How to Step Up and Lead When You’re a New Team Member, Without Stepping On Toes

The Debrief w/ Jocko and Dave Berke #7

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The Debrief w/ Jocko and Dave Berke #7:

How to navigate office politics and differing personalities.

Jocko Willink (00:00):

This is the Jocko Debrief Podcast, episode seven, with Dave Berke and me, Jocko Willink. Dave, let’s debrief. What do you got?

Dave Berke (00:09):

Right on. We’ve got a project manager, So he’s one of four senior project managers. The PMs at this company, they don’t have any direct reports, what they’ve got is they’ve got a pool of what they call junior consultants. So basically a pool of folks that support them on the different projects and the senior project managers work with the junior consultants to solve problems. This guy had just been recently hired as a senior PM, his work is with other PMs who are all way more experienced than him, 15 years more senior to him. And they’ve got their own way of doing it, they a little bit more independent than him, not big delegators, like to manage their programs. And they haven’t really done a good job of mentoring and evolving those junior consultants.

Dave Berke (00:59):

So what this guy is struggling with, one of the challenges he’s dealing with is he wants to evolve those relationships with those junior consultants and help them, but he doesn’t want to step on the toes of the senior consultants. So he sees the need, this little leadership void, to bring in the evolution of these consultants, but he also knows he’s new, he needs to navigate that without overstepping his bounds, and he also wants to make sure that he doesn’t take all this stuff on his own. He’s got job to do and that consulting piece is important, and he doesn’t want to get overloaded with the work.

Jocko Willink (01:33):

Well, I give him right now out of the gate an A for awareness, because a lot of people coming out of the gate, especially if they’re young and they’re fired up, they can’t even comprehend that maybe it might rub some people the wrong way to start being the shining example of a mentor to the young troops. So good for him, he gets an A for awareness at this point.

Dave Berke (02:01):

Yes. No, that too. And I think, also the awareness of that these junior consultants also need to be mentored, and realizing that, hey, this is a role that he needs to fill. So the first part of that conversation we had was really we’re just getting, has he recognized? And he knows this, you’re the junior guy, so you need to tread lightly. You cannot walk in here and start with, hey, you’re welcome, I’m here, I’m here to fix things. When you and I talked about this, there’s this concept that you keep coming back to, the term, the minimum force required. So the amount of influence, the amount of exertion you want to push to get the outcome that you want without doing it so much that it’s very clear that what you’re doing is applying force to the situation.

Jocko Willink (02:48):

Which is interesting because some people don’t even recognize that there’s a spectrum of force that can be applied, they only recognize that there is one level, maximum force. And even if they don’t recognize maximum force, they just roll around at level seven force. Heard this is what we need to get done, that’s how some people roll. And what’s really cool is if you want to look at that spectrum, there’s this spectrum of maximum force where you’re just imposing your will on your subordinates. When you get to true minimum force, all of a sudden, you’re in a spot where the people that are having the force applied to them don’t even recognize it. It’s so subtle that they just actually think they’re proactively doing what it is that they want to do, and they don’t realize that they’ve been guided in a way by this unseen, unfelt force that’s moving them in the right direction.

Jocko Willink (03:47):

So if you can lead without saying a word, with barely doing anything, you have effectively lead with the minimum force required, which is the goal. Why? Because every time we use force of any level, it’s an expenditure, it’s an expenditure of leadership capital. So when we impose our will somewhere, it’s spending our leadership capital, and we are trying not to spend our leadership capital.

Dave Berke (04:12):

Yes, indeed. The other component that I wanted him to look at was, what do you think the other PMs, his three peers, those senior guys, what do they want in the end? They probably want to be supported by this pool of junior consultants as best as possible. So this isn’t something he needs to look at and go, hey, there’s a problem, and what I need to worry about is creating a bigger problem for my peers. He’s actually helping solve a problem that, like you said, maybe they’re not aware that this problem is an issue because of the way that they manage the situation. But as he influences and become central to the evolution of how that team operates, that team is just going to get better, and the beneficiaries of that is going to be those peers.

Dave Berke (04:59):

And if he thought of it in the terms of, as I’m doing this and finding ways to mentor those teams, he actually is helping his counterparts. And so if he looks at it the right way, there’s not really friction and resistance there, assuming he doesn’t do what you just described, which is walking in the level 11, I’m here to fix problems that, oh, by the way, the implication would be is those are problems you’ve created, I wasn’t even here for this. But clearly, these are the things you’ve been doing wrong. He can actually help those other project managers, those other senior guys without them even really knowing it.

