My Best Military-to-Business Advice – “I Am Responsible” By Chad Storlie, Combat To Corporate
There are lots of aspects to building an effective career from the military to the civilian world. Which Industries are growing and shrinking, adapting leadership styles to get the most creative work from your team, how to move from a world of tactics to a world of Marketing and Finance, and truly understanding your customers present and emerging needs so you can offer a great product. One of the most undervalued military traits in business is the concept of ownership and responsibility. The Military has it and the world of Business needs more of it.
I remember sitting in the large, concrete block classrooms of Building 4, Infantry Hall, at Fort Benning, Georgia learning about how to lead to be an Infantry officer. The setting of Infantry Hall in those years did not always bring to mind inspiring leadership. The classrooms were drab, there were several hundred young officers dressed in the old Battle Dress Uniform (BDU) only days old, and PowerPoint presentations were years away. To present the material, the instructors used enormous stacks of yellowing overhead projections, some presentations had been in use for decades. None of this was inspirational to a new soldier. I remember one instructor came in with his huge stack of overheads, turned on the projector, paused for a moment, and then quickly flipped the circa-1950 projector off.
The class became instantly awake expecting a senior officer visit or a surprise quiz. Instead, the instructor asked a simple question, “As an Infantry Soldier, what are you responsible for?” The question was simple, elegant, and its asking defeated the entire room. The class struggled for 30 minutes to find an effective response. Leadership, Tactics, Marksmanship, Logistics, Physical Fitness, Instilling a Fighting Spirit, Discipline, and the usual litany of oft-quoted military skills were listed. Nothing was correct for the instructor. Instead, he had the class stand and repeat, “I am responsible for everything my unit does and fails to do.” And with that, he had us re-take our seats, turned the projector back on, and began his lecture.
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Today, almost twenty five years removed from that lecture at Fort Benning, the leadership mantra of, “I am responsible for everything my unit does and fails to do,” remains some of the best business advice that I have ever received. In business, whether a small business or a large corporation, we often look for factors, competitors, and trends to explain away the results. The competition offers a lower priced product, the competition has a lower cost of production, the consumer is ill-informed, the government’s taxes are hurting our business, and the list goes on.
The military solution to achieve business success is to own the results of everything in your company and to do it all the time. If you are an entrepreneur, then you do own everything within the limits of your available resources. As employees of companies, we own everything within our assigned position’s responsibility combined with our own internal influence and leadership abilities. The seminal change that occurs when we state, “I Am Responsible,” is that we turn from Follower to Leader ready to find, design, implement, and perfect the change that is necessary for our organization’s to win.
Colonel Joshua Chamberlain at the engagement around Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War exhibited this sense of responsibility to an incredible fashion. Chamberlain was assigned to defend an area to large and of greater operational importance than his Maine Infantry unit could accomplish. Instead of finding reasons why his unit could not effectively defend, he discovered multiple, highly creative ways that he could effectively defend his position and accomplish his assigned mission. Chamberlain took responsibility for everything and was ultimately successful in his defense against multiple Confederate attacks.
As leaders in business, government, education, and the military, we need to have a daily mantra to state that, “I Am Responsible.” When we take responsibility for our companies, our customers, and our missions we move into an active leadership mode that enables innovation, a strong sense of purpose, creativity, customer satisfaction, and business results. When need to look for responsibility to enable results and not look to reasons to dismiss the present results.
The best advice for the Military and for Business is to always remember, “I Am Responsible for Everything My Unit Does and Fails to Do.”
Author, Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and Battlefield to Business Success
USAA Member Community, Blogger
LinkedIn Group: Combat To Corporate
LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/chad-storlie/0/280/3a0
Chad is the author of two books: (1) Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and (2) Battlefield to Business Success. Chad’s brand message is that organizations & individuals need to translate and apply military skills to business because they immediately produce results and are cost effective. Chad is a retired US Army Special Forces officer with 20+ years of Active and Reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units. He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the United States. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab. Chad is also an adjunct Lecturer of Marketing at Creighton University and Bellevue University in Omaha, NE. In addition to teaching, he is a mid-level marketing executive and has worked in marketing and sales roles for various companies, including General Electric, Comcast, and Manugistics. He has been published in over 80 publications including The Harvard Business Review blog, Business Week Online, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, and USA Today. He has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.