January 13, 2021

TWO IS ONE, ONE IS NONE

Written by Dan Bradley

Isn’t it kind of funny that the mistakes you regret the most tend to turn into the lessons that you value the most?

Here’s one of mine. As a young and inexperienced officer, I was training with my unit in northern New York. It was a late night in early November, which means two things – it was dark, as nights tend to be, and cold, like northern New York, almost always is. The primary tool I was training on that particular evening was my radio, and I felt that I had prepared my tool well – I had my channels and COMSEC (communications security codes) programmed, a well-packed rucksack, and a fully-charged battery, which I assumed would last me through the night.

If you know anything about how batteries work in the cold, you know how this will end.

Within a few hours of starting the training event, my radio started flashing a notification that my battery was low. “That can’t be right,” I thought. It was a brand-new fully charged battery, one that typically could last through the night. The freezing cold had drained entirely of it, and I found myself standing in the Adirondacks, in the dark, cold and alone, without my primary tool. I failed my training mission.

The word “embarrassed” doesn’t begin to capture how I felt at that moment. 

That night, I was introduced to the phrase “Two is One, One is None.” In my case, I had one battery, which quickly turned into no batteries and a lot of frustration. Had I possessed the foresight to add redundancy to a sole potential source of failure, I like to think I’d have passed that training mission with flying colors.

That’s all that redundancy is – FORESIGHT. Preparing something that’s not an immediate necessity, but you’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

How does it apply to your team winning the Talent War? 

How many jobs in your organization have the potential to become sole sources of failure? In other words, what roles can you not operate without? Some people might default to high-level leadership roles like President or CFO, but the most critical parts might not be the ones you think of right off the bat. For example, in my industry (commercial HVAC), our field technicians rely on our dispatcher to tell them where they’re going, who they’re meeting, and what work to perform when they arrive. No dispatcher, no communication, no work, no revenue, a lot of angry customers. What if the dispatcher quits without a redundancy plan in place? If they deserve a promotion to a new role, would you withhold that opportunity from them because they’re too necessary to move? Think about that. Could your lack of redundancy prevent you from taking proper care of the people who trust you to do right by them? 

People quit. People get promoted. People call in sick. People chase other opportunities. People take leaves of absence. There are hundreds of reasons that a role can end up vacant, both short-term and long-term. It’s not if – it’s when. Prepare better than I did – pack that extra battery and build redundancy into everything your organization does. 

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After graduating from the Air Force Academy, Dan served for over five years as an officer in the elite Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) community. He served both as a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) and as a Task Force Advisor on a 2018 deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. His expertise in selecting, developing, and leading effective small teams stems from his experiences as an Air Force Special Warfare Officer, both in training and in combat.
Dan partnered with the Talent War Group (formerly EF Overwatch) in 2019 and now works as the Director of Sales for Kahn Mechanical Contractors in Dallas, Texas. Dan holds a Master of Arts degree in Strategic Leadership from Saint Bonaventure University. He is passionate about mental health advocacy for the veteran community.

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