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A Royal Air Force attitude will see your career take off

Sean Bowen
RAF Gunner
Hard work and grit are qualities that will set you up for success in business (Source: Getty)

The military and the world of business aren’t all that different. There are huge similarities between the two, in terms of attitude and strategy, which could determine whether a business plan works or fails.

As a former serviceman in the Royal Air Force, I moved away from my roots in South East London and quickly learned that a combination of determination, discipline, grit and excellent time management made for better military personnel. Since moving into business, I have lived by these transferable skills:

Discipline

The military will try to break any person joining – regardless of age, gender or experience. The one thing you will lose is sleep. In basic training, sleep is not a right; it’s a privilege that can be taken away just as easily as it’s given to you. At times, recruits could find themselves living on one to two hours sleep per night for a sustained period of time – a mentally and physically exhausting routine designed to push you to the limit. As a serviceman, you start to grow an element of steel, and bury it inside yourself.

In business, discipline is a basic need and your instinct could be the difference between making a good or bad decision. Preparing for the worst case scenario doesn’t have to be negative. In fact, being cautious leads to contingency plans that may offer surprising, and sometimes better, results.

Good discipline doesn’t start and stop with the C-Suite – it is important at every level of the business, no matter the seniority. If an employee (or you) can’t do their job under optimal conditions, then they will not be able to do it in a crisis – an issue that needs to be addressed with further training or confidence-building exercises.

Punctuality

I am a firm believer that it’s disrespectful to be late, whether for an internal team catch-up or a new business meeting. I try to turn up five to 10 minutes early to every external meeting that I have. It reflects the old attitude of respect that I learnt from the RAF.

In the field, military personnel cannot bail on a task or turn up late, as the lives of you – and your team – could depend on it. After all, each member of the team is there to play a part and, if a person is late, it could be detrimental to a sequence of events that could alter the whole mission completely.

Reliability is woven into this; the relationship between members of a squad is similar to that between colleagues.

We need to harness trust and feel assured that those working with us have the capability and understanding to do whatever is expected of them, consistently, to achieve objectives while demonstrating a positive attitude with total commitment to the business and its brand.

Hard work

Those who have been part of the forces – no matter what unit – naturally work hard. This is because from the very beginning, and often at an early age, people are trying to break you and mould you into a particular sort of soldier.

The same can be said in the world of business. Often, you find yourself being pulled in different directions and you need to make a decision quickly with clarity. It is important to trust your decisions and follow your gut instinct.

In business, you have to be prepared to give absolutely everything to the task at hand, execute efficiently, and follow through to achieve the best result possible.

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