The lessons from the military that business leaders need to learn

 
Sean Farrington
Freedom Parade For Soldiers Returning From Afghanistan
You can draw many parallels between the military and business (Source: Getty)

In today's business climate, you either embrace technology and establish it into the DNA of your company, or fall behind. However, investing in technology alone is not enough. Companies need to have the right talent to make everything sing.


Effective, sustained technology skill development is key to ensuring that businesses not only keep up but optimise available resources.

Of course, this is all easier said than done. So if you are a business leader looking for inspiration, where do you look for a blueprint?

The military may have the answer. Having spent 14 years as an officer in the British Army, I know first-hand the value of training to support streamlined units that can overcome complex tasks. Importantly, this training is democratised, giving everyone the chance to grow, learn, and succeed.

This becomes a virtuous circle, as units ensure that new recruits are also trained to value learning and moving as one. Combine this approach with strong leadership attributes, and you will create a team ethos to be envied.


The importance of training

We have all read online articles about the habits of successful people. Listening and learning feature prominently – and for good reason.

Effective training and repetition instil good habits that increase productivity. Employees that are equipped with the right skills and given clear objectives are better at collaborating as a team. In turn, teams can support each other in working towards the common goal of the entire organisation.

Much like an army company, the workforce becomes more effective and efficient when team members enjoy working as a unit. The end result will be a positive impact on business performance and profit.

For a real life example, consider the digital training programme launched by Marks & Spencer. The retailer is offering data skills development to more than 1,000 retail staff through an 18-month training initiative. Its goal is to create a culture optimised for the digital age, as it is planning to close more than 100 stores and move more of its business online.

Importantly, it is focused on closing the skills gap of its existing team, rather than relying on recruiting a new one. Much like the military, it knows that it can’t just replace its entire unit. Instead, it is using the talent it has but giving them new tools and deploying them to a new theatre.

The power of leadership

In the military, effective leaders are the key difference between success and failure. Although the individual capabilities within the team can remain constant, a less effective leader will prevent the unit from achieving its full potential. Training therefore must go hand-in-hand with leadership that can set businesses on a successful path.

This is never more important than when a skills gap exists, which can only be overcome by measured and accurate management. Well-informed leaders must remain engaged with technological developments and apply what they learn. This is a skill honed by military leaders: being decisive and making the right calls ensures that you emerge ahead of the competition.

Never stand still

The military studies strategy in detail and plans for every contingency. History often repeats itself, so there’s real value in drawing on past experiences.

This mentality carries over into the business world. A desire to continually seek self-improvement helps to motivate the team and displays commitment – crucial for boosting the performance of your workforce.

You can draw many parallels between the military and business. The qualities they possess can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

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