Recently I had the honor of hosting a team building and communication training session for the sales group from Innovative/HAT Contract. This dynamic group was seeking to build upon the lessons learned from the Washington Leadership program, which they participated in last year. During that one-day session, we explored Washington’s leadership style and how our nation’s first commander-in-chief nurtured a winning team.

Now, we were turning the tables and talking about what causes team dysfunction. For this, we reviewed Patrick Lencioni’s “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” and then dove into the successes, failures, and lessons learned from the historic 1863 Battles of Chattanooga.

For those not familiar with these battles, they were a key turning point in the Civil War. The Union’s success, led by General U.S. Grant, opened up a gateway to the Deep South and marked the death knell of the Confederacy. The victories also propelled Grant to the highest level of military leadership, and ultimately the presidency only a few years later.

We spent the day onsite at key (and scenic!) locations where these momentous events took place, including Lookout Mountain, Orchard Knob, Missionary Ridge, and the Chattanooga National Cemetery.

While there were many takeaways for immediate workplace application, here are a few worth noting.

Tip #1: Communication is Key for Conflict Resolution: A major reason for the Confederate failure at Chattanooga was due to a leadership conflict between the two primary generals, Braxton Bragg and James Longstreet. Conflict is inevitable in the workplace, but it’s how you deal with it that makes the difference. The situation between Bragg and Longstreet got so bad that they simply stopped communicating. A major no-no.

Takeaway: We discussed the importance of knowing if you’re a conflict-seeker or conflict-avoider and how to use that self-knowledge to shape your actions and reactions when conflict arises. Tips for using professional dialog as a means of finding solutions were also discussed.

From the top of Lookout Mountain overlooking downtown Chattanooga, we reviewed the volatile relationship between Confederate Generals Braxton Bragg and James Longstreet. We found ways to find strategic alignment and effectively communicate to address interpersonal conflict.

Tip #2: Take Care with Your Communication: Grant was a hard-charging man of action, and those traits were on full display in Chattanooga. Yet, at perhaps the battles’ most critical point, Grant issued hasty orders that were both misguided and delivered verbally, causing widespread confusion. This careless communication could have led to the complete and unnecessary slaughter of 20,000 men ordered to attack the Confederate rifle pits at Missionary Ridge.

Takeaway: Even when we are stressed and under pressure, it’s essential to take time and care with your communication. While lives might not be on the line, sloppy communication will not only lead to ineffectiveness but also a disengaged or demotivated workforce. And, we can never assume the message we send is the one that is heard!

“Even when we are stressed and under pressure, it’s essential to take time and care with your communication.”

Tip #3: Little Things Matter: In addition to its leadership dysfunction, the Confederate Army of Tennessee lost the battles due to an extreme inattention to detail. For months, the rebels had been in siege mode, holding the high ground surrounding Chattanooga and attempting to choke off the Union supply lines entering the city. When Grant forced the action, the rebels were still in a siege posture, not a defensive posture. Bragg’s army had neglected to build earthworks or effectively reposition their cannon to repel Grant’s men who charged up the slope of Missionary Ridge.

Takeaway: Attention to detail matters, even in your communication. This means being aware of your posture, your non-verbal cues, and even the tone of your voice—all of which can have an impact on those you work with. Attention to detail also means saying “thank you” and showing gratitude—both when those things are expected, and even when they are not!

Spaulding Communications and Innovative/HAT Contract teamed up to donate a portion of the Battle of Chattanooga training session proceeds to the Wounded Warriors Project.

It’s always fun and educational working with this team! I am equally thrilled that they matched the $500 donation Spaulding Communications contributed from the proceeds of the training to the Wounded Warriors Project.

I applaud Innovative/HAT Contract’s commitment to team training and to helping our military veterans!

If you’re interested in learning more about the Battle of Chattanooga training program, please feel free to contact me, or visit

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