This article was sponsored by Purdue Global.

One of the best attributes a service member leaves the military with is the ability to perform exceptionally well in teams. Chances are, if you're willing to put your life in the hands of the person on your left and your right, you tend to trust them.

Teamwork comes down to trust and we know there's nothing more difficult than leaving the service and trying to figure out what really makes Tom in accounting tick or why Karen at the front desk always puts you on hold. We know you're skeptical of those "civilians," but with these 7 tips, your team will work through that whole "forming, storming, norming, performing" team dynamics cycle in no time.


1. Do things together after hours

No better camaraderie is formed than over a pool table, a dart board, appetizers, or a get together after work. Organize a monthly outing and put it on the office calendar. The first one might be a little awkward, so you really only need to book that babysitter until 9. But after that first layer of ice is broken, the "We should do this more!" emails will start rolling in.

Getting to know people outside of work helps break down their professional role into more of a, "Wow, these people are humans, too!" Turns out Karen has been through a lot — no wonder she is the way she is. Or how about when you finally find out that Tom has an unbelievable karaoke voice?

2. Recognize hard work

The military is known for promotions, ceremonies, and public displays of affirmation. Civilian life? Not so much. Anything you can do to get your office on board with recognizing one another's efforts is a great way to boost morale. Maybe it's informal, like sending out a quick email to the team every Friday. Maybe it's a quick, monthly gathering where each member highlights something someone else did to help them professionally or personally. The more you can do to find out how people like to be recognized, the more motivated they'll be to come to work with a good attitude.

3. Support one another

You've literally carried some of your battle buddies. Working in the civilian world isn't all that different. Yeah, you might not have to fireman carry someone during training, but could you offer to stay late on Tuesdays so Jeff in HR can make it to his son's baseball games? Little things like that go a long way. The new mom who might need an hour to run home for a nap, the project lead who you can send home for a few hours just to do one night of dinner and bedtime with the kids — anything you can do to help your team feel more like a family than a disparate unit will help.

4. Work through high-pressure situations together

You know adrenaline brings people together. Working in high-pressure situations should make a team stronger, not break. Find out what you can do to dissolve tension. What would you do with your unit? Crack a well-placed joke, offer support where you can, and look for the good while offering constructive feedback. Sure, we know it's hard not to roll your eyes and start yelling about IEDs and ambushes when Eric from logistics tells you that, "You don't understand the pressure!" but in the history of the world, one-upping someone has never worked in making them feel better. Dig deep for your empathy and find a solution together.

5. Do team-building activities 

You've done 1000 leadership simulations in everything from the woods to abandoned buildings. The reason the military stresses team building and trust is because, spoiler alert: it actually works! When you're able to develop your own leadership skills and philosophy alongside your teammates, you understand one another better. These experiential activities also help you all recognize one another's strengths and areas for growth. The more you understand one another, the better your team will perform.

6. Come up with callsigns

Inside jokes (when everyone is in on it) give your team a sense of unity. Lay the groundwork for how someone gets a callsign and then do an officially unofficial ceremony once someone has earned one. Building camaraderie through humor is one of the reasons military culture runs so deep.

7. Learn from the experts

Finally, whether you're an expert in managing teams or need some help, Purdue Global can help develop your leadership style with their Associate of Applied Science in Small Group Management as well as a host of other programs. The Small Group Management program provides a focus on small group management skills including: communication skills within small groups, managing conflict, risk management, ethical decision-making and problem solving, subordinate development, team synergy, and effective goal setting.

Learn more about this offering and their other programs.


This article was sponsored by Purdue Global. The appearance of Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.