Ep. 271 – Special Operators Transition Foundation, Director Of Programs, Joshua Johnson

Our guest today is the Director of Programs for the Special Operators Transition Foundation, Joshua Johnson.

Joshua is well aware of the importance of leadership in every organization. Having developed leaders in finance, tech, utilities, law enforcement, and the military, he knows that leadership matters regardless of what a company does. He has  served for over 31 years in the US Army, the last 20 as a Green Beret. He served in every leadership position, from first-line supervisor to an executive board. He’s been able to leverage that time, his education, and his experience in business to transform emerging, new, and existing supervisors into the active leaders organizations need.

In This Episode You’ll Learn:

  • What the Special Operations Transition Foundation does, and the language differences between the military and the private sector.
  • The Foundation’s three-step process for career exploration.
  • The concept of a senior enlisted advisor, and why that person is the voice for the workforce.
  • Some of the core areas Joshua focuses on with people, such as employee engagement and understanding cultural differences.


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The post Ep. 271 – Director of Programs, Special Operators Transition Foundation, Joshua Johnson appeared first on COO Alliance.

You are going to enjoy this episode. I got off talking with Josh Johnson, who is the Director of Programs for the Special Operators Transition Foundation. I just learned about them. One of the graduates of their program is a COO Alliance member. They put about 250 people through their program every year. 

Our former senior operations people in the military that they are taking out of the military after their military career is ending and these are young people, typically 45 to 50 year olds. They’re helping them transition from the military into the private sector at COO-level roles. It’s a super interesting program. I was blown away by the actual strengths of military leaders. I had no idea about the real true operational strengths of these leaders.

Josh talks about digging into why things are happening, getting into some of the character attributes that make the best operations leaders, talking about trusting employees, and then backing off. If you’re looking for a second in command or even any senior operations people in your company, you have to reach out to this group and talk to them.

He talks about how to validate the CEO’s vision down at the lowest levels of the organization. That was super interesting. You’ll love that section, and then talking about the professional development and growth of people. I had no idea that in the military, they worked to this level of growing the strengths of operations people. I even loved a lot of his comments about on-the-spot feedback. You are going to love this episode. We’ll see you on the inside. Make sure that you share this one, and read a bunch of our others as well. 

Josh, welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me on. This is exciting.

I’m looking forward to learning from you and learning a lot about the organization that you’re building. One of our COO Alliance members came out of the Special Operators Transition Forum that you run. Why don’t you tell us very briefly what the SOTF is, and then let’s go back into your journey of how you got here?

The Special Operations Transition Foundation was designed to take known quantity and quality people that have been assessed and selected to have the character attributes that we know are necessary to be successful in Special Operations. As they’re finishing their time in uniform, taking those same character attributes and sharing them with the civilian world and corporations that we know are in need of them.

The big conversation is to hire for character and train for skill. If we’ve got a collection of people with known character that have done realistic problem solving and operations in very austere environments, constrained times, and limited resources, people that have been amazing problem solvers that we can then shift from doing it in uniform and help them make that transition to doing it for corporations, we see that as a big win.

We’ve been very successful over the lifetime of the program. We’ve been able to place about 460-ish folks. We placed 122 and we’re growing. We were able to place twelve different individuals. Our numbers are growing pretty heavily. It’s pretty exciting to see the process happen and the recognition of what our Special Operations veterans can bring.

I’ve heard that adage before, “Hire for attitude, trading for skill. Hire for character, train for skill.” What you have is both. You’ve got the character, the strong core value, character backing that the military gives them, but then also the skills of being an operator. The only skill you’re left with is understanding that maybe the industry, but that’s easy at that point.

It’s easy. I remember my first role outside of the military was with a home improvement company. I thought, “How hard can this be? It’s showers, bath doors, and windows.” I was blown away by the language differences between my 30-plus years in the military and what this company does. They’re a great organization and had some amazing bosses that took the time to say, “This is how we say this. This is what this term means.”

The example I like to use is somebody said, “Have you ever filled out a Gantt chart?” I’m like, “I don’t even know what that is.” They looked at me crazy and they explained it. I went, “An operation sink matrix. I filled those out 1,000 times.” These language differences happen within military and outside of the military.

Who has more acronyms? Does the military or the private sector use more acronyms?

