Talent Perspectives

Learning from the Military: Why Veteran-Led Organizations Succeed

Ross Statham, Editor, Talent Perspectives

June 11, 2019


Before founding my own company in 2001, I spent many years working in corporate America (including some senior roles at some great companies, I'm happy to say).  But long before that I spent six years as a young soldier and NCO in the US Army.

Recently I realized that the values that I and my leadership team have brought to our clients wasn't just learned from my 20 years working in the tech space in corporate America-- we learned and honed these skills during our service in the military. Thought you all would find these skills we learned helpful and interesting-- and they're certainly worth applying in any life endeavor and adding to your own organizational excellence.   These skills are not specific to the military, of course-- but they do explain why they've been so successful in their efforts.

1.    Values & Ethics:  Honesty is a virtue that is insisted upon in the military.  Truthfulness, character and the highest levels of integrity are instilled into military members during their service.

2.    Winning Teams: Military members are taught how to build well-trained teams (since their lives may depend on it). Team building is what the military is all about, and veteran organizational leaders are experienced in finding, attracting, nurturing and motivating talent. Vets know how to build winning teams. 

3.    Listening Skills: Veterans were first taught how to listen. They next learned how to effectively communicate to their leaders, their subordinates, across the team and to others that they support. Veteran-led organizations typically listen-- and know how to communicate with their business partners and their employees.

4.    Working Under Pressure:  Members of the military are taught to thrive in high-pressure situations; the military demands that it be done right the first time, every time, until the mission objectives are fully met. Clients find that veteran-owned organizations understand the need for "we need it yesterday!" and they understand how to do it right the first time, every time. They were trained to do this at an early age!

5.    Doing the Work:   Members of the military know how to work and enjoy seeing the results of their labors. They know how to work hard for months or years on end,  sometimes for little reward other than the satisfaction of a job well done. Veteran-led organizations perform at the same high levels of hard work and achievement.

6.    Loyalty: The military teaches loyalty & fidelity to others and keeping commitments. Veteran-led organizations are known to be loyal to their customers, their business partners and their employees. This is why most veteran-led organizations generally have such a high retention rate of clients, employees and business partners.

7.    Transparency: Veterans were taught to be transparent in all they do-- because the other members of their team depend on them. They don't try to hide things from others and they will look you in the eye and tell you what they can do, and what they can't do. Veteran-led organizations are the same way-- their transparency and candor in their dealings is often refreshing.

8.    Planning:  The military teaches planning and work flow process. Veteran-led organizations understand the importance of setting up processes, setting achievable milestones and hitting goals. They like to put these same planning skills to work for others.

9.    Results:  Vets are taught to accomplish the mission while taking care of the team. Veteran-led organizations know how to set achievable goals, how to focus and how to ensure their partners achieve their goals. No excuses; they make it happen.

10. Leadership: While most organizations practice “management” of their people, veteran-led teams practice “leadership".  They use the same leadership skills learned back when they wore the uniform.  (Please note that I said "leadership", not "management."  I don't believe in managing people-- I believe in leading, guiding and developing them.)

In my own teams, I seek to try to find and develop talented people that share these same values & skills listed above.   Rather than micro-managing, I try to give our folks the tools to get things done and as much as possible, let them do it their way.  I seek to fully support their efforts and ensure they're getting from me and the rest of the leadership team what they need.

I would encourage other organizations to practice these timeless principles-- which aren't just specific to the military!  They work for ANY organization of any size!


If you found this article to be helpful, please let me know- and share it with others. All the best!......Ross Statham, Editor

Talent Perspectives: Insights for Busy Professions is a series of brief articles that help build winning teams, provide insight on talent and provide organizational development ideas.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and are (C) Dogwood Services Inc.

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