USAA Tips: Business lessons from Navy veterans

Content provided courtesy of USAA | By Chad Storlie

I reached out on RallyPoint and across my network to gather some U.S. Navy skill sets that make a difference in post-military service.

Here are the tips from several sailors that help make these U.S. Navy veterans proud of their service and successful in their next careers.

  1. “The Ability to Work in an International Environment.” The U.S. Navy is the most international in terms of deployments, working effectively with allies and in various global settings. Several veterans cited the ability to recognize and not to judge the differences between American and foreign cultures. Even with cultural and language differences, the ability to work productively together in an environment of success is vital. Another veteran relayed that in his experience, the U.S. Navy has one way to do something, but international allies demonstrate other ways to do the same thing, some more effective. The business line: the world is a big place and all business today is international so learn and embrace foreign partners.

  2. “Mind Your Helm.” The command of “Mind Your Helm” is given when a ship is starting to steer off the assigned course due to poor steering. The “Mind Your Helm” command is a constructive command to coach a sailor, of any rank or specialty, to pay attention to what they are doing and to get back to the assigned task at hand. The business line: even the most experienced employee and a new employee need coaching and reminding when they begin to exhibit poor performance, to get back to doing the assigned command or task. In addition, some tasks are so important to the organization, such as steering the ship, that others must look out and assure correct performance.

  3. “Collateral Duties Are a Way to Learn.” Additional duties have long been the bane of every military member, especially the Navy. However, additional duties are also ways to learn new skills in maintenance, budgeting, materials handling, and materials ordering that are exceptionally valuable in the business, government, and civilian career world. The business line: before you say “NO!” to an additional duty, understand of the potential value of those skills in the civilian job market.

  4. “Belay My Last.” The command “Belay My Last” is the command to halt execution of the prior order. In environments that are demanding, chaotic, and filled with constant change, it allows yourself (and fellow shipmates) space to decide, recognize a mistake, and then to reverse yourself from a bad decision. Too often in business, once a decision is made, employees mistakenly believe that any change in the prior decision, even if it is not working, will result in punishment or blame. The business line: allow yourself and your organization to recognize, adapt, and stop decisions that are not working. Changing decisions to a more effective path is a sign of great leadership, not failure.

  5. “Take Care of Your Shipmates.” Easily the most frequent answer was the importance of taking care of fellow shipmates, helping each other out, and leading by example to ensure a sailor was setting a positive precedent for all the eyes that were on them. The business line: some organizations think of employees as assets and not as people. The U.S. Navy’s example of helping people succeed, learn, and grow into greater roles and responsibilities is a lesson we can all take to our place of work.