It’s military by far. Everything is an acronym. It’s funny. You’ll be in an organization for a number of years and then you’ll do an outside or grooming assignment. You’ll come back and acronyms will have changed. It’s almost like learning a new language every time you come into the unit, even if it’s the same unit you’ve been to. Live and die by TLAs, Three Letter Acronyms.

SIC 271 | Senior Enlisted Advisor

Senior Enlisted Advisor: When you return from an outside or grooming assignment, the acronyms would have changed already. It’s almost like learning a new language every time you come into the unit.


That’s what we used to call them as well. I used to be in the house painting industry. We had a three-letter acronym for a rag to wipe off the paint. They called it an EPR. It was your Ever Present Rag because you always had to have it. I’m like, “That’s ridiculous.” We have a 3-letter acronym for a letter word. Tell me about how the model works for the Special Operators Transition Foundation. How do you guys make your money? How do clients use you? That side of it.

We’re a 501(c)(3). We’re a nonprofit entity whose sole desire is to take and assist the special operators as they make arguably the toughest thing that they’ve ever done in the military, leave it. You’ve got guys that have been on dozens of deployments and have gone on multiple targets and have done all these things, but it’s all something that they’ve trained for. Getting ready to leave the military and start a whole new life is not something that is heavily invested in. It’s getting better. The military has seen that requirement and it’s starting to get better, but it’s nowhere near where it needs to be. Ideally, we grab someone right about twelve months before their transition and bring them into the program.

We run them through three phases. Phase one is all about assessment, figuring out who they are and what value proposition they can bring to an organization. We’ve contracted with a couple of good executive coaches, Melba Holliday and the Atlantic Leadership Group, then Abigail Manning and the Abigail Manning Organization. We run our folks through about eight weeks of executive coaching. That helps them clarify and define who they are and what they bring.

We do some psychometric testing with Fascinate and DiSC. We do a deep analysis. We explain the fact that many corporations are using psychometric testing to make sure that they’re hiring people for the right role. You don’t take an introvert and put them into sales. You don’t take somebody who’s very extroverted and put them in front of a spreadsheet. Neither one of those is going to work.

We do some analysis and help people understand where their strengths and weaknesses are and how they’re going to be able to use those. We start branding the individual through this. When they leave the phase, they got a personal anthem, value proposition statement, and we’ve had them define 4 or 5 different stories from their career that validate what that value proposition statement is. We then move them into the exploration phase. There are two parts to this.

Part one is continuing on that branding. We work with them to write a good base document resume, and then we teach them how to shift that resume to specific industries or roles that they’re looking at. We go in-depth on training people how to do networking. It’s not meeting people, but it’s engaging, creating conversations, and building relationships that you can then leverage in order to open up your professional network and eventually find that role that’s going to be best suited for you.

We do interview preparation training. We teach them how to go in and evaluate industries that might be of interest to them and how we evaluate corporations that they’re targeting. They’re going into this with some knowledge. When you’re in the military, you know what your next job’s going to be. You may not know exactly where it’s going to be, but it’s going to be doing the exact same thing. As our folks are leaving the military, it’s wide open.

We’re helping them define three things. 1) Where do you want to live? It is something they have not had a choice. 2) Functionally what it is that they want to do, then 3) The industry that they want to do that in. Those things all go hand in hand. I tell people this all the time, “If you want to be a rocket scientist and live in Montana, that’s not going to work. You need to go to Huntsville, Alabama, Florida, Cape Canaveral, or the JPL out in California. Understanding how all three of those tie in helps somebody make that decision.

Oftentimes, we’ll get folks that are like, “I’m wide open. I’ve moved my whole career. I’m not tied to any one place. I’ll go wherever that needs to be.” That’s great. We can work with that. You’ve got other folks that have been like, “I spent 30 years in the military. I finally got my forever home. My kids are in school and I’ve got a community. I’m staying in this town.”

Now we need to start looking functionally at what you want to do and industries that are in the area that you can do that in. We work with them to define what that means. The other half of the exploration phase is getting in front of people that are doing the things that they have an interest in. We’ve got a large alumni population plus a ton of business partners where somebody comes in and says, “I’m interested in project management.”