Jocko Willink (05:32):

Yes, the friction that he needs to watch out for is everyone else’s egos and his own ego, but that’s the friction that can be a problem here because, ultimately, from a sense of broad alignment, hey, what we’re doing is we’re training our subordinates so they can better support us. Is there anyone that votes no? Okay, great. So we’re all on board with this. As long as you can keep away from people’s egos and not scratch their precious ego, we should be able to move forward.

Dave Berke (06:03):

Yes, how can I help this group of people better support you and the projects that you’re leading? Get a little bit of advice, get a little support, and then take responsibility for that and just watch them be the beneficiaries of that, so the ego never gets part of that equation at all. And at the exact same time, you’ve probably got this pool of junior consultants that are probably struggling because these three different leaders, probably all different, they probably got their own nuances, and they probably don’t know how to manage that relationship as well as they could. And what they really need is some mentorship.

Dave Berke (06:33):

And if he can gently become the person that helps these junior consultants navigate those relationships with their bosses, that team is just going to get better. They’re going to be better at what they’re doing, and he’s going to be central to their development. And it can be something where he doesn’t need to take credit for that, he doesn’t need to be acknowledged as the one doing it, he can be the one that recognizes what the senior folks need and how junior folks can better support them. And he becomes the quiet or almost silent influence in making everybody in their role better. So the outcome of this and the cool opportunity, this is a huge leadership opportunity, is he’s going to be the reason why that entire team starts to perform better.

Jocko Willink (07:17):

So this reminds me of a little trick. It’s a trick, it has two situations that you can utilize this trick, it is subordinate jobs, or let’s even call them menial jobs. So one way to use this trick is you’re my boss, Dave, and we could take this case right here. Hey, Dave, I know that it’s a pain to mentor these young troops, and I know you got more important things to do, I don’t mind doing it because I’m new here. And you’re like, you know what, sounds like a good call, Jocko. Why don’t you go ahead and mentor them. So I actually just subordinated my ego, elevated your ego, and I got to do exactly what I wanted to do.

Jocko Willink (08:08):

This is something that you can do all the time. You can use that trick all the time. Even though, look, we both know, we both know, factually, is there anything more important in the world than educating and mentoring and raising up the troops below you in the chain of command? There’s nothing more important. But if somebody wants to slough that job off to me, I’ll take it all day long and I’ll make it seem like it’s some tedious, meaningless thing that they have to do. So that’s one way to utilize that tool.

Jocko Willink (08:36):

The other way to utilize that tool is when now you’re working for me, Dave, and I know that you need some help, you need to hone your skills at whatever. So what do I do? I say, hey, Dave, you seem like you got a handle on this, can you teach a class in it? And it’s something that I know you need work on, but I go, hey, Dave, I know you need to hone your skills … or I don’t say that, I say, Dave, I think you got a good handle on this, what do you say that … hey, can you teach the rest of the guys at Echelon Front about cover and move? Can you just do a little thing about that just so everyone gets your perspective? And you go, yes, no problem, Jocko. I got it. Yes, I know everyone looks up to my skills when it comes to cover and move.

Jocko Willink (09:27):

And boom, you say, yes, got it. And now you go, hey, everyone, Dave is going to spend 15 minutes going over cover and move because I think he’s got a good perspective on it. And now you actually dig in, you teach it, you learn it, you understand it better, and we all win. So that’s a cool thing to do. It’s a cool little skill to have, it’s a cool little technique to have in your back pocket, whether you’re using it to overcome someone’s ego or whether you’re using it to provide someone with a little ego lift while you’re actually improving their skills, both situations, win-win.

Dave Berke (10:04):

I’ll remember that next time you ask me to do something, what you’re really getting at. Right on. All right.

Jocko Willink (10:14):

We going to the next one?

Dave Berke (10:15):

Yes, I think so.

Jocko Willink (10:15):

Is this problem solved?

Dave Berke (10:16):

Dude, this problem is on the track to being solved. And the cool part, the way you started that was an A for his awareness. The conversation we had, his awareness was a huge part. Just to recognize the terrain that he was on, makes the tactical things that he’s doing so much easier because he actually sees the big picture. Now he’s just supporting that bigger strategy as opposed to walking in thinking, hey, I came at these guys really hard and now I set myself up in a bad situation. He didn’t do any of those things. So like you said, that observation, he understood what he was getting into.

