I remember a lieutenant telling me during midshipmen cruise that being
a division officer was kind of like coaching a baseball team without
knowing how to play baseball. He was trying to tell me that Navy leaders
were general managers, expected to lead organizations and people in
almost any field and circumstance. How right he was.
Many of us in uniform take great pride in the being able to go anywhere,
do anything and deliver with alacrity and excellence. We are confident
that our finely honed general management skills will continue to be
in great demand by the military and, when the time comes, corporate
America. Unfortunately, this is a potentially outdated assumption.
Many companies fear that military people, while good leaders, lack
the business savvy to immediately contribute.
Today, corporate America, and increasingly the military, demand that
leaders bring both best-practice management and functional expertise.
It's no longer leadership as an esoteric concept; it's management
as a science, developed methodically through education, practical
experience, and regular training. Strategic planning, organizational
development, and financial management are not just concepts for the
boardroom; they are an essential part of every professional manager's
toolkit. We can't count on developing those skills along the way -
we need to take responsibility for our own professional development.
Not only will this be useful almost immediately in a military context,
it will significantly improve your marketability within the private
Fill in the Gaps. Learning the science of management has high-relevance
in the service and within the private sector. MBA coursework is not
just for corporate types anymore - developing a cursory understanding
of the basic principles of finance, organizational design & development,
marketing, and HR should be on everyone's to do list. Take a close
look at the CNO's reading list: Leading Change, 7 Habits
of Highly Effective People, The Psychology of Winning.
We've come a long way since The Sand Pebbles. In addition to
the CNO's list, many other books and periodicals are surprisingly
digestible and useful in understanding the basics. The best books
provide a prescriptive framework for assessing organizations and management
situations. The 10 Day MBA by Steve Silbiger is a particularly
good book and, in a few hours (not 10 days!) you'll have a surprisingly
good grasp of key concepts and techniques. In addition to Proceedings,
consider reading Business Week or Forbes - they not
only expose you to the vernacular of business but also provide case
studies of managers in action.
With the establishment of the Center for Naval Leadership and the
development of a broad-based PME continuum, the Navy has taken the
first steps in equipping its leaders with solid management training.
"We're taking this seriously," said Vice Admiral Al Harms, the Commander
of the newly christened Naval Education and Training Command. "To
truly build world-class leaders requires meaningful and ongoing leadership
and management training programs." In addition to enhancing on the
job performance, these "Revolution in Training" programs are making
it easier for those in uniform to translate their training and skills
into college credit and marketable qualifications.
Finally, both the Naval Postgraduate School and the War College offer
accredited graduate degrees. In recognition of the importance of managerial
science to the sea services, NPS recently started offering an Executive
Masters of Business Administration degree in several fleet concentration
areas. There are also countless opportunities to leverage your military
benefits (GI Bill, Tuition Assistance, etc) to complete your education
or get a graduate degree.
When the inevitable civilian transition comes, it's absolutely critical
that your resume thoroughly reflect the managerial toolkit you've
developed. Your resume and cover letter should, to the extent possible,
be customized for the particular job you are seeking. It's important
that you research the company and position yourself as someone who
can hit the ground running and deliver. Because we've been coded to
"go anywhere and do anything," many military resumes try and communicate
that the applicant can do almost anything if given the chance. Although
the sentiment is good, companies will almost always choose someone
who brings the skills, qualities, and experience most aligned with
the open position. Your resume must "match the hatch" and address
the company's needs in a highly targeted and believable manner. Successful
job seekers take risk out of their resumes by showcasing their business
acumen, practical skills, relevant education, and demonstrated successes.
General Managers today can't rest on their laurels. Grounded in the
present with an eye on the future, the most successful among us will
embrace the concepts of lifelong learning, professional development,
and personal growth.
Christopher Michel is CEO of Military.com, the nation's
largest military membership organization. Military.com
connects over 3 million members to the lifelong
benefits of military service. Members trust Military.com
for career, education and financial services. Prior
to founding Military.com, Chris served as a Naval
Flight Officer in the United States Navy. While
on active duty, Chris flew as a P-3 Navigator, Tactical
Coordinator and Mission Commander in support of
maritime interdiction operations in the Red Sea,
NATO enforcement operations in the Adriatic, and
counter-narcotics missions in Central America. Following
his operational tour, Chris worked in the Pentagon
as Aide to the Chief of the Naval Reserve. He holds
degrees from the University of Illinois and Harvard