Be brilliant at the basics —If you do the fundamentals the best in the world when pressure comes you will execute.
I had the pleasure to interview Shannon Sturgil. Shannon is the head of Power Systems Sales at Siemens, one of the company’s senior leaders in the energy business. Shannon is also an Army veteran, spending most of his service as an Army Ranger in the 3rd Ranger Battalion. Shannon joined the military in the early 90s, leaving Iowa State University after the start of Desert Storm. He knew he wanted to focus his time in the military on Special Ops, so pursued ranger training. While stationed at Fort Benning, Shannon was a member of C Company. He narrowly missed being called into action — the experience of his fellow A & B Company Rangers who went into battle became infamous via the book-turned-movie “Black Hawk Down”. Shannon left the military after four years of service and has risen to a senior leadership role within Siemens energy business. Shannon credits the military for many lessons he brings to his corporate experience including: the importance of small team leadership, a detailed level of planning and practice, the value of specialization and how to navigate challenges without a roadmap.
Thank you so much for joining us Shannon. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
I grew up in Louisville, KY. My parents divorced early which ultimately provided me with two unique sets of parents both of whom challenged me to be the best at whatever it was I chose to pursue. I was never the best student or athlete but always did my best to outwork others.
And what are you doing today? Can you share a story that exemplifies the unique work that you are doing?
Today I lead what I believe is the most unique Sales/Account Management team in Siemens. It is the only field team within Siemens that supports business units across multiple divisions within the company. The technical and commercial complexity within each of these groups makes leveraging value propositions to meet the needs of our clients a unique challenge.
Can you tell us a bit about your military background?
I left college early to join the Army in the early 90’s during Desert Storm 1 with a focus on serving my country in Special Operations. I accomplished my goal and was honorably discharged from service in the mid 90’s.
Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “take away” did you learn from that story?
During 1993 my Ranger Battalion was involved in the battle of Mogadishu. I was “lucky” to have not deployed into the battle. Having people I knew die in combat in their early 20’s then seeing what it did to those that returned mentally changed my perspective on how short life can be.
I’m interested in fleshing out what a hero is. Did you experience or hear about a story of heroism, during your military experience? Can you share that story with us? Feel free to be as elaborate as you’d like.
During that same battle I heard the story of Delta Force Staff SGT Shughart. The Blackhawk helicopter he was in was in was shot down. Instead of leaving another soldier behind in the crash he stayed and fought until his death.
Based on that story, how would you define what a “hero” is? Can you explain?
A true willingness to fight for others on your team cannot fight for themselves, whatever the cost.
Does a person need to be facing a life and death situation to do something heroic or to be called a hero?
No. To me it is the depth of the sacrifice or length of the commitment serving others.
Based on your military experience, can you share with our readers 5 Leadership or Life Lessons that you learned from your experience”? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Tough times come and go, tough people last — Statement made to motivate the team during a multi-day training exercise with little rest, through rough terrain, and in awful weather conditions.
- Be brilliant at the basics — Coaching provided to re-enforce if you do the fundamentals the best in the world (like move, shoot, and communicate), when pressure comes you will execute.
- Move with a purpose, but not out of control — Direction given during Close Quarters Combat Training designed to set a quick pace for room clearing.
- That which does not kill you makes you stronger — During the Ranger Indoctrination Program
- Find them, fix them, and finish them — Infantry Basic Training strategy that means locate the enemy, lay down suppressive fire to hold them in place, and then flank to kill.
Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare you for business? Can you explain?
100%. The Army has a variety of specialties: Delta, Green Berets, Rangers, Snipers, etc. Each has unique capabilities, but they are all Army. Think strategically first, plan exceedingly well, and implement tactically without flaws.
As you know, some people are scarred for life by their experience in the military. Did you struggle after your deployment was over? What have you done to adjust and thrive in civilian life that others may want to emulate?
As mentioned above I was not in combat so have not suffered in any way.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
System evaluations. The landscape of the Energy business is significantly changing due to predictive analytics, interconnected devices, and renewables technology. Leveraging the full capabilities of Siemens to deliver financial and environmentally sustainable results during a heavily challenged fossil generation business period due to flat load growth will make or break our business.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?
Start with aligning perspectives first then lead from the front through clearly articulated strategies and unrelenting work ethic.
What advice would you give to other leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Simplify your focus, overcommunicate, and stick to the plan. For myself it was become the best in the areas of “people, process, and coverage”.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I was a hard worker but not very focused. My stepfather challenged me to change that then drove me to deliver on it.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I take pride in investing in my community, college, and family to help those who are willing to put in the hard work be successful.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I’m not sure about great influence, but if I can provide my 113 person team with a rewarding and challenging career that allows them to be the very best versions of themselves in their own families and communities then I’ve succeeded.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
You have to train tough to be tough…It helps me find the energy every day to get up and take on any challenges that come my way.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Tony Robbins. I would like to truly understand his views on leadership and how he maintains such a high level of positive energy through intense focus on his goals day to day.