Military Skills Are Invaluable for Mastering Work Place Change

Military Skills Are Invaluable for Mastering Work Place Change


The business and global news today is both inspiring to discover how companies are creating vast new opportunities and simultaneously grim when the list of re-organizations and drastic workforce changes are announced. For those of us in middle management or on the workplace floor, how do we best adapt to the changes in the business world and successfully lead those around us? The answer lies in employing military leadership skills of: (1) Leading by Example, (2) Communicating a common vision with progress, (3) Exercising initiative to find and solve problems, (4) Training and sharing best practices within the organization, and (5) Being able to admit and communicate a mistake. 


Here are 5 military leadership skills you can use for work place change:


1. Leading by Example During Change. How do you personally represent yourself during a time of change? Do you set the example? Give 100% to solve problems? Always look for a way to find a solution? Or do you gossip? Find ways to look busy and not fully embrace the required changes? Leadership by example means setting the example in all things and doing it consistently every day even when none of your superiors are watching. Leadership by Example during times of change is ESSENTIAL because fellow employees are inspired when they see others set the example.


2. Communicating a Common Vision & Progress Achieved. During times of change, fear can reign. Don’t let it. One of the best ways to reassure people is to communicate a common vision and then show how your team is helping the company’s progress towards its goals. This progress meeting should be a 1-2 times a month meeting that should include as many people as possible and it should be a consistent agenda. In the meeting, show how your team’s vision, mission, and activities support the company and then also show firm metrics of customer satisfaction, cost savings, or other significant measures of what your team has done in the last few weeks to support the company. Keep this meeting short, 30 minutes or less, make sure everyone leaving the meeting knows what is important and what they need to do to keep change and progress happening.


3. Exercising Initiative to Find and Solve Problems. During times of change, people often “freeze up” and decide the best action is to take no action. The wait and see approach. By communicating a common vision and progress, you set the stage for your team and fellow employees to take more, not less, action so they find and take their own steps to solve company problems. You may be the best business leader ever, but your impact will be minimal unless you can inspire others to find problems that hurt the companies change efforts and then be the leaders in developing and implementing solutions to those problems. 


4. Training and Sharing Best Practices within Your Organization. Sharing best practices is a great way to highlight your team’s actions during times of change. If your company is finding ways to reduce costs and maintain current service levels, share a method that your team discovered to reduce energy costs off hours. Have you found an old piece of technology that no one uses anymore? What are those cost savings? Sharing with the entire organization allows the entire organization to benefit. Use initiative to find, test, and implement those great ideas and then share them with others.


5.  Being Able to Admit & Communicate a Mistake. Changing times and business conditions are difficult for both leaders and fellow employees. If you are doing things right, mistakes will happen. That is a guarantee. What matters are how leaders react and show strength when they highlight and admit a mistake to the entire team. Remember, your fellow employee’s and team members already know if you made a mistake. What matters is when you admit that mistake and show how you are going to correct it. Additionally, showing team members what you learned from your mistakes goes to extraordinary lengths to train and develop new team members.


Times of change that require large adaptations by the company are very challenging – no doubt about it. By employing military leadership skills of: (1) Leading by Example, (2) Communicating a common vision with progress, (3) Exercising initiative to find and solve problems, (4) Training and sharing best practices within the organization, and (5) Being able to admit and communicate a mistake you can turn challenge into opportunity. Change and sometimes massive change will always be with us. By translating and applying military leadership skills to business and career use, we can take some of the best skill sets from the military to help us succeed.


Have something to add to this story? Share your advice in the comments below.


About the blogger:
Chad Storlie is the author of two books: Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and Battlefield to Business Success. Both books teach how to translate and apply military skills to business. An adjunct Lecturer of Marketing at Creighton University and Bellevue University in Omaha, NE. Chad is a retired US Army Special Forces officer with 20+ years of Active and Reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units. He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the United States. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab. In addition to teaching, he is a mid-level marketing executive and has worked in marketing and sales roles for various companies, including General Electric, Comcast, and Manugistics. He has been published in The Harvard Business Review blog, Business Week Online, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, and over 40 other publications. He has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.

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Col. Dan

One of the skills that tranlates to civilian life is teh ability to follow through and get the job done. This is a skill that everyone in the Military had or learned and carried for their entire career.

The older I get, I understand just how important reading and writing become. Learning to read heavy texts and stories and learning to write "so you cannot be misunderstood" are skills I learned in post-college education and in the service is where I really learned to write. Never underestimate either one in your ability to shape and define problems, convey those issues to others, and be able to synthesize what you learned from the problem. Attend schools where writing is championed and learn to ready technical things as "they" always know more than you do.