Jocko Willink (10:49):

So you’ve heard me say before, there’s nothing more important than knowing where you are on the battlefield, right? That’s obviously the most important thing. Once you know where you are, great. That’s step one. Step two is, okay, what’s this terrain look like? How do I fit in this train? How can I utilize this terrain? Which direction do I move? What do I need to watch out for? And that’s what he did. Knew where he was. Where is he? Let’s outline this. Where is he on the battlefield? He’s new, he is less experienced, he has some skills, and he wants to do good. That’s where he’s out. He knows where he’s at. That’s a very important thing.

Jocko Willink (11:25):

And then he does a quick terrain study. Okay, other people are more experienced than me, other people have some egos that probably don’t want to get brushed. So these are just knowing your terrain. And then he’s just able to maneuver through that terrain and use it to his advantage. That’s what you do on the battlefield. What you do on the battlefield, you don’t go, oh, cool, there’s high ground over there, whatever. No, you go, there’s high ground over there, I’m going to take it. Or you say, oh, there’s an enemy strong point, what do you do? Just attack it? No, you go, there’s an enemy strong point, I’m going to avoid that. That’s how you study the terrain of human beings and that’s how you utilize the terrain that you’re looking at. You know where you are, you analyze that terrain, and then you maneuver effectively and you actually utilize the terrain. That’s what you do.

Dave Berke (12:08):

Right on.

Jocko Willink (12:11):

You’ve been waiting for me to tie a knot on that one, haven’t you?

Dave Berke (12:12):

That’s good man. Absolutely.

Jocko Willink (12:15):

Because a couple podcasts ago, I forget which one it was, I was like, hey, people are terrain, and there’s the little completion of that thought.

Dave Berke (12:22):

Yes. And pulling back from that when we’re talking about the terrain, and it was the example of, hey, this obstacle, you’re not moving that terrain, you’re not moving that mountain, you’re not moving that entrenched position, you actually have to move around it, you have to maneuver around it. And that connection of what the train is and the fact that you’re not going to move that terrain, you have to maneuver around the terrain, that viewpoint is huge when you’re assessing, what is it you’re actually trying to do?

Jocko Willink (12:54):

And then you can go ahead and move yourself into positions on the battlefield where you can no longer move. You can move yourself into the low ground, you can move yourself up against a cliff where you can’t get up that thing and you just have to sit there and suck it up. What does that look like? It looks like the boss that you paint into a corner by calling him out during a meeting and all of a sudden, you got to know you’re going down. You’re just going to sit there and get punished in a multitude of ways for that.

Jocko Willink (13:25):

So yes, if you understand that and you can maneuver through it, it’s like jujitsu, if you’re on the bottom and someone’s across side on you, you cannot bench press them off you, you can’t. I mean, maybe if they’re 100 pounds. But if they’re equivalent size and weight to you, because they can apply pressure in different ways, you can’t just bench press them off of you, can’t lift them two feet. You can lift them about an inch, and that can give you the space that you need to maneuver. All right, next question.

Dave Berke (13:55):

All right, this next scenario, a little similar, we’ve got an experienced engineer, he’s joined the team. He’s a senior engineer and the team that he’s about to join has a reputation of not wanting to work well with other teams. But interesting, the reason behind it is that, at least the reputation is that the other teams, that they build this product and they deliver it to them, the other teams don’t deliver. So they’ve got this friction-based relationship between the team he just joined and another team that really is designed to support them.

Dave Berke (14:28):

And what’s happened is that this team that’s he on, they work with the other team because they have to, but the approach is that they track everything. So they know the other team is not going to deliver, and so rather than build a really good relationship, they monitor all the things they aren’t doing. And they got this checklist of, okay, this didn’t happen on time, okay, this didn’t happen to this quality level. And so that friction has created this other team that has a reputation of not being able to deliver, they don’t deliver, and this team’s approach is to-

Jocko Willink (15:00):

So hold on, we’ll just say this, the A team is the team that doesn’t work well with others but they get the job done.

Dave Berke (15:06):


Jocko Willink (15:06):

And now we got the B team is the team that doesn’t get things done on time.

Dave Berke (15:11):

Underperforms, and the A team’s approach to working at the B team is to keep track of everything the B team doesn’t do.

Jocko Willink (15:17):

But not really help them in any way?

Dave Berke (15:19):

Not really help, yes, that’s exactly right. But so remember, this senior engineer just joined that team. And again, similar, he knows, he has this sense of, hey, our leadership … these two teams work for a boss, what the boss really needs is this product to get out on time and to be at the right quality. And this boss understands that there’s unhealthy relationship and he sees right away, hey, our approach to doing this actually isn’t helping us in the long run. So his question and the issue he’s dealing with is the same thing as, hey, how can he evolve this relationship with this other team that, by the way, they are underperforming, the B team is the B team, they are not doing the things they need to do?

