A Perfect Fit in the Year of COVID-19

USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Deployment FY 2018

Who has successful experience with sacrifice, isolation, and fear of the unknown?   Military Veterans, that’s who.

As I read in a morning newsletter this March 23rd, 2020:  “This is our new normal. We better get good at it.”

Most military veterans have not only survived high-stress environments that included attrition and even death, they got good at it and developed the discipline to stay focused on whatever the environment or circumstances threw at them.

Think about it: The experiences veterans have successfully navigated include isolation, boredom, grief and the occasionally terrifying scenario for which planning or training was impossible.

Military veterans learned to adapt to ever-changing scenarios and emergencies that required highly agile approaches to problem-solving. These experiences, along with a robust sense of humor veterans develop, can certainly help your teams and businesses today amidst the upheaval created by the COVID-19 global pandemic

Consider bringing together a group of your team’s military veterans to help with ideas for how your company can accept these unknown and fearful circumstances, all while staying productive, happy and grateful for the many opportunities that this weird scenario and crisis presents.

Military veterans are familiar with strategies and tactics to:

  • Help adapt your culture to acknowledge and accept this “new normal”. Instill confidence that your team can and will thrive in it.
  • Help to create plans and schedules to keep everyone in touch and ensure no one is literally isolated or left out on a limb alone. Communication plans that span numerous mediums. (Yes, FUN virtual meetings that the team will look forward to.)
  • Develop a company-wide sense of humor about this new normal. Military veterans (particularly combat veterans) know that a healthy sense of humor is critical to keeping a high-performing team focused and motivated.
  • Help with communicating and working through team members getting sick, or even dying.
  • Help to inspire a positive, can-do spirit, even when the going gets really tough and the end seems unclear.

lonely soldier

A few important notes to consider:

  1. Managing through this experience (sacrifices, lockdowns, working from home, layoffs, sicknesses, deaths… ) will help to create bonds and new skills that will benefit your team(s) forever. Make it as fun and challenging as your group can stand, and the payoffs will be tremendous.
  2. Not every leader is great in these circumstances. Certainly not every veteran. Be patient and recognize who within your teams seems best at providing both formal and informal leadership that keeps everyone on board and productive.
  3. This beats “thank you for your service” in spades. Recognizing the experiences and skills your military veterans have acquired and placing value on that during this crisis is one of the most generous gestures of gratitude you can make towards honoring their service.

Good luck. “Check six” and consider finding more leadership roles where military veterans are the perfect fit.

Jack Liles is a Partner at TechCXO, providing on-demand Chief Sales Officer duties to client companies in need of go-to-market plan development, improved sales performance, leadership and structure. Jack is a veteran Naval Officer and recovering F-14 Tomcat flyer. Following his service Jack earned leadership roles at the ad agency Leo Burnett, Coca-Cola, UPS, along with numerous successful (and unsuccessful) start-ups. Connect with him at jack.liles@techcxo.com.

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