Editor’s note: The following article was contributed by Chad Storlie of Combat to Corporate. The content may be edited for clarity, style and length. Find more at http://www.combattocorporate.com/.
My military service helped make me a good teacher. We associate the military with parachuting, taking orders, and defending the nation, but we do not think of the military as teachers. In fact, military veterans are great teachers, and the ability of military leaders from all ranks, all specialties and all services to teach is vital to a healthy, effective, and innovative culture.
I remember being a teacher in every position, unit, and deployment during my 20-year career. I taught mission planning, map reading, radio systems, and various forms of marksmanship to everyone from officers to foreign military forces to new enlisted personnel. The dual teaching and learning process is a fundamental aspect of military leadership. It is also a fundamental aspect of business leadership.
My best memories from the military center around teaching. When I was a junior officer stationed on the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in Korea, two experienced sergeants spent their evenings with me to teach me 4.2” mortar gunnery. The 4.2” mortar was a beast of a weapon. It was based on an early World War II design, weighed hundreds of pounds and was very hard to master. Yet, as a weapon, it was very dependable and effective. These two sergeants, who reported to me, knew it was an important part of their duties to teach their new leader the skills needed to be proficient in the job. Through months of their hard work, they succeeded, and I have never forgotten their work ethic, professionalism, and dedication to their duties.
Business leaders have a duty to teach. Business leaders view their responsibility to deliver financial results as their number one accountability. They define their responsibilities in the form of revenue, new customers, cost savings, process improvements and product development. Business leaders must deliver the financial results that their boards, shareholders, customers, and employees demand. Results are a key requirement of a business leader, but they are not the only requirement. A common shortcoming of business leaders is that they neglect to focus on helping their team improve. Business leaders must see through the constant demand of immediate business results and ensure they pay equal, if not more, attention to the long-term strategic well-being of their company by growing and developing talent. The business leader must not only be a business leader but also a business teacher. The art and importance of teaching is a key leadership principle that military veterans can teach to business leaders at every level of an organization.
Teaching in business can take many forms. Business leaders can teach traditional classes in their organizations or in the community, passing the knowledge of their experience and passion to a generation of future workers and employees. Indeed, there are few things as valuable as a business lecture conducted by a senior business executive. In such a lecture, they can impart all their business knowledge, complete with examples and illustrated with management principles.
Teaching by walking around. A second form of business leader teaching is “Teaching By Walking Around” (TBWA), a modification of the famed “Management By Walking Around.” TBWA involves visiting with subordinates, understanding their workplace challenges and then helping them create an effective solution. Veteran business leaders can transform their organizations through strategic analysis, counseling, risk management and the war-game process. TBWA teaches new leadership techniques, but it does not teach enforced, top-down solutions. Business leaders need to empower lower-level business leaders to solve problems with their own initiative and motivation. The key to TBWA is to listen, understand, impart a new technique and then leave the manager to find the solution and implement it.
Business leaders who teach have a huge impact on careers and results. Business leaders can make a big difference for themselves and their organizations when they apply the principles of teaching and learning that the military advocates. One of the best ways to be promoted in business is to train your own replacement to continue successfully along the course you charted. Through teaching, a business leader can achieve business results, improve the organization and develop junior business leaders. As you look for a new position or a promotion in your own organization, look and see how much you are teaching others to succeed. A great business leader delivers results and teaches others how to deliver great results.