Being thrown into the shark tank makes you learn quickly. It was my experiences as a young, female officer in the United States Army that developed the basis of my leadership philosophy. With lives at stake and my country’s safety on the line, I realized how much I love to lead.
Now, as a disabled veteran who is responsible for a vibrant, quickly growing sales team at CloudCheckr, I rely on the skills I developed. Often, I’m pushed to learn new ones. My military experiences come in handy every day of my life at CloudCheckr.
For example, speaking to Fortune 500 executives is easier because of my time at NATO HQ in Sarajevo, Bosnia. I learned how to set aside fear and nerves, and get the point across in a professional manner.
One useful mental trick I learned? They put their pants on one leg at a time, just like me. Needless to say, nothing in the business world intimidates me. I’ve been developing a different sort of bravery at CloudCheckr and fine-tuning my leadership style.
During my first deployment, in Iraq, I was given the task of establishing physical security for our new base of operations. As the youngest officer and only woman on location – and being brand new – I felt overwhelmed with this responsibility. I had just four hours to figure out something I’d never done, and lives were on the line.
What was I supposed to do?
I went behind the HQ building where I couldn’t be seen and felt tears fall down my face. But I pulled it together, reminding myself that this is war – my country and the lives of my fellow soldiers were at risk. I flipped open the Army Regulation book and got started on a plan. When I finished, the officers, generals and colonels made a few adjustments, but overall it went smoothly. We didn’t lose a single soldier on that deployment.
Stepping out of my comfort zone helped me build a stronger skillset. I could have asked for help and taken the back seat, but I rose to the challenge – learning more about myself and my abilities than I would have known otherwise. By finding confidence in myself and going beyond my formal training, I gained new capabilities.
Captain Heidi Munson, center, in ROTC
Often, I encourage myself and the rest of the team to step out of our comfort zones – to go beyond what we prepared for. This is how to become a better version of ourselves, and it’s a lesson I’m proud the Army helped me learn.
I also learned how to deal with risks and consequences, and as a result, I’m more ambitious. I know that once I overcome a challenge, I’ll have another tool in my kit.
My team works hard to win. And these days, as the company grows at 400% annually, my team does a lot of winning. But wins come and go quickly if we let them. For some teams, the moment passes and it’s on to the next task. That’s not us. We celebrate.
It’s my favorite thing about my role – I love taking time to recognize how the win happened, and actively enjoying those moments as a team.
It’s a privilege to work alongside members of my team, coaching and sharing ideas – then watch them implement those ideas and find new successes. Being on the same team, taking on the same challenges together, is central to how we work.
I also bring in the BLUF mentality with my team and with prospects. Bottom Line Up Front. State your intentions at the onset of conversations, instead of building up to it. People in power both in the military and business want the facts. Too many words causes the mind to wander and I want to keep the attention of the person I am talking to.
All I have to bring to the table is what I have experienced as an individual. That’s a tiny slice of the total experience of our team. Our strength comes from our combined effort to improve processes based on everyone’s unique contributions. When the table is opened up to the group and brain-sharing is encouraged, we become better. Like iron sharpening iron.
I rely on my team to help me succeed, knowing I couldn’t do it alone. Delegating and asking for help at the same time, and serving alongside them.
I’ve learned that getting what you want or need is about letting go of the fear of asking. Many people are too worried or polite to ask difficult questions or set parameters. I encourage my team to set the stage with each cycle by keeping the facts front and center on the table.
It’s central to my leadership style to keep open about timelines, and to clearly outline what is expected of both parties. Being pointed and concise is absolutely vital in the Army and with senior leadership in the business world.
The Army does a great job in training leaders. It’s all about practice, and knowing the steps. It was a great environment to develop my abilities with my peers. If I made a mistake, I’d learn from it and move on. This is the mindset that drives my team at CloudCheckr.
I think being comfortable making mistakes is the biggest lesson for me. I learned to review what I did, understand how I could have done it differently, and then get the chance to try again with the newfound understanding. It was this training that catapulted me into leadership, and how my experiences with my team continue to equip me as a leader.
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