Are you wondering how to lead your staff through unprecedented times? You can’t go backward. Our world just isn’t the same anymore. Roles, responsibilities, processes— they’ve all changed.  You’ve changed, your customers have changed, and your employees have changed. So how do you lead your organization through the chaos? You find another way by consulting expert planners, innovative leaders, and managers with proven successes in a variety of high stress situations. You call in the military.

Breakthrough Your Organization’s Future with Veterans

If you’re not recruiting mid-level and senior Veterans as innovative leaders to breakthrough into your organization’s future, then you’re doing it wrong. In addition to understanding where we have come from, future planning requires innovation, strategic planning, and downright grit. Veterans are bred to thrive in that environment. What makes them different from your experienced leaders? They just use different vernacular. Why doesn’t everyone know this?

Give them a few weeks to understand your organization. And welcome their participation on teams to facilitate communication, trust, and learning. Every Veteran is ready to contribute their experience, hard work, forward thinking, responsible work ethic, and grit to launch your organization into the future.

Stop worrying about Veterans not having experience in your industry. Fear and uncertainty just makes them work harder. Military leaders are taught from day one to create strategic plans and turn them into operational and tactical orders. They start this by using a structured approach. In the Marine Corps, it is the Marine Corps Planning Process (MCPP). What do you use? Design thinking? AGILE? Future Business History? SCRUM?

Let’s be honest—this stuff isn’t rocket science. They’re all frameworks for creating a solid plan to build a solution – complete with what ifs, exercises, and who is directed to do what.  Whatever you want to call it, it all entails defining the problem, collecting facts, choosing the best approach for action, and how to communicate those actions.  And it begins with brainstorming. However, brainstorming doesn’t begin with Veterans’ knowledge; it begins with yours.

Flexibility

Just like Gumby (the flexible green clay animation cartoon), Marines especially believe they are always flexible. So much so, that they use the term “Semper Gumby” to accept multitude of changes thrown at them, and their ability to just roll with it. Did you know that most military members move and/or change units (read this as change business units if you must) every 2-3 years? Ask them about it in their interview. That means every few years, they re-learn how to apply their skills to new missions within a different organization – sometimes infantry unit, sometimes flying squadron. They learn how to work with new teams, assess the needs of their people for training matrices, and learn how to manage new boss(es). Depending on how many years the Veteran served, their vast experience can have depth far beyond what their resume seems to indicate.

Worried about hiring someone less than stellar? Reach out to your own Veteran network during your recruiting process. If there’s one thing to know about veterans, it’s that we don’t like anyone slandering our name or giving us a bad reputation. Veterans can smell a phony a mile away, and it behooves them to help you form the right questions to ask during the recruiting process to truly understand why they left service and minimize the risk of a bad hire.

Knowing the right questions to ask should provide the hiring manager with enough knowledge to make an informed decision about the Veteran’s character. Isn’t that what you’re concerned about?

Leadership and Mentorship

Furthermore, leadership and mentorship are strong values within the military. Service members are recognized for their individual performance through fitness reports, known in the civilian sector as performance evaluations. Only top performers are retained, and even that opportunity becomes increasingly competitive at more senior ranks.  So, there is a lot of information in the rank of a Veteran by the time they leave service and the awards they received, all listed on their DD214. Ask to see it. Don’t make assumptions about a 2 ½ year or 22 year career. Consult your resources to get the flavor of their whole person concept. 

Too often in the corporate sector, Veterans are praised for their service, yet when they are offered a job, routinely they are undervalued, underutilized, and frankly, misunderstood.

There is no easy answer to why. From my experience and that of my peers, it is often the result of miscommunication and misunderstanding. If you’ve never served, your experience is likely limited to media portrayals and sea stories. Don’t let that be your only research. All parties share this responsibility if, in fact, their organization’s quest to employ Veterans as innovative leaders and valued contributors to their workforce is authentic. I have yet to come across a Veteran who is not willing to talk about their service and/or help their organization better understand someone else’s service.

In today’s uncertain and trying times, organizations would be wise to seek out those senior military professionals recently transitioned to the civilian sector in order to capitalize on their skills and experience. Let your organization’s problems be their battlefield to plan through as you advance into the future. The future is not a forgone conclusion. It is a choice. You can be the decider.  Choose to include Veterans in the front line of the future you build.

About the Author

Sherel Beslanovitz, Chief of Staff, has 20 years of professional military service in the United States Marine Corps. Her expertise lies within organizational development and operations, change management and continuous process improvement. She’s worked on multi-national staffs, inter-departmental working groups and facilitated service-wide policy changes, creating budget efficiencies and streamlined operations across the enterprise.

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