Seven Business Lessons from the Military

If you are connected with  me on Facebook or Twitter,
you probably know that I recently saw my brother off as he deployed to
Afghanistan. A part of the weekend was spent at a deployment ceremony
for his unit, and the other part consisted of my asking a lot of
questions about what he does, what military life is like, etc.
Somewhere along the way, I was struck by the way things worked – and
how more civilian businesses could learn a lesson or two from these
government-run entities.

Here are seven takeaways of what I think more businesses could emulate from the military:

1) Respect - the military demands it and has little tolerance when it’s not in place. I think businesses could use more of this discipline. Demand it from your employees, provide it to your colleagues and boss, insist on it from your clients. If you don’t get it, ensure consequence to force change. It may be impossible to like everyone you work with, but you can – and should – show them respect.

2) Recognition – you’ve seen the uniforms and badges. It’s about recognizing, rewarding and promoting hard work. What “badges” do you give to your employees for a job well done? Make sure there are opportunities in place for employees to be recognized, rewarded and promoted.

3) Paying Dues/Earning Your Position – recognition doesn’t come without hard work. The military has very definitive goals and milestones laid out from position to position. There’s little question as to what needs to be accomplished in order to earn your pay grade and title. Employers – are you clearly communicating expectations and milestones? Employees – do you understand and respect the process? Ask questions if you don’t, and work hard to earn your dues – understanding that doing so means much  more than simply passing another anniversary with the company.

4) Why Hierarchy Works – The “everybody wins” mentality from grade school just doesn’t work in business. Hierarchies are in place for a reason – someone’s got to steer the ship and make the decisions. Don’t look at it as a negative, but embrace your role and respect others. And let it inspire you to do #3.

5) The Importance of Ceremony – marking not only accomplishments but rituals that honor the unit as a whole. I think we could use more “ceremony” in business – again, celebrating hard work and promoting successes. Ceremonies provide a sense of unity, accomplishment and pride. Whether it’s for a promotion, a new client or a goal accomplished, create something that can allow everyone to participate in the celebration.

6) The Value in Tradition – we’re always talking about the importance of innovation in business, but don’t forget the value in traditions. Do you have any in your business? Traditions can help connect the history of the company, create a strong sense of pride in its culture and even teach us a thing or two. It doesn’t mean you have to do things the “old way,” but rather that you aren’t opposed to learning from the past as well as planning for the future.

7) A Sense of Humor – while the military is serious and deals with serious issues, humor does abound. Punches upon promotion, the “responsibility” to buy a round of drinks, a running joke – all of which help form a stronger bond among comrades, a bit of stress relief and a sense of belonging (sensing some themes here?). Don’t you want your employees to feel loyal to your business? Do you want them to be happy and enjoy working for you? Do you want them to stay inspired and motivated? Then insist they have a little fun, too – both at the office and “on leave.”