Now more than ever, HR is becoming one of the most influential leaders within an organization. Since the start of the pandemic, HR has seen a reinvention as they’ve facilitated change, restructured standards, and defined experiences within their organizations. While HR’s leadership has been instrumental in helping organizations and employees persevere through the pandemic, there are still some lessons to learn — particularly from the United States Marine Corps.
The United States Marine Corps has a history of creating some of the greatest bonds and teams around the globe. Individuals from all walks of life come together and fight under one mission with one purpose. How does the Marine Corps do it? It starts with leadership. To help apply Marine Corps leadership traits and techniques to Human Resources, we hosted Marine Corp Veteran and current Director of HR Operations at BeyondTrust Corp., Walter Marques.
In an exclusive HR at the Table interview, Walter Marques answered some key leadership questions:
Walter Marques found that many of the leadership lessons he learned from the Marines are a result of the close relationships he was able to hold with his team. Overall, he found that the greatest crossover in any leadership role is to act with the service of others in mind.
Walter believes that the strongest lessons that have transpired in his HR role are to:
“When it comes to servant leadership, it’s about putting your team before your own desires and aspirations and creating that personal relationship with them. It can truly have a significant impact on that team and on the organization.”
“We often talk about service and service to our country, but what a lot of service members experience is service to each other. Life is not about you. It’s about serving other people. When we deploy, we form a tight bond with each other. If you look at it, we can really impact someone’s life. Not just professionally, but personally. Leadership is the greatest gift that’s been given to us. Leaders have the ability to influence someone positively and negatively. When you’ve been given that responsibility, it can have an impact outside of the four walls of the office. Leadership is all about people. It’s all about adding value and influencing someone to reach their full potential. When we can get that mentality correct, you build the team mentality.”
“Communication is different with different people. In the Marines, it is more direct, strong, and vocal. But leadership means you don’t need to scream to communicate and be effective. Communicating effectively doesn’t require us to just scream and get angry with people because not everyone responds to that.”
“When you think everything is a priority, then nothing’s a priority. For my team, we have so many things going on. As a leader, I have to communicate what the highest priority is so they can focus on that. Because if not, then we’re just going to be running around like chickens with our heads cut off and it’s not effective, everyone’s stressed out, and you start to have some disgruntled employees.”
“When there is a decision point that needs to be made, oftentimes leaders just make it without talking with their team. But when you can get that buy-in from your team, they are that much more receptive and willing to put in 100% effort.”
To be an effective leader, Walter Marques suggests living out your core values every day and being intentional about living those core values out. The Marines live by honor, courage, and commitment — values that have been instrumental in Walter’s leadership journey. For Walter, not one of those core values is more important than another. They’re all in line with each other, impacting his everyday leadership decisions.
Walter has found these Marine Corps values to guide him as a leader:
“Honor is about doing what is right even when it’s easy to take shortcuts. Within the HR profession, there’s a lot we do. We hold the standards of the organization and sometimes it’s easy to take shortcuts. But, it’s about doing what is right, not taking shortcuts, honoring the organization, honoring the process, and respecting everyone for who they are and for their role in the organization. From the janitor all the way up to the CEO, everyone has an important role to play within an organization and we must honor those individuals that contribute to the organization.”
“Courage means standing up for what is right despite the opposition. Oftentimes, HR professionals are at the table with senior executives and they may be having conversations that they may not agree with or have a different view. Do you have the courage to stand up for what is right and voice your opinion despite the opposition you may receive from senior executives? Courage is standing up for what is right regardless of what’s going on around you.”
“It’s being committed to the mission, the organization, and the team.”
In a previous HR at the Table interview with MSI’s VP of HR, Chris Courneen, he expressed that “people equal profit.” One factor of fostering a common mission is having a strong company culture that values each person’s role in contributing to the organization’s success.
Walter Marques suggests that to foster a common mission is to:
“HR’s role is to communicate the organization’s mission to their team. We are responsible for taking care of our employees, making sure that they have the right mindset to do their job so we can be an effective organization. It’s important to communicate that frequently. It’s important for team members to understand what role they play in the success of the organization. Every organization has something important to contribute to society. And as a leader, we have to find a unique way to voice that to our teams. You have to align the role you play with what the overall mission of the organization is.”
“In the private sector, you have to be intentional as a leader. You have to do it outside the four walls of your office and do team-building activities where you start to build those relationships and get to know one another. The foundation of leadership, regardless of what position you’re in, is built on trust. Your team needs to trust you. They need to know they can depend on you. Authenticity is aligned with vulnerability. It’s about allowing yourself to be vulnerable so you can create those deep connections, so you are able to influence those people on your team. When you start to build that trust within the team, it creates a whole different dynamic and you start to be an effective leader.”
“If you take care of the team, then the team is going to do what they’re supposed to do. Ultimately, they are taking care of you. As a leader, you have to constantly have that team mentality. When you do that effectively, they’re going to do their jobs well and if they’re doing their jobs well, they’re taking care of the organization. And as an organization, you’re successful.”
“People don’t follow causes or organizations. They follow worthy leaders who promote causes that they can believe in. It’s like they say, people don’t quit their jobs. They quit working for that specific leader. It’s important for HR to communicate that to executives so they can realize the importance of developing relationships within the organization. Those relationships start to build a bond within the organization that is very hard to break when you do it correctly.”
As we get through the “great resignation,” it’s important to remember the power of effective leadership. As Walter Marques said, “people don’t follow causes or organizations. They follow worthy leaders who promote causes that they can believe in.”
To hear further leadership insight from Walter, check out the interview we did on Leadership Lessons HR Can Learn From a Marine Veteran here.
The topic of leadership doesn’t stop here, though. Each day, a leader’s role often extends far beyond their job duties. To see what role leaders should play in facilitating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace, join our next discussion on Aligning HR and TA on DE&I with MarketCast’s CHRO, Regina Johnson.