It’s hard to imagine that business leaders could learn something from a submarine operating in the Arctic. But a recent column in the New York Times by Thomas Friedman underscores two very important lessons from military service and their application to the world of business:
• Perfection and integrity under harsh, high-stress conditions
• Teamwork in the most lean operating environment imaginable
I served seven years in the Navy and three touring the waters of the Western Pacific, Middle East, and Australia. Like my peers on the U.S.S. New Mexico, I understand pursuing perfection with an integrated team in which action and inaction can determine success and survival. There’s no room for error or additional people. From cook to captain, everyone plays an important role. A single misstep can kill an entire crew.
That’s performance pressure.
Some of the candidates with whom I work are pursuing MBA’s at prestigious business schools. While their classmates are understandably stressed by the rigors of school, Veterans bring a different perspective. As men and women who—often in their 20s—performed admirably in an unforgiving environment like the Arctic ice, B-School’s not their most difficult challenge. They’re accustomed to being tasked with achieving daily perfection. A class project is merely one more assignment in their continuing efforts to achieve it. And the same holds true for my non-MBA military clients as they prepare for their post-military careers. Striving for perfection is the rule; not the exception.
The next time you have an opening in your company and are considering a Veteran’s resume whose skills may not precisely match the specifics of your job description, keep Mr. Friedman’s column in mind. If they could parallel park in the Arctic, think of what their unfettered commitment to excellence and teamwork could achieve for your company.
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