The skills employees must have (that veterans already do!)


By Chad Storlie

Veterans come equipped with military skills that CEOs want their employees to have.

The New York Times has been running a series of CEO interviews in the Corner Office column for a number of years.  In the Corner Office column, CEOs describe what they are looking for in terms of passion, creativity, work skills, strategy, and vision to develop their business and create the next generation of business leader in their company.

One of the interesting trends in these interviews is that nearly all the CEOs discuss important business and character skill sets that the military uses without knowing they are core military attributes.

Below are examples of what these CEOs say and which military skill set supports these CEOs.  This is a great proof statement to the value of military skills in business when the military skills and character attributes are translated into usage, methods, and terms of the company and industry workplace culture.

Encourage employee initiative and responsibility

Interview With Angie Hicks, Co-Founder And Chief Marketing Officer Of Angie’s List.

Q:  What other leadership lessons do you have?

A: I’ve learned to trust folks more. I truly enjoy my managerial experience today more than I ever have. You hire good people, give them the opportunity to do what they need to do, and have a good rapport. You have to invest the time in that.

Military Skill: The Mission Statement (5 W’s – Who, What, Why, Where, and When) and the Commander’s Intent (the statement that fully describes what a successful mission looks like) are key military skills that encourage initiative.  A business plan ultimately has to adapt to changes in the marketplace, completion, customers, and other external factors, such as the economy.  When leaders and employees all know and understand what success looks like, and then they can fully adapt and adjust as market conditions change to achieve the business plan.

Make your organization better

Interview With Laura Yecies, Chief Executive Of Sugarsync, An Online Storage Service.

Q. Tell me how your leadership style has evolved.

A. As you manage and work with more people, you tend to see patterns and get used to different work styles. With more experience, you can more quickly notice when someone is struggling and what they need help with. Do they need more structure? Do they need more help with planning projects? It’s one of the things I really like about managing people — the teaching element, and giving feedback. If you think about it, in an academic setting people expect to get feedback. You’re there to learn. You’re there to improve. If the teacher gives you a B, without any specifics, that’s not an acceptable situation. But that dynamic happens a lot in the workplace.

Military Skill: In the military, everyone, from enlisted to NCOs to commissioned officers are expected to be a teacher.  In business and most corporations, teaching and training are seen to be an HR function that has no place in the day-to-day execution of achieving business results.  Corporations have it wrong and need to learn from the military.  Every business activity on a daily basis is a place to train leaders, peers, and subordinates how to be better.  The use of coaching, team leadership, and the military performance counseling session are all great tools to train and teach in a corporate setting.

Be fearless in the face of risk and failure

Interview With Ursula Burns, CEO Of Xerox.

Q: How do you encourage employees to take risks and be fearless?

A: “One of the things that I characterize as fearlessness is seeing an opportunity, even though things are not broken,” said Ursula M. Burns, the C.E.O. of Xerox. “Someone will say: ‘Things are good, but I’m going to destabilize them because they can be much better and should be much better. We should change this.’ The easiest thing to do is to just keep it going the way it’s going, especially if it’s not perfect but it’s not broken. But you have to be a little bit ahead of it, and you have to try to fix it well before you have to. Companies get into trouble when they get really complacent, when they settle in and say, ‘O.K., we’re doing O.K. now.’ “

Military Skill: Two of the best ways to perform in the face of adversity is to use a systematic method to assess the competition so you truly understand what the competition is doing.  Once you understand the competition and their goals, use the After Action Review (AAR) or debrief process to fully evaluate your performance and then create improvement plans to sustain and improve your organization’s performance in critical functions.  An organization that keeps on close eye on the competition while simultaneously engaging the entire team in the process to improve the organization is one that is taking risks to improve and being fearless in the face of the competition.

Be accountable for results

Interview With Laura Yecies, Chief Executive Of Sugarsync, An Online Storage Service.

Q. Tell me about some of the rules of the road at your company.

A. Accountability is important. I don’t like to chase people down, but I will if I have to, and I remember if they say they’re going to do something. I want people to know they’re responsible and they need to be that way with their team. If you say something, it’s a commitment.

Military Skill: The time-tested small unit leadership techniques of setting a Task-Condition-Standard as well as a due date/time are perfect for corporate America.  Indeed, the use of the Task-Condition-Standard encourages initiative and learning because peers and subordinates understand what is required.  Finally, tested and simple military techniques such as taking a notebook to a meeting, doing a brief back to the boss, and immediate reporting on success and failures directly to the boss all emphasize results and responsibility.

Be confident in the face of adversity

Interview With Jen-Hsun Huang, CEO Of Nvidia.

Q: How do you assess confidence and performance in the face of adversity?

A: “You can never really tell how somebody deals with adversity. When you have a difficult situation, some people just take it and run with it. Some people see adversity and they cower, as talented as they are. You could ask them about the adversity they had in the past, but you never really know the intensity of that adversity.”

Military Skill: Describing adversity and the high, consistent performance through adversity is essential in interviews.  The best method to do this is to have 1-2 well practiced stories how you learned, grew, and triumphed through an adverse situation.  You need to use the S-T-A-R format of describing the SITUATION, describing the TASK to be accomplished, laying out your ACTIONS to accomplish the task, and using metrics / statistics to describe the RESULTS.  The use of a successful outcome in adversity using the S-T-A-R format is a winner.  Finally, be sure to paint a vivid picture that anyone can understand even if they are not a veteran or have no experience in the industry or culture.

Chad StorlieChad is the author of two books: (1) Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and (2) Battlefield to Business Success.  Chad’s brand message is that organizations & individuals need to translate and apply military skills to business because they immediately produce results and are cost effective.  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.   Chad is also an adjunct Lecturer of Marketing at Creighton University and Bellevue University in Omaha, NE.  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 over 80 publications including The Harvard Business Review blog, Business Week Online, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, and USA Today.  He has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.

One Comment

  1. But there are a lot of companies in the USA that just use veteran’s experience and the toss them to the curb when they get a little older.

Leave a Reply