HR & Management

Military management: Swapping the Royal Air Force for Silicon Valley

6 min read

06 October 2016

The military and the world of business aren’t all that different. Both require an equal blend of attitude, strategy and personal determination to surpass objectives and reach new goals, whether that is a revenue boost or internal focuses such as the overall reputation of a brand.

As a former serviceman in the Royal Air Force (RAF), I moved away from my roots in South East London at the age of 18 and quickly learned that a mixture of determination, discipline and grit made for better military personnel.

Moving forward, these exact same skills can be transferred to the workplace and can be used widely throughout a business. These skills are not only relevant to those of seniority, but also to the wider workforce, who are looking for ways to interact in a corporate setting.

Instinct

Your gut is the most powerful tool you can utilise. By taking it and owning it, a person is more equipped to make decisions and see it through from start to finish. It’s this instinct that allows a person to make choices while feeling confident about the rationale behind it. However, it needs to be honed.

Take the military as an example, designed to offer some of the toughest training globally, they will try and break any person joining – no matter age, gender or experience.

In basic training, sleep can be taken away just as easily as it is given to you and at times, recruits could find themselves living on one to two hours sleep per night for a sustained period of time. This exercise is mentally and physically exhausting, designed to push you to the limit.

In the military, you need to trust your instincts, and the instincts of those around you, even in extreme circumstances.

In business, instinct is a basic need and could be the difference between making a good or bad decision. Preparing for the worst case scenario doesn’t have to be negative. In fact, being cautious leads to contingency plans that may offer surprising, and sometimes better, results.

Following your instinct doesn’t start and stop with the C-Suite – it’s reflective of every level of the business, no matter the seniority. If an employee can’t do their job under optimal conditions, then they will not be able to do it in a crisis and this needs to be addressed with further training.

Reliability

Reliability is key in both business and the military. In the field, it is part of the life-blood that holds a tight-knitted squad together. Military personnel cannot bail on a task, turn up late or suddenly change their mind as lives could literally depend on it. After all, each member of the team is there to play an important role and if a person is unreliable, it could be detrimental to a sequence of events that could alter the whole mission.

Accountability is woven into this; culpability to your squad is a similar relationship to that of your colleagues. We need to harness trust and feel assured that those working with us have the capability and understanding to do whatever is expected of them, consistently, to achieve objectives, while demonstrating a positive attitude with total commitment to the business. All these elements combined reflect the old attitude of respect that I learnt from the RAF.

Grit

Those who have been part of the forces – no matter what unit – naturally work hard.  This is because from the very beginning, and often at an early age, people are trying to break you and mould you into a particular sort of soldier. Often you are given tasks that need to be completed under extreme circumstances and it takes real steel to face these challenges head-on, quickly and efficiently.

The same can be said in the world of business. Often, you find yourself being pulled in different directions and you need to make a decision quickly and with clarity. It is important to trust your decisions and feel determined to complete the task at hand, to the very best standard – even during a time of crisis.

In business, you have to be prepared to give absolutely everything to the task at hand, execute efficiently and follow through to achieve the best result possible.

With both worlds blurred into one, the military and working world are steadily entwined. Basic disciplines can be transferred from one to the other seamlessly. Instinct, reliability and grit are aspects that can help all employees maximise their potential and exceed objectives.

By doing so, results will soon be generated and career progression could really take off.

Sean Bowen is CEO of Push Technology

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