, to me at least, it sounds pretty unnecessary. However it serves a much higher purpose.

Out Fit the Fittest

When you’re dealing with the best of the best, their fitness levels tend to be pretty high!

Thus, their limits are pretty high. They can go high, far and long. So, to find out who really is the best of the best, you have to push them pretty hard! After all, if we’re talking about the special forces, you want the guys who can put up with the most.

As it happens, all this physical exhaustion isn’t actually to see how fit these people are. It’s to see how they behave under extreme stress. Think about it. When you’ve not slept well for days on end, do you behave the same way as you normally would? Of course not.

Behaviour Under Stress

The purpose of this training and testing is to see how these super fit athletes behave under extreme stress, because after all, it will actually happen in battle.

Some quit, some physically fail and some start to behave erratically. What you have left over is the guys you want to go into battle with.

Now, whilst we in business cannot have some extreme physical stress regime to test who will come out on top, there are a raft of tools available to us to help determine how a person will behave under stress.

It’s the best performer under stress that you probably want.

3) Team Building Actually works

As a special forces soldier, you’ve been through the basic training mentioned above. If you’re in the forces, you ‘beat’ it.

As a soldier, what that leaves you with is a bond between yourself and 4 or 5 other soldiers with whom you passed basic training.

They went through the same ‘hell’ that you did. They helped you through it, you helped them through it. Before you’ve even gone to war, you’ve formed a unit.

A Team is Born

As it happens, those 5 or 6 soldiers aren’t always posted together. They may go off to different units or companies, but the bond remains.

It’s a bond that they call upon both as soldiers and as humans. I was lucky enough to hear stories of soldiers who supported each other in battle not because they were in the same unit but because of the bond from basic training.

I also heard stories of those same soldiers supporting each other in daily life many years after leaving the force. In both good times and bad, those soldiers had a bond that was unbreakable.

Team Building Events Suck

Whilst most of us roll our eyes at team building events, the backwards trust falls, the group paintball events or the three day motivational speaker retreats, there is a theory in it.

Once a group of people have been through a ‘thing’ together, there is a commonality, a bond. Of course in the corporate world it can’t be some sort of grueling basic training but the theory remains. Building bonds between team members actually has genuine merit, if it’s done through shared adversity then it’s even stronger.


I know that as businesses we can’t go to the lengths that the military can, but the principles are exactly the same. As business managers we can all take something from those principles and apply them in our own way.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m off to polish my boots.

3 Hiring & Promoting tips the Army teaches us

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing an ex Australian Army Special Forces soldier. A real eye opener to say the least.

The calmness with which he spoke about events that would leave a normal person in the fetal position was, if nothing else, inspiring. Rapidly puts in perspective the challenges and woes us normal people have in our day to day lives.

You cut me off in traffic? Eh, not a problem, don’t worry about it…

It was during this interview, specifically focused on how the Army builds and leverages trust within it’s ranks, that three huge take-away’s came out. Things that every business could learn from the Army about hiring, promoting and team building.

No matter the size, type or location of the business, there’s something to be learnt for everyone.

1) Merit Based Hiring and No Promotions for 2 years

In the Australian Special Forces, when a soldier is placed (or promoted) into a new role, there is a strict “No Promotion inside 2 years” rule.

This is not something that gets bent, or is open to interpretation – it’s a no exceptions rule.

Which means, that when every soldier finds themselves in a new position, they know instantly that there is absolutely no chance of them getting promoted to a higher rank inside of two years.

Get on with the job

The result is, they simply get on with doing their job. There’s no internal politics, no white-ant’ing or back stabbing, they simply get on with doing their job as best they can.

Everyone is on their own timeline, so whilst you may have a peer soldier who is either slightly better or worse than you, it doesn’t matter because their timeline is different, their opportunity for promotion comes at a different time to you. Thus, you have no competition.

Ambitious Alpha Personalities

When you’ve got ranks full of alpha (fe)males, ambition generally runs pretty high!

Preventing promotion inside of two years means that even the most ambitious of soldiers simply cannot be promoted. So, the only option they have is to get down to business and be the best soldier they can be.

They’re promoted based on how good they are, not how ambitious they are.

Imagine applying that rule in your business. How much better would output be?

2) True Colours Under Extreme Stress

It’s an extremity that we in business cannot go to, but the story is there.

We’ve all heard of the training regimes that go into the upper echelons of army forces. The grueling courses, the lack of sleep, extreme conditions and minimalist diets.

On the face of it, to me at least, it sounds pretty unnecessary. However it serves a much higher purpose.

Out Fit the Fittest

When you’re dealing with the best of the best, their fitness levels tend to be pretty high!

Thus, their limits are pretty high. They can go high, far and long. So, to find out who really is the best of the best, you have to push them pretty hard! After all, if we’re talking about the special forces, you want the guys who can put up with the most.

As it happens, all this physical exhaustion isn’t actually to see how fit these people are. It’s to see how they behave under extreme stress. Think about it. When you’ve not slept well for days on end, do you behave the same way as you normally would? Of course not.

Behaviour Under Stress

The purpose of this training and testing is to see how these super fit athletes behave under extreme stress, because after all, it will actually happen in battle.

Some quit, some physically fail and some start to behave erratically. What you have left over is the guys you want to go into battle with.

Now, whilst we in business cannot have some extreme physical stress regime to test who will come out on top, there are a raft of tools available to us to help determine how a person will behave under stress.

It’s the best performer under stress that you probably want.

3) Team Building Actually works

As a special forces soldier, you’ve been through the basic training mentioned above. If you’re in the forces, you ‘beat’ it.

As a soldier, what that leaves you with is a bond between yourself and 4 or 5 other soldiers with whom you passed basic training.

They went through the same ‘hell’ that you did. They helped you through it, you helped them through it. Before you’ve even gone to war, you’ve formed a unit.

A Team is Born

As it happens, those 5 or 6 soldiers aren’t always posted together. They may go off to different units or companies, but the bond remains.

It’s a bond that they call upon both as soldiers and as humans. I was lucky enough to hear stories of soldiers who supported each other in battle not because they were in the same unit but because of the bond from basic training.

I also heard stories of those same soldiers supporting each other in daily life many years after leaving the force. In both good times and bad, those soldiers had a bond that was unbreakable.

Team Building Events Suck

Whilst most of us roll our eyes at team building events, the backwards trust falls, the group paintball events or the three day motivational speaker retreats, there is a theory in it.

Once a group of people have been through a ‘thing’ together, there is a commonality, a bond. Of course in the corporate world it can’t be some sort of grueling basic training but the theory remains. Building bonds between team members actually has genuine merit, if it’s done through shared adversity then it’s even stronger.


I know that as businesses we can’t go to the lengths that the military can, but the principles are exactly the same. As business managers we can all take something from those principles and apply them in our own way.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m off to polish my boots.

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2020-02-18T09:07:29+10:00