Transition From The Military — A number of years ago I learned the principles of war. One of those principles was Unity of Command. In short, there should be one person who is totally responsible for a unit or campaign to determine the course of action and the results of that action.
This unity of command does not only speak to “mission accomplishment” but also to a sublime phenomenon. That phenomenon is people must be governed before they will work together to accomplish any given mission.
That people have to be governed may have a negative connotation. For the sake of clarity, what is meant by this statement is it is necessary for there to be the articulation, buy-in, and constant reinforcement of a vision before groups (regardless of size) come together for a common purpose.
It is built in the military structure that unity of purpose and governing of individuals are included. It is no stretch to see demonstrations of this. There are rank structures, unit insignias, flags, banners, mottoes, streamers; the list goes on. The requirement is to first identify this necessity then act in accordance. I did not find this to be the case in many civilian jobs.
While working for one particular company, among many problems, I found that there was a problem with unity as well. I first joined the company as the manager of customer service. When I took over I saw that although each of the staff was very talented, their actions were more centered on themselves. They did what they did in order to cover their butts.
That was the result of the environment. The environment was one of very hostile approaches to problem resolution. More times than not staff members were blamed when things went wrong rather than being coached or directed to ensure the error would not occur again.
The customer service staff did well at servicing the customers and they had genuine concern for the customers, but their actions were not that of a unit or organization. In effect they were a group of people answering the phones. They identified themselves as a department only because there was strength in numbers and not because of pride in work and/or roles and responsibilities.
Years prior, I had worked for a hotel company that excels in satisfying and retaining their customers/guests. In this company, they provided their standards of conduct throughout the organization. These standards were designed to ensure that the best interest of the guests, employees and owners were always present in the decision-making process. As a result, every employee knew his job and the role she played in meeting and exceeding their guests’ expectations.
In the aforementioned organization I had to figure out how I could get the same level of service while at the same time build unity in the department. I followed the lead I had from previous experiences. I developed a mission statement for the department. I developed and daily published what I referred to the Basics which were akin to affirmations that described desired standards of conduct.
I wrote policies and procedures and ensured that each staff member read and knew them. The most significant thing I did was I got involved in producing some of the work I expected them to do. I stayed on the floor with them and I got personally involved in handling customers situations and complaints.
When all was said and done, the customer service department became a group of ladies and gentlemen working very hard and consciously to serve our customers and each other. The department set the example for others in the company and was the resource for filling new positions throughout the company when new requirements and positions arose. In short, the customer service department became a team.
We who served in the military know how important team-building and unity is. Our lives depended on it. Sadly, once you leave active duty, you will likely not find this being understood and/or demonstrated. This can be very confusing and frustrating. However, herein may lay an opportunity to demonstrate the leadership you acquired while on active duty and make you a very important addition to a company if you decide the traditional “get a job” route.
Any and every organization, in order to operate optimally and effectively, must not only have a leader but also have a structure that identifies them and governs each member’s behavior. This may appear to be an overstatement. Again, in reality it often goes un-observed or under appreciated.
Many companies only see their employees as numbers and means to get numbers. However, most people view their jobs as more than something they simply do to earn a living. Most people spend the majority of their waking hours at their jobs. This being the case, their jobs represent more than merely a means to a pay check.
An advantageous approach to take is to ensure that a job is in fact more than a means to an end is to build a team. By building a team with one’s staff not only ensures that the required work would be done in excellence, it will ensure that the staff will be in excellence as well. As such, you are more likely to get high quantity and quality of work from those who feel they are a part of something bigger than themselves.