Dave Berke (16:02):

And similar thing is what he’s really talking about is he’s trying to change the culture inside the organization, partially for his team and for this other team that’s not under his chain of command, doesn’t work directly for him, they work together. And probably the first thing that we talked about and one of the first issues is as he sees that there’s a long history here, this is how it’s been historically. Talking about this idea of culture changes, look, the way you see it is right, it should be very obvious that what you should do with the other team is help them, that’s what they need.

Dave Berke (16:37):

Don’t underestimate how difficult that is going to be, because the scar tissue of the A team being burned by the B team, it goes back a long way. And part of it is that, hey, you need to play a little of the long game here of what you’re trying to do. And the other piece of that conversation was right out of this book is, hey, there’s a piece of this idea of conforming to influence-

Jocko Willink (17:01):

Leadership Strategy and Tactics, by the way.

Dave Berke (17:03):

Yes, I’m just going to it like everybody knows what I’m doing, but of course it’s Leadership Strategy and Tactics, because that’s the reference point for these real life tactical situations. Because as he joins the team, guess what the A team is telling him? Hey, welcome aboard, this team is awesome. By the way, those guys, the B team, they’re terrible. And what you can’t walk in is go, hey, take it easy, guys. Maybe the problem here is actually you, maybe you’re the reason why that team has been struggling. So you have to do a little bit of that conformed influence and also connect to that little bit of the reflect and diminish, which is, hey, man, that sounds terrible. Now, tell me more about that. What have been those issues and how has that affected us? And then start to work that down.

Dave Berke (17:42):

And I said, hey, the first thing you can do, the best thing you can do when you’re joining this team, build some credibility. Build some credibility so you can start to create some influence. The other side of this is he was hired as a senior engineer. This isn’t a rookie, this isn’t a brand new guy, he was brought in by that boss to help with this team, to help with the A team. As an experienced engineer, the likelihood that the boss brought him in just to do engineering things, probably isn’t the whole story. And when we talked about is, hey, how well does your leadership understand the friction? He goes, “Oh, that was one of the key points of the conversation of one of the things that, that boss sees as the problem between his two subordinate teams.”

Dave Berke (18:26):

So you got brought in as a senior engineer on the A team, the team that’s doing really well, and one of the conversations he was having with you is, what’s been wrong with that other team that you’re not responsible for? So what does that give you? It gives you a huge opportunity to influence your team with their team, because really what the B team needs, because you already said it, is what written down, they need help, they need leadership. And your boss probably recognizes that. That’s one of the reasons why he brought you in here.

Jocko Willink (18:57):

Why do you think the boss didn’t put the new leader into the B team?

Dave Berke (19:05):

So if I’m a leader, if I am in charge of this, if I’m the boss and I have these two teams, I’ve got a performing team and I’ve got a underperforming team, and I bring you in as my next mid-level manager that I’m going to put in one of these two teams, me putting you on the B team, to me, that immediately reinforces the B team is the problem, I’m bringing this guy in, and he’s here to fix you and your team. But the connection between those two teams is they’re different teams but they work really closely together. And the A team is actually the final … they’re where everything comes in to and they’re the one that actually delivered the product to the client. They’re the one’s-

Jocko Willink (19:44):

That’s the A team?

Dave Berke (19:45):

That’s the A team. There’s actually a couple of other teams.

Jocko Willink (19:47):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dave Berke (19:48):

The other two teams are fine, but all of these other two or three teams feed into the A team that delivers it to the client. And I think, for me, that’s the key point of friction at work to the client that we’re serving and also to the relationships inside the organization. So I’m going to put you on that team to influence those other teams.

Jocko Willink (20:09):

Since the A team delivers the final product, are the other teams slightly, maybe even psychologically subordinate to the A team?

Dave Berke (20:19):

Yes, I think so. Yes.

Jocko Willink (20:20):

Because that would make sense to me too, that I’m going to take the pipe hitter and say, hey, you’re going into A team because that’s where everything comes together, and so that’s where I need this senior engineer with the leadership experience to go in there and fix these problems. And included in that is making sure that you don’t have friction with these other teams so you can get the job done. Okay, so I’m assuming that you told the guy, hey, you may want to try helping the B team.

