Memorial Day honors all those in the military who have paid the supreme price to preserve our American privilege of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Please take a moment to think of those brave men and women this weekend, especially when you drive past a cemetery seeing all those American flags.

This weekend is also considered the start of the summer vacation season.  My wife (and eNthusaProve President) Diana and I have a little cottage that we operate as an AirBnB.  It’s been a fascinating learning experience serving others and helping them have a moment to relax.

We have had the pleasure of hosting young military leaders and each of them have made a distinct impression on us. It just happened again this past week as we hosted a young West Point cadet and his friend.

We have found the AirBnB concept to be remarkably simple and robust.  Since the guests and hosts each are rated, it’s different than a hotel experience.  We have had over 100 guests and only 2 have been ones that we would not invite back. However, the others have not been like hotel guests; they are more like grateful friends given a place to stay. Many times, the guests will strip the beds or start the wash.  We have noticed though, that when young military leaders stay at our cottage, it is nearly in better shape when they leave than when they arrive. (The only exception is they eat all of the food Diana provides – they are definitely not picky eaters).  Their diligent clean-up is notable since several have only been there for overnight stays as they were driving through the area with their loved one on very quick timelines…i.e. in late, out early.  Why is that?

Personally, I think it’s due to a lot of factors, but it certainly seems to resonate with what we talked about in our blog mentioning Jordan Peterson.  Similar to Peterson, this behavior resonates with the popular commencement address by Admiral McRaven.

My interactions with these young military leaders taught me that many Millennials are not afraid of hard work and stamina to render 24/7 respect of those who serve them and those they serve.  I know what you may be thinking: hey…those military folks went through boot camp!  We can’t do that in our company!

While I definitely see the merits of a boot camp experience (because I know how good it was for me as an 18 year old), I’m not recommending you need to have one. However, I’m thinking that in your leadership development regimen, your coaching of young leaders, you can emulate aspects of it to attain some key desirable leadership outcomes:

  • Build the new connection: The boot camp model does a good job of cutting the strings to their previous ‘team’ and lifestyle and then building a titanium strength bond to their current team.

Application Idea: Promote informal conversation between people whenever possible.  For example, institute a “no cell phones in the meeting room” policy. Rules like this spark talk about how the family’s doing, or the game last night, or the progress on a report that build trust between teammates.  Yes, you have to have some sort of draconian rule to get people off their devices and interacting with each other.  This takes time; be patient.

  • Build capability to create value to the mission: The boot camp model takes young men and women and prepares them for a job that is near unfathomable for many of us. They are strengthened and hardened in preparation for their calling, “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” (Excerpt from the oath of office for commissioned officers and the oath for enlisted.) Are you building a team in such a way that each person would take an oath to serve as team members?

Application Idea:  Are you building skills and capability in your team members, or are you only using the capability they have now?  Encourage them by investing in them: Help them find a mentor, find opportunities for them to get visibility using their strengths, allow and encourage them to take challenging education opportunities.  Find opportunities for likely failure and encourage taking them on.  The failure is a great teacher, and unlikely success a huge motivator.

  • Build respect for tradition and audaciousness to improve the future. The boot camp model is 24/7 reinforcement of respect for the traditions, testing to be worthy to be part of the high standards of an elite team. The respect that is engendered stands in stark contrast of the “whatever” crowd. For those of us on service teams, having our whole team well-practiced with an instinct and habit of respect will go a long way in helping us serve our customers better.

Application Idea:  What is really important to you, your team, your company culture?  Identifying a specific few, rather than things like “excellence in everything,” helps build a culture worth preserving and changing to survive.  We put together a quick values exercise for you.

  • Leave them better than you found them. This is what we’ve experienced from these young military leader’s treatment of our cottage. (It’s the same reason that Japanese subway bathrooms are so clean). As we set expectations for team leaders, knowing that they will probably have other teams, assignments in the future, instill in them this simple concept.  At its core, this is a servant leadership philosophy, that we respect and serve others. These actions are a concrete way to express the foundational principle of servant leadership.

Application Idea: Robert Greenleaf was the pioneer in writing about servant leadership.  He devised the Best Test to evaluate your actions with your team to determine if you are truly serving others.  “The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?” The Servant as Leader by Robert Greenleaf.

Here’s hoping that this Memorial Day you take the time to remember those whom we pause to memorialize, those who have served us in a way that cannot be measured. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13).  Thank you Veterans, who give of yourselves for our common good.  We appreciate you.

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