Trust — How The Military Trains Young Adults
A few weeks back I heard a podcast interview with Carey Lohrenz. She was the first female certified to fly the Navy’s F-14 Tomcat.
While her accomplishments are nothing short of spectacular, she mentioned something that she told listeners to think about and it still resonates weeks later.
The military trains and places an incredible amount of trust into these young 18–25 year olds. She explained the level of trust an aircraft pilot needs to have on a carrier deck in their peers, and how the military trusts these young men and women to carry out those tasks where millions or dollars and millions of lives are dependent on them.
For every person who has complained that Millennials and iGen are poor workers, there is at least someone in those younger generations who is working hard.
The problem as studies are showing is that they want to trust those in older generations and leadership.
Leaders that gain the utmost trust from their people are those who first train then place that trust in their people.
Consider any military branch across the globe. They train 18 and 19-year-olds to have discipline to choose mission over self, to learn skills and to take on enormous responsibility for decisions that may alter many lives.
They also delegate amazing responsibility of millions of dollars of equipment and technology to pilot, drive, position and handle huge machines, computers, aircraft, ships and such that could potentially be destroyed with even the slightest mishandling. Think particularly of naval branches where these young women and men handle huge jets and the trust they have to have of each other and the tight workings of the aircraft carrier are critical to success virtually every second.
If a military can build up their young women and men to be aligned and also delegate huge responsibility to them, then what is our excuse for not doing the same?
Millennials and their successors — iGen — tend to get a bad reputation and are painted with a broad brush as to their work behaviors. Truth is, they just exhibit the same human needs as any other generation, and we need to recognize this and adapt our leadership to meet those needs.
One of the major points Millennials want is vision and autonomy. They want to be able to know the larger picture of what they’re involved in and be able to have the influence to make that vision happen. iGen, from what we gather, are seeking authenticity and trust in a divided world, disenfranchised with poor leadership they see in all aspects of their lives.
Many military services inherently meet the needs of this in their culture while still carrying out the values of each branch. Here are just three examples of such:
- Not a fear-based work but a mission critical working as a team. Unit achievement over individual achievement is what military culture drives towards. And many young adults in these generations have a deeper sense of community involvement in that they would rather see the vision realized than have any glory in themselves.
- Trust is not earned but given. Many employers in the workforce feel trust must be worked for and proven before they dispense it. For the process of boot camp, the military have already created that culture in their recruiting and onboarding. They train their recruits to take on that responsibility from the start. And while it is verified over time, the understanding is the job will be done because an individual was trained then trusted to carry it out. It’s a basic need no matter what generation someone is from.
- Bonds are key to their culture — leave no soldier behind. Teamwork is the core essential in any military training. They develop a deep sense of unity (through diversity as well) that further drives trust across each member of the unit. People should always be wiling to carry someone through a defeat or trying period. Cross training and assisting one another only strengthens teamwork. Building a cooperative and complimentary spirit appeals to the younger generations and this culture meet those needs as well.
The lessons we as leaders can take away from this examples should help change our minds not only about what Millennials and iGen need, but who we are as leaders as well.
Basic human needs never change form generation to generation. But great leadership identifies the varying applications of the day to meet those needs.
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