Dave Berke (20:48):

I mean, that’s the simplest way to describe the answer. The help with the B team, I think the challenging part for him is that he doesn’t just walk over the B team and say, hey, I’m here to help you. It’s actually getting the people on his team, that final delivery team, to recognize that the mindset that I’m going to keep track of all your mistakes, I’m going to highlight all those mistakes, I’m going to shove those mistakes in your face, and I’m going to let my boss know that despite all your mistakes we’re still making it happen actually hurts us in the long run, it actually undermines us in the long run, because what we need from that other team is we actually need a better product sooner and on time. And so that help actually is recognizing that his own team, the team that he’s now responsible for is where we can make the biggest influence.

Jocko Willink (21:36):

So you want to hear how I learned this lesson?

Dave Berke (21:39):

Yes, I love when you write stuff down.

Jocko Willink (21:41):

I learned this lesson, I was going through basic SEAL training. And in basic SEAL training you have room inspections, and during your room inspections they check your bed, it’s got to be made a certain way, they check your floor, it’s got to be swept and waxed, and your boots have got to be polished, all this stuff, right, all the standard military stuff. Well, they also expect your dive gear or your swim gear, because we’re not even diving, this is in first phase, you don’t even have diving yet. But you have a UDT life jacket which has a little metal actuator which has to be clean and rust free, you polish this brass canister of CO2 until it’s gleaming. And you have a knife, and your knife has to be razor sharp.

Jocko Willink (22:29):

So I had three roommates. So you have roommates, you’re in a barracks but you have four people to a room, at least when I went through it was. And my roommates, we all got along great, we had a great crew of guys in there. And we spent the whole weekend, I didn’t go out. I mean, weird thing about SEAL training people don’t know is you can go out on the weekend. If you wanted to go get drunk on a Saturday, you could do that. I didn’t do that. I sat there and sharpened my knife, and polished my boots, and starched my uniforms, and just was trying to get ready for these inspections. Now you don’t pass these inspections. Well, you’re just not going to pass these inspections, but you still, in my mind, try as hard as you possibly can.

Jocko Willink (23:15):

So anyways, I spend the whole weekend and so do my roommates, we stripped the floor, we waxed the floor, we make our beds, we repaint our helmets, we do all this stuff, sharpen the knives, polish the boots. So I was good at polishing boots for sure, I was good at sharpening my knife for sure. I was pretty good at these menial tasks, I’m pretty good at just doing meaningless labor, right. So one of the instructors comes in, and he’s going through my gear, and he picks up my knife, and my knife is razor sharp, razor sharp. And he takes it and he picks it up, and he shaves the hair on his arm. And he’s like, gives me the nod of approval. And I’m thinking, that’s right.

Jocko Willink (23:57):

Then he walks over to one of my roommates. And he’s got his gear, picks up his knife, it’s not as sharp. And he goes and he says, “Hey”, whatever the name is, he goes, “Hey, Smith, your knife sucks.” And then he goes, “Willink, what kind of buddy fucker are you, don’t even teach your friend how to sharpen his knife?” And then he walks back over, picks up my knife, and on the bunk beds that we have there’s a metal pipe across the foot of the bunk bed, and he just takes the knife and goes, just smashes it like blade onto the thing, king, king, king, king. Just ruins this knife. And then tells me to go hit the surf and then tells him to go, and we all go hit the surf.

Jocko Willink (24:43):

But the point there is, think about that from the reality of that situation, what kind of loser am I if I’m taking care of myself over here but I’m not taking care of my buddy, my friend, my teammate? And so when you document and show me the list of the things that the other team failed on, you make me sick to my stomach. I am not impressed in any way, shape or form the performance of your team. In fact, I actually don’t like you. If you bring me the list of what the other team mistakes that they made, I don’t like you as a person, and I want to hurt you. So that’s just so crazy.

Jocko Willink (25:27):

So if you think about it from that perspective … And this is one of those things, right? This is one of those things where our minds play a trick on us, because the trick is, it’s so obvious when I tell that story, when I say, hey, Dave, if you bring me the list of the mistakes that your peer made, that’s what you do, I don’t like you. And I’m pissed off at you, you’re a bad teammate, you’re a bad leader, I don’t like you. It’s so obvious, right? No one likes that guy. But when we’re in that position, when we’re in that position, we think, you know what, I’ll look good. I’ll look good if I show the boss here’s a list of mistakes that Dave Berke made. Here, look at how bad Dave Berke is. It’s such a loser thing to do. So don’t do that. Don’t do that. Instead, help them out.

Dave Berke (26:20):

Despite whatever history is going on here, nobody even really wants to be on that team, nobody really wants to be a part of that.

