This section is for comments about the military woman's viewpoint on what leadership skills and developmental tools are required to be effective and successful in the military environment. It is intended to be informational and educational. Book reviews are welcomed as well as personal experiences which will facilitate the learning of leadership skills.
Leaning Into Business
By Donna Sturgess
Look closely at a team with good timing and you will find it is skilled at anticipation. The collective muscles seem to act and respond in such a way as to produce maximum impact at just the right moment. This stems from early cues and putting the information to work faster than others can. Anticipation is the action that puts more time on the competitive clock to give your team the advantage.
Businesses, just like the military, must move beyond hesitation to engage in new levels of achievement. For despite the economic slump, the world is racing along at breakneck speed! With global economies shifting daily and digital processes ramping up ever faster, companies now need to get their “eyes out” for ways to shake up their organizations to generate new insights and innovations.
As a veteran business leader from a multinational corporation, I had the opportunity to witness first-hand what people with military experience have to offer business. This “eyes out” perspective happened when I had the chance to immerse myself in the military experience during a short visit on the USS Stennis while it was underway off of the coast of San Diego. What might seem like a non-business experience provided not only a unique perspective into military operations but some fresh insights for business as well.
Whether military or civilian, groups that anticipate well and are nimble in their response gain more time to maneuver. Developing a competency in anticipation requires finding people who are capable of the task. You may already have people in your team with these skills of foresight. Anticipation requires people with strong perceptual skills - people who have high-definition sensitivity to changing patterns in the operating environment. Women in particular have strong intuitive skills and tend to be good at attending to subtle, changing patterns in their environment. Generally, these are people who are experienced enough, mature enough or sensitive enough to perceive the earliest signals and difference and have the leadership skills to act upon the emerging information. They know where to focus their attention.
Here are some simple actions you might take to foster anticipation:
1. Start asking around to find out who seems to be inherently good at this.
2. Include an assessment of anticipation skill into performance reviews to identify people with this ability in order to nurture the development of this leadership trait.
3. Once you find people with anticipation skills, look for opportunities to develop them further, just as business does.
4. If you are someone with good anticipation skills, let people know you have this fingertip sensitivity necessary to anticipate changes.
Anticipation comes from the perspective of doing more than. People have to leave their comfort zones and look at things from a vastly different perspective if they want to gain advantage. Lean forward, with an “eyeballs out” approach and go after your goals in new ways to create value.
Donna Sturgess is the President and Co-founder of Buyology Inc and former Global Head of Innovation for GlaxoSmithKline. Her new book, Eyeballs Out: How To Step Into Another World, Discover New Ideas, and Make Your Business Thrive is due out October, 2010.
Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Can Women Reach the Top of America’s Largest Corporations?
By Ann M. Morrison and others, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1987 revised in 1992.
This book chronicles a careful study of 76 successful corporate executive women. They weren’t named, but might just as easily been flag grade officers or a command’s top enlisted member. The lessons imparted by this book will help military women chart their paths to the top. The authors asked these questions: what does it take for women to enter the executive (command) suite; what factors propel and derail women; are these factors the same for men and women;and finally, do women need the same opportunities for development as men? The authors found that generally, in corporate America, there is a glass ceiling at what the corporate world calls the general manager level. Women are penetrating this barrier, but it takes fortitude.
The authors found that women face three levels of pressure. The first of these is the routine pressure of the job itself. The next is the pressure associated with being a pioneer (a first or only). The last is facing the strain of managing two jobs, the office and the home. Men generally only face the first kind of pressure. Some women overcome all three pressures, some do not. Those who were successful shared these attributes: they had sponsors and help from senior managers that was earned by a solid track record of achievement; they really wanted to progress in their work; they managed subordinates well; they were willing to take reasonable risks, and finally, they knew how to be tough, decisive, and demanding. Those who were not so successful were unable to adapt to changing work environments and bosses, their expectations for perks and salary were unreasonable, or they simply didn’t perform well.
The authors explain important findings when comparing executive men and women. They note that women are not better at reducing interpersonal friction. They are not more understanding or humanitarian, they are not more focussed on presentation of themselves, and they were not more suspicious or touchy. Likewise, women were not less dominant in leadership situations. They were not less self-confident, optimistic, able to cope with stress or less self-disciplined. The successful women had mastered the ability to simultaneously exhibit certain characteristics associated with men and some typically associated with women. When to display either was the key. From this analysis, the authors recommend: take risks, but be consistently outstanding; be tough, but not macho; be ambitious, but don’t expect equal treatment (this is a startling assertion - but remember, it was just in July 1999 that the first woman was named to the senior position in a fortune 500 company); take responsibility, but follow others’ advice.
The authors distilled a number of lessons from their study:
1. Learn the ropes of your organization. Work in positions which have credibility, be nonthreatening, learn to trust your superiors and have realistic expectations for promotion.
2. Take control of your career. Don’t expect others to manage it for you or take care of you. Seek the right jobs and get the education, training, and experience necessary for promotions. Even if you don’t get the job you want, do the very best you can to show that you put the needs of the company first. That will be appreciated and may later be rewarded. This is especially true in the military.
3. Build your own self-confidence by being willing to take on new challenges to convince yourself of your abilities. Your skills will always be compared to others and the obviously better performers will stand out. Seek success in activities outside the organizations. These help relieve stress and can be another opportunity to build skills and self confidence.
4. Learn when to rely on others. Supervisors can create tickets to the top.
5. Focus on the "bottom line". What is your unit’s goal? Make it your focus. Take in the broader perspective, not just the narrow area of your specific job.
6. Integrate life and work. Keep both in balance.
The authors suggest that while today there is a glass ceiling that women will have to work especially hard to overcome, there is a bright future. More women are entering non-traditional careers and they will be viewed as less and less of a novelty. Younger men aren’t as biased as their fathers. Business is recognizing women as an untapped resource that will help them improve their bottomline. This is just as true in the military as it is in the civilian sector.
LEADERSHIP SKILLS TRANSLATE FROM MILITARY TO BUSINESS
By Lowell Tindell, Frontline Photography
A military mind-set helps these vets tackle small-business issues. Read the rest of the USA today article by Laura Petrecca here