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Episode 215: Chris Fussell — How To Build A Team of Teams (One Mission)

Episode 215: Chris Fussell — How To Build A Team of Teams (One Mission)

Chris Fussell is a Partner at the McChrystal Group Leadership Institute. He is the author of One Mission: How Leaders Build a Team of Teams, and a co-author of the New York Times bestseller Team of Teams, the first book in the series. He was commissioned as a Naval Officer in 1997 and spent the next 15 years on U.S. Navy SEAL Teams around the globe. He then served as Aide-de-Camp to Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal during McChrystal’s final year commanding a Joint Special Operations Task Force fighting Al Qaeda around the globe. If you’d like to listen to the first conversation I had with Chris Fussell, CLICK HERE.

Since leaving active duty in 2012, Fussell has also served as a Senior Fellow for National Security at New America, sits on the Board of Directors for the Navy SEAL Foundation, is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and teaches at Yale University’s Jackson Institute.

Photo credit: The McChrystal Group

Episode 215: Chris Fussell — How To Build A Team of Teams (One Mission)

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The Learning Leader Show

“Remember, your position has little formal authority but massive reach. For many of the organizations we interact with, their entire opinion of our organization will be shaped off the tone of your emails, the courtesy you give their staff, and the respect you show for their Mission.” — General Stanley McChrystal speaking to Chris Fussell immediately following him becoming his Aide-De-Camp

Show Notes:

  • Sustained Excellence:
    • A constant intellectual curiosity
  • The interview process to become General McChrystal’s Aide-De-Camp
    • A unique window to get that exposure
    • McChrystal trusted that if Chris wasn’t qualified, then he wouldn’t have been nominated
    • Career goals –> Family situation (could it handle Chris working 24/7 for a year? –> What would Chris enjoy about it?
    • What sealed Chris earning the job?  Chris being incredibly curious about wanting to fully understand how the organization runs at a high level.  General McChrystal loved that about Chris
  • “It was one of the hardest years of my career”
    • It was intense but the exposure was phenomenal
  • “If we’ve hit a point for 24 hours where we aren’t questioning something, or there is no friction, then something is wrong”
  • How to handle issues at UBER?
    • “The issue is putting too much on to 1 person. It’s not about 1 heroic leader. There needs to be a cultural shift.  They need to create a leadership culture.”
  • Operating Rhythm — John Heisman 1899: The hurry up offense.  Just because you have a 40 second play clock, doesn’t mean you have to use all of it.
    • Chris and team were on a 24 hour operating rhythm.  They re-synchronized every 24 hours.  Had to have a flexible approach to handle the enemy.
      • A sense of shaped consciousness
  • Chris Zook
    • An aversion to bureaucracy
    • Front line obsession
  • Transparency of communication model
    • Senior leaders remain in close contact with issues on the ground without having to put out all of the fires
      • Hybrid model layered into it –> Interconnected model
  • McChrystal’s advice to Chris when he first got the job: “Remember, your position has little formal authority but massive reach. For many of the organizations we interact with, their entire opinion of our organization will be shaped off the tone of your emails, the courtesy you give their staff, and the respect you show for their Mission.”
  • Chris’s career advice:
    • Don’t think about money/industry — Think what matters most to you? Lifestyle — Coaching little league or being a high level CEO?  Where do you want to be in 5 years? Where do you want to live? Do you want to raise a family? Important to map all of that out and build a profession around those goals.
    • Chris also teaches at Yale and does this exercise
      • Write a letter to yourself — What type of leader do you want to be in 5 years? Map out your goals

“It’s a cultural shift. A development of a leadership culture is needed.” — Chris Fussell discussing the changes he would make at UBER

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Episode edited by the great J Scott Donnell

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