Jocko Willink (26:26):

Part of the team where the rats are. By the way, that whole thing up, one note I didn’t take down, I wanted to say rats, because that’s a rat right there.

Dave Berke (26:33):

And nobody really wants to be a part of that. And the way we concluded this was, hey, I’m talking to him now, think about the reaction you’re going to get from your team if you carve out just a little bit of bandwidth as a relatively new guy, you head over to that other team and you help them with some product delivery piece or you give a little bit of bandwidth to them and support them, and this thing that the A has been waiting on gets here just a little bit sooner and it’s a little bit better. How’s your team going to react to that? And I think what you said expands on that and makes it more clear, if you go from the outside in, your team doesn’t want to be a part of that either. What they really want to be a part of is a whole bunch of people working together doing a really good job so that everybody is doing well. That’s what they really want.

Dave Berke (27:13):

And this little infection of, hey, that’s how we do things over here in the A team, they don’t want to be a rat. It’s actually not something they really want is to revel in the failure of their counterparts. And if you give them a chance over time to see the difference between the two things and let them get that sense of what it’s like to contribute to another team so that they benefit, now you get these two choices, which choice do you think your team is actually going to make if that was a choice? And it’s so straightforward. And I talked about, what reaction are you going to get when you show them that this is how you’re going to operate and they benefit from that?

Jocko Willink (27:50):

And here’s something to watch out for, so what you said is true in the purest form, which is this, I want to be part of the team that does good across the board, right? If you take everyone at the highest level and you say, hey, which team do you want to be a part of, the team that supports the other teams and consolidates everyone for the win, or the team that’s ratting each other out? Everyone answers that question the right way. Here’s the problem, that might be what they really want to be a part of, but there’s something that’s much easier to be a part of. And it’s easier to rip people down than it is to build them up. So we will tend towards the lowest common denominator of, hey, it’s us against them. It’s us against them. It’s our gang against their gang.

Jocko Willink (28:56):

Where did I read about Leadership Strategy and Tactics? I wrote about that idea of, here you are, you’re part of this group. And it happens in boot camp, right. In the beginning of boot camp, the drill instructors or at officer candidate school, the drill instructors, they’re formulating a common enemy for the class to be against. And what that does is unifies us. It’s a very simple mentality, right? It’s a very simple trick to play. Hey, this drill instructor is a son of a bitch and we hate him, and he’s making us do all these things. And it actually unifies the team.

Jocko Willink (29:34):

And what I talked about in Leadership Strategy and Tactics was the trap that we fall into is it’s really easy when someone says, oh, the boss is a total idiot. It’s such an easy step because I want to befriend … Dave, I walk into work, I meet Dave for the first time, hey, how you doing, Dave? It’s good to be working with you. And we’re peers. And then you go, hey, by the way, our freaking boss is an idiot. And it’s really easy for me the next day to say, wow, you were right about that guy, I didn’t know he was such an idiot. And all of a sudden, we’re bros now. We have unified against a common enemy, and that’s the easiest path to take.

Jocko Willink (30:10):

And it happens not only up the chain of command, but it happens with my team and your team. If you join my team, one of the easiest ways for us to bond it’s for me to look at you and say, hey, I’m glad you’re here, man, we need some help because the freaking B team doesn’t carry their weight. And you go, you got to be kidding me. And all of a sudden we’re bonded. So we have to resist that. We have to resist that susceptibility that we all have to utilize negativity as a way to strengthen our core group.

Jocko Willink (30:47):

Look, I’m not saying you never do it, right. I’m not saying I never do it. I’m not saying I never talked about some other task unit as if they were the bane of the world and they didn’t even deserve to be in the games. No, I would do that, because it’s us against them. So yes, would I utilize that from time to time? Yes. But it’s not your go to. And I would certainly never make it cross the line where we were actually going to do some negative action or sabotage another task unit, I wouldn’t do that. So it’s a little word of caution, there are some things you got to look out for. We tend towards the path of least resistance, and it’s way easier to hate and tear down than it is to build and lift up.

Dave Berke (31:36):

Yes. I mean, obviously that makes sense thinking about it. And there’s a piece about sometimes the energy sometimes that it takes to continue to reinforce this viewpoint of how screwed up that other team is. And I’m even just thinking the idea of like, you guys are tracking this stuff? How much time does that …

Jocko Willink (31:59):

Yes. And even though that’s hard, think about what’s even harder, what’s even harder is saying, okay, you know what, they got some shortfalls, we’re going to help them.

