May is the month we recognize and remember several aspects of our military:

  • VE Day (70th Anniversary – May 8th) recognizes victory in Europe in WWII.
  • Armed Forces Day (May 16th) recognizes those currently in service.
  • Memorial Day (May 25th) recognizes those who died in war.

Memorial Day began as women, individually and in clubs, decorated the graves of Civil War soldiers with flowers. It became formalized, first in the North and then the South, as Decoration Day. Later, soldiers from World War I were added. Eventually it became a federal holiday in recognition of all our military members killed in war.

Leadership and Management Lessons

Military planning is the basis for strategic and business planning in most companies. While military leaders understand that all planning is overcome by events, they also know that smart planning is the basis for success. That is true for your organization as well! Too often we are so busy with reactive work and daily demands that planning drops to the bottom of a to-do list that we already never get to.

A plan will help you succeed faster and better. No small to mid-size organization needs some elaborate plan put together at great time and expense. Book an hour a week, preferably not in your office, and try to capture your vision of the future you want. A one-page summary would be a real achievement. And one that can be readily shared with employees, board members, or other stakeholders!

A recurring lesson, since President Lincoln replaced General McClellan after Antietam, is the importance of execution to success. Your ability to execute is what keeps your future positive. At far too many clients, I have seen the results of endless debates about next steps or conflict avoidance that stops action. Many of these are ex-clients, because they no longer exist. Your goal should be consistent daily small achievements which support the most important goals and needs of your business. It is your actions and the results of those actions that show every staff member the value you place on execution and make it a part of your culture. Execution is a critical concern for every successful organization.

Planning for hiring, training, and using people effectively to achieve the mission began in the military. Many of these practices were picked up in private sector organizations. Hiring the right people is vital to meeting your planning goals and daily needs. Training and effective performance management keep operations running well and ensures client/customer satisfaction. Far too few organizations pay adequate attention to these issues until they are in turn-around mode when it becomes far harder to fix problems. Studies show on-the-job informal training is very valuable. Mix in some career development options and you will also be more likely to retain top talent.

Leadership is expected of and trained for much earlier in the military than most private sector organizations. It is imbedded in military culture. Young officers and enlisted are expected to read regularly about leadership in both past military history and in a wide range of other literature. Then they are expected to demonstrate it in daily actions. One of my clients says working with me reminds him of his leadership role and its importance to his company. When you are the founder or top executive of an organization, your staff watches to see what you do and how you do it. And that leads to how they believe in its future and how they behave. No need to be General Marshall fighting to ensure our troops had the resources they needed and the leaders to be successful in WWII or in rebuilding Europe. But do build your own leadership capabilities to enhance your success!

Hiring Veterans

We talk often of military members as ‘heroes’ yet some veterans have difficulty finding jobs as employers do not understand their skills. Veterans have a solid record of success in private sector jobs and as entrepreneurs. The military also demonstrates the value of training and development. Each service provides technical training to its members – training that matches 81% of all civilian job types. And military people are trained to become supervisors and managers before being put into such jobs.
Whether you have worked with veterans or not, or are one yourself, hiring transitioning military and veterans can add a lot to your organization’s successful future. Call if you need some help learning to do this.

Take a little time this month to celebrate our military history. Walk a battlefield or read a good book or visit a memorial. And use the lessons you learn for your future too. Come join me at the Womens’ Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery for the Memorial Day Remembrance at 4pm on May 25th too.