March 30, 2017, by David McCauley – A hallmark of service in the U.S. military is a united sense of purpose and community. It’s a tight-knit group despite being comprised of a wide variety of backgrounds and nationalities. You build lifelong connections and receive membership to a family and cause.
For former U.S. military members, it can be difficult to find that same sense of community after military service as a professional in the civilian world. Using what you’ve learned and experienced, however, it’s possible to recreate this tight-knit community feeling in a workplace culture.
There are four major ingredients to consider when building a strong company culture that replicates the cohesion you valued in the military:
- Shared Values
As members of the military, community and culture are all you have. You’re invested in the lives of the people around you. This stands in stark contrast to many civilian workplaces. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, only 32 percent of U.S. workers are engaged in their jobs. There are many reasons for this, and most of them are centered around a lack of a healthy company culture.
One of the things that basic training does is break down self-focused mentalities and instill you with a sense of purpose. It becomes about contributing to the larger picture and giving your best because the person next to you is relying on your excellence. The stakes and priorities aren’t the same in the business world, and that’s why you don’t often see this kind of dedication elsewhere.
Everyone needs to understand their role and what they uniquely bring to the table. High employee engagement is a top indicator of business success. Give them a sense of purpose by showing them how their contribution is important to your shared success. You need a way to bring your people together for a united purpose. Everyone needs to have the opportunity to contribute and feel like what they’re doing is worthwhile.
A culture is a place where like-minded individuals can share their beliefs and values. Military personnel possess competitive spirit and pride. They value perseverance, honor, and courage. Whatever you define as your core values, these must become guiding principles of how you do business and interact with each other. Desired traits and attitudes must be encouraged and rewarded.
This is the ‘language’ of your company. If a core company value is honesty, reward and encourage it. Let it become a defining trait that is understood by all. The U.S. military is a group with its own culture and values. Consider what you valued about your time in the service and use that to guide your decision.
You must always lead by example and exemplify the values of your company culture. This is how you will inspire others to adopt your attitudes and become invested in the culture. Leading with passion and dedication requires vision.
Great leaders facilitate growth and foster trust. Those you manage need to feel like you’ve built something together or otherwise been improved through the process. These are basic aspects of leadership to both empower and encourage.
Building camaraderie starts with providing opportunities to celebrate similarities and differences all through the lens of your culture. Your purpose, core values, and leadership are what bring everyone together in order to build lasting bonds. You’re actively building a community and culture by promoting the values that you hold dear.
Provide opportunities to build those bonds outside the workplace. Just like barbecues and days out at the shooting range let you and your squad blow off steam and bond, so too can hosting community events help your company grow together. Some suggestions include:
- Community service
- Company retreats
- Food drives and charities
The more you do together as a group, the closer you’ll grow. Each will provide an opportunity build trust and reinforce the values your company or leadership style is built on. Promote meaningful connections and in the process, you may find what you’ve been looking for ever since you left the service: a sense of belonging.
About the Author: D.M. McCauley is a former U.S. Navy sailor who worked in Intel. After the service, he has dedicated his time to writing and traveling with his significant other.