For Veterans Day, we’re talking with some of our very own veterans about their military service, leadership at Extra Space Storage, and how to be more inclusive of veterans, active military, and their families.
Leading the discussion is Amber Baldwin, Employee Experience Manager at the National Solutions Center and communications leader for the Extra Space Storage Veterans Employee Resource Group (ERG). Participating in the conversation with Baldwin are:
- Chance Nelson, District Manager
- Kate Stapleton, District Manager
- Randy James, Service Manager, National Solutions Center
- Rich Miller, Senior District Manager
Q: We’ve gathered some of our wonderful Extra Space Storage leaders to talk about Veterans Day, share advice, and discuss how to be more inclusive of veterans and active-duty military families. First, let’s introduce ourselves.
Baldwin: I’m Amber Baldwin, and I am the Employee Experience Manager for the National Solutions Center (NSC). I’ll be moderating our discussion today.
Stapleton: My name is Kate Stapleton. I’m currently the District Manager out in the Hawaiian market. I have been with Extra Space Storage for 11 years and started in the Denver area as an Assistant Manager. I was in the U.S. Air Force for four years as a security forces member, so I was able to do law enforcement and security duties during that time.
Nelson: Hi, I’m Chance Nelson, District Manager in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and much like Kate, I’d started as an Assistant Manager as well. I’ve been with Extra Space Storage for 13 years. My military background comes from the United States Navy, where I served for four years, three of which I lived in Japan.
Miller: Hi, I’m Rich Miller. I’m a Senior District Manager in the Maryland and DC market. I’ve been with Extra Space Storage for about 12 years. I served in the military for 8 1/2 years, the majority of it based in Europe for the U.S. Army.
James: I’m Randy James. I’m the NSC Service Manager in Salt Lake City, and I’ve been with Extra Space Storage for four years. My military background is with the United States Navy, just like Chance. I didn’t get the luxury of going overseas as he did in Japan, but I got to see South Carolina and Georgia quite well working as a nuclear electronics technician.
Q: What is your personal leadership style?
Miller: For me, servant leadership. I believe in putting our people first and providing them with all the tools they need to succeed in everything they do with us.
Nelson: The leadership style I live by is leading by example. I think it’s huge to set that pace and tone and not expect anybody to do anything that you wouldn’t do. Secondly, in addition to that, is developing and mentoring. Coming from a background where I was an assistant manager and worked my way up, I had a lot of important people help me get where I’m at, and I have to pass that on.
James: My biggest leadership model has always been “I work for them.” With my direct reports, and even with my colleagues and my fellow peers, working for them has been my guiding force. In leadership, you get to create a vision, but you should also be able to provide resources that include the ability for your team to grow and develop, as well as provide the right tools to make sure that they have a role that they can function in and become very efficient at and feel like they have purpose.
Stapleton: I think I would boil mine down to three things. The first thing is to educate my team members—they need to know how to do the things they’re expected to do. The second thing would be to empower them to make those decisions that they’re now able to make because they have the education to do so. Finally, I need to be able to trust my people—I trust that they’re going to make the right decision nine times out of ten. I trust that they’re going to be following that thought process that I’ve shared with them and taught them. If I don’t trust them, then the rest of it is a waste of time.
Q: In your opinion, what strengths do military veterans bring to the team?
James: Teamwork, without a doubt. They value teamwork, and they’re able to work in a team environment. They can be individual contributors, but they thrive in that team environment. Also, attention to detail is a huge strength. With some of our military roles, we had lives that we were responsible for, so attention to detail is a strength, and if, as leaders, we play to that, you’ve got such a valuable resource on your hands.
Stapleton: I think if I had to choose something, I would focus on patience and endurance. The military is famous for the “hurry up and wait” mentality. We have to be ready, and we have to be early, because if we’re not early, we’re late. We have to be patient because as soon as we get there, then we have to wait. The other piece is endurance—when you’re in the military, you endure things that are foreign to folks who have never been in the military. There are a lot of challenging situations, and you build a lot of camaraderie through that but being able to endure very intense situations is definitely something military team members bring to the table.
Miller: I believe that military team members bring a strong work ethic. They’re very driven to complete the task that’s given to them. It’s usually a no-fail mindset—here’s what I’m going to do, here is what I must get done, and I’m going to get it done. They are great at following through on task accomplishment.
Nelson: I would add dependability to that list. It’s amazing how dependable veterans truly are. Like Kate had mentioned earlier, if you’re on time, you’re late. They will always be there, and they will continue that work ethic and do so with pride.
Q: How can we, as a company, be more inclusive of the veterans or families of active-duty military members that we employ?
