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Memorial Day isn't just about BBQ. Leadership lessons from the military.

If you're in the U.S. you know we're celebrating Memorial Day this holiday weekend. While I hope you have a relaxing, fun time with your family, I do hope you take some time to reflect on and remember the reason for the holiday - honoring those military heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice while fighting for, and defending, our country.


And one of the best ways to honor them is to reflect on the lessons we learned from those who served in the military - lessons that will help you become more effective in your role.




I, for one, am glad that our military forces don’t wait until wartime to train and practice combat drills. Instead, they're always training. They're always preparing. Then when they actually are in battle everything comes second nature without having to think about it. Just like the military, and even sports, victory comes through constant preparation and training. What does that mean for you? Are you putting in the time and effort to prepare to win? Are you constantly training and developing yourself? Are you looking through the possible scenarios to understand what could happen and prepare for how you and your team can respond in those scenarios? If not, you may not achieve the big wins that you’re hoping for.




In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins writes about the characteristics that separate greatness from mediocrity.  He writes that the truly great performers are: 


"Disciplined people who engage in disciplined thought and who take disciplined action". 


Discipline and commitment are bedrocks of the military. Anyone can be great for a short period of time or for one action, but those actions are usually forgotten later. True greatness happens with a long-term focus on commitment and discipline. That means doing what you know is right in every single action you take, all day everyday.



Self-less Service

When you approach your work, do you approach it in your best interest or in your team’s best interest? Every military member is called to put the interests of their country, their military force, their team and the team’s mission before their own interests. If not, costly mistakes can happen. In the same way, a truly great performer recognizes their role in the team and puts their team’s interest ahead of their own. And that’s what ensures a win. 




You’ve heard me talk about perseverance before. Perseverance is mandatory for winning. Our military forces have historically endured perseverance and overcame obstacles in order to achieve victory. No matter what your goal is, you’re going to face obstacles too. Are you going to defeat them, or are you going to let them defeat you? Your ability to persevere, regardless of the obstacles, is what will help you brand out from the crowd.




You know what else separates great performers from good performers? Attention to details. The military trains for precision and attention to detail starting in boot camp. Not paying attention to the details can result in death or defeat. In your role not paying attention may not have as dire consequences, but it can lead to unhappy customers, missed deadlines, low team morale, or more. All of which can end up having detrimental downstream effects. On the flip side, when you pay attention to the details the end result is much better.



I get it. Most likely, you're not risking your life for your mission like those in the military. But the lessons from them are applicable everywhere. And if you apply them in your role you’ll be much more effective.


I hope you and your family have a fun and safe Memorial Day Weekend!

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