One thing the military does better than Harvard, Yale, Wharton or Kellogg schools of business, is teach leadership. The Pentagon invests more per capita on leadership training than perhaps any US corporation, save GE.
“After you strip away the rank, the uniform and the saluting,” said a Navy Captain who was responsible for a large ambulatory care services operation before he retired, “All we have is our ability to lead…”
The military, more than the vast majority of US corporations, including hospitals, has higher standards of accountability. If you are a senior military officer, your fitness (performance) review determines not whether you get a raise as is the case in the civilian world, but whether your career advances or comes to a sudden end. Military officers might, in a special situation, get away with one performance review that is less than superior but never two, even if it comes one or two years before full retirement.
It should not be a surprise that military officers take their performance seriously. They focus on relationships and execution. The age-old rule, “up or out” is forever burned into their psyche.
This means military officers, those that retire after 20 years, have developed excellent political and relationship skills. Advancement is a journey fraught with political danger. The chances of avoiding at least one certifiable jerk commanding officer are slim. Military officers must learn to adjust if their goal is to make it to 20 years in service and retire as a senior officer. In other words, most officers are well prepared to adapt to the civilian world, especially those from the Medical Department. In the service of their country they have learned how to dodge the political bullets, the nasty potholes, and produce positive results. This is not a bad combination of skills.
If you are contemplating hiring a former military officer, here are three things to remember:
- They are loath to brag about their accomplishments, even in the interviews. Moreover, the military does not use the same type of competitive interviewing process civilian organizations employ so retiring military officers are not used to selling themselves in an interview process. If you like what you see and feel, take the time to tease out their story and accomplishments, which more often than not are rock solid.
- Most military officers understand the civilian marketplace, especially those coming from the Medical Department. The majority of employees in most military hospitals are civilian. Some employees in military hospitals in the US belong to a government union. Overseas, the officers must adapt to civilian employees from a variety of cultures. They must learn how to exact solid performance and good results regardless of the country or culture. They do not get a performance pass with overseas assignments.
- You cannot “short” them on onboarding. Yes, they understand the civilian system. Yes, they are natural leaders, and yes, they are pretty smart, savvy people. But there are still cultural divides, most rather subtle, that will require a solid onboarding program. Do not assume they will figure it all out. The money you invest on the front end to ensure their success will be among the best dollars you spend all year.
NOTE: If you are considering hiring a former military officer, we can help you navigate the process, from recruiting, screening and background checks to onboarding. Our team has a depth and breadth of experience in this specialized field, as well as a robust network of MSC connections. Contact John G. Self at firstname.lastname@example.org.