How Military Skills Demystify Corporate CultureCorporate culture is the spoken and unspoken; direct and indirect; internal and external; methods that a company uses to deliver products to their customers, returns to their owners, leadership to their employees, and results to their communities. Corporate culture is different in every company, usually different in distinct geographic areas, and is also influenced by the company’s history, financial position, and employee base.  Corporate culture is the soul or the essence of the company when they perform their work.  Corporate culture can be good or bad both in total and in part.


Military Culture vs. Corporate Culture. Corporate culture or company culture is one of the most difficult concepts for military veterans to understand.  This is due to a number of factors.  First, military veterans started their very first day in the military learning, understanding, and fiercely embodying their new culture.  For military veterans from any service and any time, dedication to their military service, their comrades, and the well-being of the country were the norms, not an exception.  Second, specific military units, aircraft carriers, ships, infantry, and special operations units all had their own unique reinforcement of the military culture.  From 1974 to the current US Army Ranger School class, the Ranger Creed beginning with, “Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of the Rangers.”  Just the first sentence of the Ranger Creed makes clear and plain what is expected of Rangers.  Third, when I was an Infantry Officer with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), it was expected that everyone in the Division was an Infantryman regardless of Military Occupation Specialty (MOS).  This part of the 101st culture came from its long combat history in World War II, Vietnam, and Desert Storm where the 101st was forced to fight surrounded and everyone became an Infantryman.


Despite the differences between military culture and corporate culture, there are several military skills that help define and understand corporate culture.


Military Veteran Tips to Understand Corporate Culture #1 – Observe, Observe, Observe. Observation, not discussion, is absolutely the best way to understand the culture of a company.  Use basic military reconnaissance skills to observe when do people arrive and depart to work, do people leave to run errands during the day, and what do people wear to work?  In addition, observe meetings – do they begin on time?  Does everyone share in the discussion?  Is there an agenda that is followed or not followed?  Are people free to offer suggestions and recommendations or do only a few people do the speaking?  Finally, look at outside the office behaviors.  Are people expected to respond to emails at all hours?  Do people use all of their vacation?  Do they eat lunch at their desks or outside the office?  Pure observation is the best way to get a quick understanding of corporate culture.


Military Veteran Tips to Understand Corporate Culture #2 – Silently Emphasize Individual Workplace Performance Characteristics. Demonstrating individual workplace characteristics such as being to work on time, haircut, professional appearance, note taking, and following up with assignments with your boss are all very good methods to use individual military workplace performance characteristics to stand out even before you have the culture all figured out.  Leadership by example is always in style and it is a continuous and well respected method to demonstrate your enthusiasm for the position.


Military Veteran Tips to Understand Corporate Culture #3 – Say Nothing About Your Company in Social Media & Blogs. In the military, it was expected the military personnel of all levels would write in blogs, Social Media, and other avenues to give ideas, suggestions, and recommendations how to improve problems.  As a general rule, only a few people within the company can discuss how the company is performing, what needs to be fixed, and how to fix it.  The best rule is to leave Social Media and blogging for personal interests only and stay well away from any comments about the company on Social Media.


Military Veteran Tips to Understand Corporate Culture #4 – Don’t Make Any Comparisons to Your Last Military Unit & Hold Off on Recommendations. In the military, it was a common practice during an After Action Review (AAR) or a Debrief to list ideas and problems that were solved in your last military unit or deployment.  At this point, just collect, develop, and hold your ideas to improve the company.  Once your fellow employees understand your background and how you solved problems in the military, they will be much more likely to be open and accept your suggestions.  Get established in the company culture and THEN offer suggestions.


Military Veteran Tips to Understand Corporate Culture #5 – Talk to Other Military Veterans How They Navigate Corporate Culture. Talk and network with other military veterans about how they came to understand, learn, and take advantage of the company’s corporate culture.  Talking to other military veterans who can help translate from the military culture to the corporate culture is invaluable.


Corporate culture is the soul or the essence of the company when they perform their work. Despite the differences between military culture and corporate culture, there are several military skills that help define and understand corporate culture.


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Chad Storlie is a Retired US Army Officer, the author of Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and has published 200 articles in 100 publications on career, business, strategy, education, financial planning, and national security topics.  Chad excels as an author, mentor, speaker, and teacher showing business leaders and military veterans how military skills make lives, careers, and businesses better.  Chad is an adjunct Professor of Marketing at Creighton University.  Chad has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.  Follow Chad @CombatToCorp and


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