Stapleton: I think when speaking of families and dependence on spouses of military members, we need to recognize that they’re probably going to have to move. And assuming they bring all of those work ethic pieces to the table, we’re going to want to help them move within Extra Space Storage. Being transparent about how transfers work, what that process looks like, and what they would need to provide from a performance standpoint to be eligible for something like that is very helpful for the families. Also, I think with the military members or the veterans themselves, recognizing that innovation, while it is a huge part of our life at Extra Space Storage as one of our values, it’s not something that’s encouraged very much while you’re in the military. You need to follow the rules. So helping a veteran understand what innovation means and what that looks like would go a long way.
Nelson: I would like to see bias training. I think, unfortunately, there is some built-in bias with military members. “Drink like a sailor” being an example of one, people may think we’re professional at that, and that’s it. That is a roadblock, potentially, if you’re in an interview with a hiring manager who has that bias, so that bias training plays a huge part and can positively impact our organization altogether.
James: Innovation is such a strong thing that makes our company great, and military members have always had innovation, but it’s sometimes difficult to break out of that shell if you’re so used to doing things one way. In the military, it’s very black and white and very quick and fast. Encouraging them to be innovative makes them feel more a part of the company and drives that teamwork. Then, you have the stigmas that come with it, the bias. They’re still human beings, and they still have all the same mannerisms and potentials that you and I do. They are your colleagues and peers. For family members, if you have someone that’s got their husband or wife or partner deployed overseas, be patient with them. They’re going through a lot. You may not see it through their eyes because you haven’t had that experience, but they’re worried. But I’ll bet you they’re still very dependable. Spouses are just as dependable as the active duty or veterans, and they’re always going to step up and be there. They’re strong individuals.
Miller: I believe the transition from active military to Extra Space Storage or the civilian job market can be difficult. It can be a stressful time for them. It’s a totally new environment with new rules to play by, and trying to identify that is very difficult for them. We have to be able to understand that. The other part is that we’ve got to treat them like any other employees. We can’t treat them, like we said, with some of the jargon that’s out there. We’ve got to treat them the same and give them that respect and let them find the right fit with us.
Baldwin: As a veteran spouse, one of the most important things to me when my husband deployed was having a flexible company that understood we would only get a limited amount of time for his leave during his deployment. I had transitioned to a different area and was looking for a job, and several of the companies I interviewed with told me they didn’t know if they could give me time off for his leave. The company I ultimately chose to go with had a very different response when I asked for his leave. That company said they appreciated his service and then asked if I needed anything. At that point in my life, the empathy and the flexibility that the company showed me meant the world to me. Employers often understand that veterans and military members are going through tough times when deployed but often don’t recognize that family members are also going through a tough time with their spouse, daughter, son, or other family member deploys. Family members have often relocated, taken on additional responsibilities, or just need a little extra support.
Q: What is your best career advice for someone looking to become a leader at Extra Space Storage?
Stapleton: I would say a couple of things. First of all, own your results—the good, the bad, the ugly, whatever they are. They’re your results, so if you’re doing great things, continue to do that. If there are some things you need to work on, be aware of them. Make sure that you’re vocal with your supervisor about what you want. What are your goals? Your supervisor is going to be your biggest advocate. Whether it’s the same supervisor today as yesterday or not, continue to be vocal about it. They’re going to help you navigate those waters. Finally, be open to the feedback that they give you and implement it. If you do all the other things, but you don’t implement the feedback that people are giving you to help you succeed, it’s a waste. Make sure you’re owning your results, being clear with your supervisor, and implementing feedback as soon as possible.
Miller: There are a couple of key things to becoming a leader at Extra Space Storage. One is always to be learning. It’s a continuous process, and it doesn’t matter how long you’re with the company. Seek out those opportunities that are out there for you to expose yourself to new things, so you can continue to learn more and stand out from the group as a leader. Additionally, utilize your resources and don’t be afraid to ask questions. That’s probably one of the biggest things I can say, is that in any position, as you progress in this company, you have to be able to ask questions, be transparent, and be vulnerable. It’s not a bad thing to ask questions.
James: Ownership is huge. You’ve got to be able to own it—if you goof, you goof. If you make a mistake, you make a mistake. You learn from it. That’s part of that learning, that’s how you get better, and you drive better results. It’s okay if you’re not the smartest person in the room. Having that vulnerability and some humility will guide you to open your ears, pay attention, and hear a lot of things that you may have missed by being more worried about what people thought of you. Having ownership and living our core values, with integrity being one of the guiding forces, always drives you in the right direction.
Nelson: Educate yourself but be yourself, and don’t ever lose who you are. We’re all original, and we all bring different things to the table, and I think that’s an eclectic piece of keeping you, you, and bringing that into a group environment is priceless. Lastly, you’re going to meet a ton of people throughout your career, so pick and choose different tools and make your own tool belt, and develop your own management style.
To all veterans, active duty, and military family members who are part of the Extra Space Storage team, we thank you for your service.