Dave Berke (32:05):


Jocko Willink (32:06):

Hey, the easy path is, hey, we’re going to write this down. Which is just total savages.

Dave Berke (32:12):


Jocko Willink (32:12):

The hard thing to say is, hey, listen, what can we do to support them and help them out? We’re here to win.

Dave Berke (32:16):


Jocko Willink (32:17):

If we they don’t win, we don’t win.

Dave Berke (32:19):

And that’s the long game, that’s the scar tissue we were talking about at the beginning with him is like, hey, listen, you’re not going to come in overnight and change this. So there’s this entrenched way of doing it and you’re going to have to play this a little bit longer than you might want to get them to see that. And look, I mean, that’s what we do. We come into these organizations, we come in with these teams, we see things from a different perspective, we see it from a different viewpoint, and then we help make the connection between the principles that we teach and how, if they apply them and where to apply them, how it eventually will make their individual lives better, which makes their team better, which makes their life better. And that cycle is the cycle we’re trying to create by helping them connect what we teach to their world.

Jocko Willink (33:03):

So you just mentioned this, you said you’re going to play the long game. And I was reading something the other day, and I can’t remember where I read it, but check this out. When you start talking about the long game, do you know how long that is? Wait, let me rephrase that. When you talk about the strategic win, do you know how long that strategic game is?

Dave Berke (33:27):


Jocko Willink (33:27):

Forever. The difference between the tactical and the operational is that the strategic win is unconstrained by time and space. So this goes on forever, that’s what the long game is. The long game doesn’t have an end, which is crazy. It’s crazy to think that we’re doing something because we’re going to win forever. So how long is the long game? It’s long, it’s very long.

Dave Berke (34:05):


Jocko Willink (34:07):

What else?

Dave Berke (34:07):

Well, again, like I said-

Jocko Willink (34:10):

So that problem solved?

Dave Berke (34:11):

Yes. Yes. I think we’re tracking on that problem. I mean, before I drove down here for this, I was three hours straight of just individual problem solving on different things with different clients, different situations. And that’s my life. Bro, I get to do that all the time, which is actually ridiculous.

Jocko Willink (34:42):

Yes, I just had a call with a client, which was my first call with this particular client, and he said this, he goes, “I listen to you and I get jealous.” And this guy is running a big, massive company. He goes, “I get jealous because you get to learn so much.” And I said, “Normally I deny when somebody is jealous of me, I say, well, nothing to be jealous of over here, but you should be jealous of that.” I didn’t say that to him. But that is a legitimate thing, the fact that you and me and the rest of the team in Echelon Front, we get to go through all these different experiences with companies. And the other thing is they have to experience a problem for three months, we get in there, we get this condensed version of the problem, we learn about the whole thing, and then we get to come up with a solution in two days. And that’s awesome, because we get to learn all those lessons along the way.

Dave Berke (35:34):

So yes, dude, totally. And for me, the coolest part about it is that I mostly stay with a company, and we got multiple companies, a bunch of clients, but I stay with them for a long time. And a lot of them come like, hey, we have a plan to work together for maybe three months or so. And that might be the going in plan that they have and we’re good to support whatever they want. And three months, hey, can you … and we stay longer and we get to see the evolution of these things individually, and we get to see the evolution of the organization, how an organization changes.

Dave Berke (36:09):

We’ll start with a basic assessment, and then a year later we get to look and see how much, by just applying these principles, just taking the things that you talk about on the podcast, the things that are in the book, Extreme Ownership, the things that are in Leadership Strategy and Tactics, just applying those as we give them that perspective, that you look back and you can see how much better they are and how much better their lives are. And I get to do that every single day.

Jocko Willink (36:35):

You know what’s cool here, something that I didn’t account for in the early days of Echelon Front. In the early days of Echelon Front, and I don’t know … yes, you were onboard. Do you remember me saying, “Hey, listen, our goal isn’t to set up five year contracts with companies, because it shouldn’t take us five years, it shouldn’t take us three years, it shouldn’t take us two years, it shouldn’t take us one year. We should be able to go in, assess what a company is going through, and then get them aligned and organized and get their leadership set.” And that’s cool.

Jocko Willink (37:08):

And so, hey, if it takes us three months, okay, six months, pushing. If we’re talking nine months, 12 months, I start looking at myself saying, wait a second, we’re making a mistake here. Here’s what I didn’t account for, and this has been so awesome, is that when you take a company that has got some issues and you get those issues aligned in two months, well, then all of a sudden, they get a massive increase in business, their profitability goes up, they start hiring more people. And all of a sudden, they end up with new issues that need to be resolved.

