September 21, 2017 7:00:00 AM EDT  |  Leadership and Leadership Development

Markon Leadership Development: Transitioning Senior Military Leaders

Like most growing firms, at Markon we interview many candidates. We often talk to leaders that are transitioning out of the military.

Related: Markon Solutions Hosts a Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellow

2017-ldp-transitioning-sr-military-leadersI recently had a great discussion with a senior officer who was preparing to depart the service. ‘Alan’ had a very impressive military career. Based on his selection for command at multiple levels, he clearly excelled at his job. He had also served headquarters tours where he had been given increasing responsibility in important staff assignments.

Alan was bright, articulate, and extremely well-prepared. He asked great questions and was truly interested in how our business worked. Alan had a good idea of what his perfect post-military career would be and he had initiated some networking to get there. He was encountering some typical challenges. While he had tremendous leadership skills, they did not always translate well into civilian career tracks.

The Opportunity

In the military, an officer often rotates from an operational assignment such as flying aircraft of commanding a division or a surface ship to a staff tour where they run programs, lead HR or finance areas or recruiting commands. They often have staffs that perform a fair amount of the ‘grunt’ work and the leaders are expected to figure out their new ‘business’ and manage both up and down to accomplish the mission. Military officers typically learn the fundamentals of their staff assignments quickly and focus on making their teams successful. There is a structure to facilitate this constant rotation and transition from ‘Ops’ to a staff tour.

The Challenge

The challenge for the private sector is to take advantage of this talent and focus of transitioning military leaders. The right transitioning military leaders can have a very positive impact on a business. However, there is a degree of risk, especially for a smaller firm.

There is not always a great deal of time or structure for the transition. That is why some larger firms either focus on recruiting junior officers or NCO’s. The exception for larger firms is having a senior leader join the firm as a ‘seller’ to leverage their contacts from their prior roles. 

In the services business like Markon, you are either a ‘seller’ (business development, marketing, or sales), a ‘doer’ (delivering products or services to our clients), or a ‘seller-doer’ (a hybrid with some responsibilities in both areas). There are also many important support roles, but this was not part of our discussion.

It is important to understand when you are transitioning into the consulting and contracting world if you are interested in being a seller, doer, or both. Each requires a separate set of skills and interests. There is also a lot of pressure to balance long-term talent acquisition with shorter-term business goals of growing the business with profitable new and expanded work.

Have you or your small business experienced a positive transition with a military leader?

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About the Author

Steve Genn, PMP, BCC

Steve Genn, PMP, BCC

Steve leads client delivery and portfolio growth at the Department of Defense (DoD) for Markon. He is accountable for the team’s professional growth and development, client satisfaction, and the portfolio’s success. He has served clients across the DoD, Intelligence Community, federal civilian, and commercial healthcare markets. With a passion for developing the next generation of leaders, Steve co-developed and facilitates Markon’s Leadership Development Program. Prior to Markon, Steve supported clients for PwC, West Hudson/Cardinal Health, and several highly regarded management consulting firms. He received his MBA from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and a BA from Louisiana State University, where he was commissioned through Air Force ROTC. Steve's military career includes service as an active duty Air Force Air Battle Manager, during which he flew missions in Desert Storm. He retired as a Colonel from the Air Force Reserves. Steve currently holds the Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential and is a Board Certified Executive Coach (BCC), as well as a certified Myers-Briggs practitioner.