The armed forces have had centuries to determine the most effective ways to lead and motivate teams. Because there are distinct parallels between the military and business ownership, we can lean on these principles to best manage our teams and find success.
Being an effective leader is a challenging feat for most. Learning how to navigate through problems and different employee work styles to accomplish the bigger picture is… a lot. As a result, many leaders are out of touch and disconnected from their employees, operating in a silo instead of leaning on their team to keep the company on a path of sustained excellence.
Teams are the way that most companies get important work done and meet their bigger goals.
When you combine the energy, knowledge and skills of a motivated group of people, then you and your team can accomplish anything you set your minds to. Leaders must understand that in today’s ever-changing workplace, a general plan to encourage employees to perform better does not exist. Tailoring your motivation strategy to each employee and their specific skill set will maximize long-term impact and help the company meet its goals with less stress.
Even when people are passionate about their work, it’s easy to get bogged down in the daily grind and lose motivation. Understanding why individuals lose motivation and how to overcome those hurdles will help you develop a motivation strategy that keeps employees enthusiastic and engaged.
The military has unique ways of motivating its new recruits. While most companies are not working in bomb raids, military strategies to help motivate people can be transferred to those in the business world. Use these five military influenced strategies to inspire your team to go the extra mile.
1. Your team is your greatest asset
You must understand the value of your people and your team, whether you’re in the military or running a business. The way you surround yourself with a strong platoon that you trust with your life in the military is the same way in which you must surround yourself with team members who you trust in making key decisions and acting on them successfully in your business.
Once you build a team you trust, get to know them personally and professionally. What motivates them? What are their goals? How can you support them better?
Getting to know your team means you’re invested in them and their needs instead of just what they can do for the company. People want to know that their leaders understand their tendencies, aptitudes, and behaviors well enough to best work with and motivate them.
Creating a motivated team culture starts with treating people as people and not just another performance metric for the business.
2. Teach – don’t just preach
When people are invested in your business, they’re open to learning and perfecting their craft. When issues arise, lean in and teach employees how to get through them. Lecturing and pointing blame only creates a toxic environment and makes employees unmotivated. People want continuous coaching and leaders who are paying attention. Providing objective feedback to your team inspires growth and provides employees the opportunity to find fulfillment in their work.
Break down the obstacle. When an obstacle is too big, it can be overwhelming. Don’t exhaust your employees through indirect communication and buzzwords. Break down the problem into manageable pieces and communicate it directly to your team. Allowing your team members to do their jobs and flex their skills will keep things moving and make employees feel like they’re contributing to the bigger picture. Make sure to provide support and tools to make things easier and help your team carry out their roles and responsibilities.
3. Take accountability and share ownership
Remaining accountable for the good and the bad results, for the ever-growing to-do list, and for the team’s goals, is ultimately the leader’s responsibility.
Enforcing accountability among your team is a key component to sustaining overall performance. While in the process of defining how accountability is enforced, give your employees ‘ownership’. By allowing team members to own their tasks and be accountable for their roles, you inspire trust and a desire to go above and beyond their specific task.
You are empowering them to be confident in the decisions they make and therefore inspiring growth among your team members. For example, give a special project to an employee and allow them to take ownership of it. Provide an outline of your expectations for the end result and then allow them to use their skills and resources to make it happen. Schedule check-ins with that employee to gauge their feelings and feedback about the project and to better assess how to motivate them in the future.
4. Encourage discipline and growth
Veterans bring a sense of resourcefulness, boldness, and leadership not seen in employees with civilian backgrounds. They’ve been faced with the challenge of getting a job done without access to the resources that would ideally be available. Veterans also bring to the table a keen ability to be self-disciplined and stick through difficult tasks and see them through to completion.
The armed forces have a carefully mapped out hierarchy that ensures everyone knows their role and who to report to. The structure gives people at every level something to aspire to and a next step to work toward. In order to mimic this in the business world, make sure there is a clear line of progression that takes employees from the bottom to the top, and outlines what is required in order for them to succeed. That means everyone on your team has a clearly defined role and goals to aspire to. This also ensures that everyone is rewarded for their progression and encouraged to take the necessary steps to get to the next level.
Do not create a token award or provide a gift card to encourage your employees to be motivated. Provide tangible recognition that inspires growth and achievement.
When employees can see how their achievements fit into the company’s bigger picture, they are more productive and motivated to complete their tasks and thus achieve their goals.
5. Integrity inspires, inspiration leads
From basic training to rising in the military ranks, veterans understand the value and payoff of hard work. You learn, you train, you succeed. The one thing that cannot be taken away is your integrity.
Integrity is what you do day in and day out, how you remain true to yourself and your beliefs. Integrity can be found in every position in life; personally, entrepreneurship, leadership positions, etc. When leaders work with integrity it inspires their team and the company as a whole. A leader who incorporates integrity into their work and guidance of other people leads with courage, confidence, conscience, and good character. These qualities become replicated when used effectively in a leadership position.
Great leaders inspire and care for their teams. If you lead with integrity, you build a culture of inspiration that is contagious and eventually inspires others around you to lead the same way in their own positions.
When you have a company culture that inspires others, your team will thrive and as a result, so will your business.
Cary Albert served in the U.S. Air Force, working his way up to Airman of the Year. He transitioned to entrepreneurship and along with his wife, Jacquelyn, has built a business portfolio to include 25-plus Schlotzsky’s restaurants.