We’ve touched on how military training provides one with the skills and traits civilian job recruiters want. This include discipline, commitment, accountability, and the list goes on. This training also offers an excellent template to follow when entering leadership positions at work.
Retired USAF officer Tom Dorl explains how his approach to leadership transfers exceptionally well to management positions entered after the military. He calls it “Leadership by the Numbers.” If one follows his steps to getting the most out of employees, both parties will enjoy more success and fulfillment in their work life.
Make a Personal Connection
Dorl is big on mentoring and with good reason. Without one-on-one with each team member, how can they know what exactly is expected of them? These sessions allow leaders to spell out an individual’s tasks and goals. Vague directives confuse employees and often result in wasted time, unnecessary mistakes and low morale.
One-on-one mentoring is also vital to building up a person’s confidence. Even if it’s not a leader’s intent, people feel ignored and under-valued when their supervisor doesn’t talk to them. It is easy to go beyond a morning greeting or a few minutes of small talk during the week to connect with someone.
Double Time Your Listening
Speaking of feeling valued, people won’t if you do all the talking during your discussions with them. Detailing tasks and goals is just a start. As Dorl explains, you should listen twice as much as you talk. And listening is work, as he emphasizes practicing active listening rather than passive listening.
Passive listening is conveyed with the attitude, “I’m just biding my time until I can go do more important things.” Active listening tells the other person they’re what’s most important to a leader at that moment. That means the smartphone is turned off and out of sight, maintaining eye contact and showing you’re paying attention by rephrasing what they said once they’re done making a point.
If the employee is uncertain what to talk about, try asking a few questions to stoke the conversation, such as “What can I or other team members do to help you?” or “What challenges are preventing you from reaching your goals?”
Require 3 Courses of Action
Dorl always required his subordinates to produce three courses of actions (COA) in response to every problem they faced. Why three? They have to dig deeper and spend more time analyzing the problem, resulting in better solutions. Managers often rush people to produce answers. Even without allowing them to take the time to truly discover what the real question is and properly define the problem.
Once an employee maps out three COAs, it’s up to that person to choose which one they recommend pursuing. This process develops a person’s critical thinking, analytical, persuasion and presentation skills. Study after study reports this as crucial to success in today’s workplace. Leaders should encourage employees to seek out input and expertise from others. This teaches them to collaborate while sharpening their communication skills.
All of these experiences will create, Dorl says, growth for an employee that will make them more successful and more likely to advance — possibly to a leadership position of their own someday. In his words, touching all three of these bases eventually creates a home run in employee development and project success. “These opportunities allow the leader to delegate a project, build trust within the team and give subordinates the chance to put their skills to work, use their creativity and expand their leadership skills,” says Dorl.