Rich Diviney | How to Improve Leadership Skills + Teamwork in the Workplace

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Find Your Attributes With Rich Diviney | How to Improve Your Leadership Skills

High-performing teamwork in the workplace includes strong leadership skills and a deep sense of trust, but how do you get to that point?

Bestselling author, leadership & human performance expert and retired Navy SEAL commander Rich Diviney has a different and refreshing approach to teamwork in the workplace. He believes that attributes are the key to building high-performing teams, which he outlines in his book, The Attributes: 25 Hidden Drivers of Optimal Performance. Diviney draws on his 20+ year career as a Navy SEAL Officer–where he completed more than 13 overseas deployments–and currently speaks and consults on how to improve your leadership skills, high-performing teams, assessment & selection, and optimal performance.

We were lucky enough to find a gap in his busy schedule for him to join ICONIC LIFE Publisher Renee Dee on the ICONIC Life Podcast where he shared how his experiences have shaped his life and how he’s using the knowledge he has gained to change the world.

Let’s take it back to the beginning. Diviney was in the Navy ROTC program at Purdue University where he graduated from in 1996. About two years after graduation he got his first command in Hawaii–we must admit we are a little jealous! He began in SEAL Team 2 but once the tragic events of September 11 happened the world got crazy and kinetic which led Diviney down his path of leadership.

“I had the opportunity to hold many leadership positions at many SEAL Commands, specifically one of our specialized SEAL Commands where I did most of my work and ran the training selection course,” Diviney explained as he looked back on his start in the Navy. “But [I was] also deployed a bunch of times, learned a lot, got really interested in performance and why and how people perform the way they do; and that’s kind of been my driver.”

A challenge Diviney and his teams faced was being able to effectively articulate why certain guys weren’t making it through the rigorous training program. And not just any guys, but those who were seen as some of the top guys in the program. It wasn’t as simple as being able to write it off as them not being a good shooter or skydiver, there was more to it. Diviney was tasked by his commanding officer to attempt to articulate this so he dove into performance and tried to find an answer to the questions: What is performance and what makes up performance?

“Thinking about my own pathway through training and up to that point you know SEAL training in Southern California is 6 months long, pretty brutal; you spend hundreds of hours running around with heavy boats on your head and hundreds of hours exercising with 200 pound telephone poles and running around with those things.” 

As Diviney thought back to the dozens of overseas combat missions he had under his belt at that point, he realized something that sparked something in his brain. 

“I had done thousands of training evolutions and I can tell you with certainty that never once did I ever carry a boat around on my head or a 300 pound telephone pole on my shoulder. And so what that told me is what they were doing to us in SEAL training had very little to do with training us in the things that people think of Navy SEALs.”


What he realized is that the shooting, skydiving and scuba diving training were designed to put them in environments and situations that would showcase qualities that weren’t extremely right in your face. Instead, these hidden qualities are what really told the story. Not only does this person know how to do the job, but does this person have what it takes to improve teamwork in the workplace

Here is where attributes come to play. Diviney realized that they needed to separate the performance they were seeing in these guys into attributes and skills, the visible versus the intangible. He began diving into these attributes and skills and realized that many times when people are measuring performance or picking teams they conflate the two and oftentimes prefer and focus on skills. 

And, there’s a distinct reason why: skills are highly visible and direct our behavior. We are not born with skills, but because they’re visible and easy to measure and assess, it’s easy to see why it becomes a crutch in a decision making process. “The problem is skills don’t show us how we’re going to show up and perform in uncertain challenges and stress. Because in an unknown environment it’s very difficult to apply skill,” Diviney explains. “This is where we lean on our attributes. Attributes are more innate. All of us are born with levels of patience, situation awareness and adaptability. Now, certainly, we can develop those over time and experience but you can see levels of this stuff in very small children which means there’s a nature and nurture element to attributes.”


To put it simply: rather than directing our behavior, attributes inform our behavior and tell us how we’re going to show up to a situation.

Diviney offers free Attributes Assessments on his website that measure Grit, Mental Acuity and Drive to show you how to improve your leadership skills and build a high-performing team in the workplace.

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