Jocko Willink (37:43):

And they already know where they resolved their problems last time and they see the growth that they got from it, they come right back and say, hey, all right, we need to do this again, we need to go over this, we need to grow, we need to get our new leaders trained up. That’s what happens. So I didn’t do a good job of accounting for that when I had that philosophy in the early days of Echelon Front of saying, hey, listen, we are not here to milk you of all this money, we’re here to come in, solve your problems, and leave. That’s what a Special Operations Unit is supposed to do, come in, solve your problems and leave, right? That’s what our goal was and is at Echelon Front.

Jocko Willink (38:22):

Here’s the deal though, once you come in, solve the problems, then growth happens, things change, they acquire other companies, we get mergers. And all of a sudden they go, hey, wait, can we get some assistance again? And it’s like, yes, absolutely. So when they win, we win. And it works out good.

Dave Berke (38:41):

And that happens all the time. We’ll work with sometimes one line of business inside a huge company, huge companies, and then that six month engagement will be done and they’ll go, hey, we have a whole nother line of business out in this region, would you be available? And of course, the answer is always yes. And the philosophy that you talked to me about at the beginning when you were standing up this [LDAP 00:39:02] program, hey, Dave, you’re going to lead this segment here, we are not in there to get our hooks in some company where they are reliant on us, we’re actually taking the exact opposite approach. We want them to be self-sustaining, to take what we teach and not need us anymore. And it made sense when you said it.

Dave Berke (39:17):

But I didn’t have the foresight either of we go in there and we get that feedback, and then there’s all these other areas, they’re acquiring new companies, like you’re saying, or they have other segments that are just decoupled from what they’re doing and they’re asking us to do more. And one of the coolest things we’re doing now is, it’s almost universal, the companies we’re working on want us to help them build their own sustainment team, where we train their folks to be facilitators of the same stuff.

Jocko Willink (39:45):

Yes. And once somebody comes back to the well three, four times, that’s when we tell them, hey, listen, we can keep doing this, but we don’t want to. You guys should do this on your own. This is, once again, the Special Operations models, it’s a more of a dream [inaudible 00:40:01] model, right? Which is, hey, we’re going to train the trainers, we’re going to train the troops. Once we’ve trained the troops and we’ve got a good amount troops, and they know what they’re doing, and the leadership is working together, cool. Well, eventually, we want to train trainers that can … and we’ve worked with companies where we set up their own customized leadership training program that we don’t have to be in a part of anymore.

Jocko Willink (40:23):

So our time span has spread out a little more than I originally anticipated when we started this whole thing out. But you’re right, the goal is not to get hooks and the goal is to have people be able to carry on, on their own and they are able to high five us, we walk away, and they carry on in perpetuity for just victory.

Dave Berke (40:43):


Jocko Willink (40:46):

Check. Anything else. I mean, that’s what you do with an LDAP program.

Dave Berke (40:52):


Jocko Willink (40:52):

You do an assessment, you check out what they’re doing, their principals, how they’re doing it, look at how we can get our principals into what they’re doing. By the way, we don’t have to come in and take their principles and throw them out. It’s like, no, we don’t need to do that, the principles are aligned. The leadership principles that we talk about are aligned in any organization.

Dave Berke (41:17):

Yes, any organization, to include ones that have never thought about it before or ones that have completely well crafted mission values check, they fit everywhere.

Jocko Willink (41:29):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dave Berke (41:29):

They’re either there as tools to reinforce what they’re already doing or help them build it from the ground up. They fit everywhere.

Jocko Willink (41:35):

Right on. All right, we went a little long, that’s a good place to stop. So if you want to dig deeper into all these aspects of leadership in any arena, you can join Dave, and me, and the rest of the Echelon Front team at, where we will sit there on Zoom, or actually I stand, stand there and answer your questions, solve your problems. If you want to go to, you can come and talk to us. If you want leadership guidance inside your organization, which is what we’re talking about, come check out our I’ve also written a bunch of books on the subject of leadership, Extreme Ownership, the Dichotomy of Leadership, and Leadership Strategy and Tactics. I Got some other podcasts, one’s called Jocko Podcast, one’s called Jocko Unraveling, one’s called Grounded, and one is called The Warrior Kid Podcast.

Jocko Willink (42:27):

If you want to support any of these podcasts, including this one, you can get some gear from or you can get some gear from Thanks for listening to us as we debrief. Now go lead. This is Dave and Jocko, out.


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