“I’ve got a dozen project managers on the phone right now that I’m going to introduce you to. You can start having conversations.” We’ve got folks that are saying, “Project management in commercial construction looks like this. Project management in manufacturing looks like this.” They’ve got this group of people that can go out and say, “I know what project management looks like in the military because I’ve done this for the last couple of decades, but what does it look like for what you do?” Through these conversations and opening our professional network for them to start building their own professional network is how most of our people end up getting placed.

It’s an unbelievable model.

It’s pretty good. Finally, phase three is our execution phase. When our fellows are about 120 days out from their available hire date, we shift into execution. Now they have defined, “I’m interested in living in this place. Functionally, this is what I want to do. These are probably 2 or 3 industries that I’m targeting.” Now we dig into our business partners who we know are looking for folks in that, where we help them develop some of those networks or contacts that they’ve created. We shift into actual employment interviews. Once our fellows are successful in securing a role, that’s what we promise. We promise you that we are going to make you very prepared in order to secure a role. We’re not a placement agency. We don’t guarantee work or a role, but we do a pretty good job of making sure that our folks get there.

94% or 95% right around there of all of our fellows end up getting placement. Once they’ve secured a role, we then work with them on a couple of different things. We’re going to help them negotiate that employee contract, make sure the wage is fair, and make sure they understand it because there are a lot of things that ghost equity and understanding how being given stock options and things that we did not have in the military that our guy and girls may not necessarily understand.

We help them through that process, then we shift into what we call an overwatch phase. We start that by giving them a, “Here’s your best practices for success for the first 90 days in the organization. Here are the top five priorities that you need to focus on as you’re gaining traction in the new role that you’re in. Figure out what the strategic intent of the organization is. Figure out what the intent of your boss is. Define who your team is and who those key personalities or key roles that you’re going to have to work with frequently.”

“Understand what we call the customer’s journey, how the organization markets, sells, onboards, manufacturers, delivers, and whatever customer services on the backside then figure out where you fit in there so that you can have a clear standing of who is feeding you or your part, and then who you are going to feed within that customer’s journey.” When our fellows can define that in that first 30 to 60 days, now they can start looking at clarifying the intent and understanding not necessarily just what we do, but why we do that. Everyone knows this. If you understand the why, then you’ve got buy-in. If you’ve got buy-in, you can then start looking for improvements.

We push people to understand why things are happening and look for some of those early wins. We’re not asking someone to make a grand slam in the first 30 days. We’re saying, “What are those things that you can do to get recognized in the right way so that you’re contributing to the organization, growing your reputation, and validating that value proposition statement that you said?” and making sure that they’re set up for success for the long term. Once they’ve got traction and they understand what their role is, then we’re going to reach back out to them and say, “We’re super happy for you. We’re excited that you’re one of our success stories. Are you willing to now be a mentor to somebody else coming through the organization?”

This is where our alumni are important to the organization. I’ve yet to have someone go, “I’m too busy for that.” Everyone is like, “What can I do? Have somebody call me. I’m going to walk them through.” There are a couple of good benefits from this. We talked earlier about that language. Now I’ve got somebody that speaks the language of our fellow and the language of the organization that they’re working and they can help make that translation. The other half of this is we’ve got fellows that are in an organization. Why would they not want to be surrounded by the people that they worked with for a couple of decades in the military?

They’re hearing about a role and they’re reaching out constantly saying, “I’m over at this organization. We’re looking for a couple of project managers. Here’s the role description.” Our alumni are becoming that force of gravity pulling a fellow through the program. It’s a great model. It’s filled with absolute professionals within the organization.”

How do you guys make your money? Who’s paying for all this?

All donor dollars. We’ve got a director of development, Bobby Payne. His sole job is to go out and find patriotic Americans that recognize the sacrifice that our fellows gave to be in the service and collect donations off of that. Unbelievable. I don’t envy Bobby in what he does, but he does it well. We’ve got some amazing legacy donors that work well. Our board of directors, each has a responsibility to make sure that they’re bringing in some funds as well.

We went down to Fort Lauderdale where we participated in two different donor drives. it was the South Florida Charity Classic. It was a big golf tournament. It was a rough day in the office when I had to go golf down in Florida. It’s getting out there, talking to people that don’t necessarily know what’s happening, briefing them up as I did with you, explaining what it is, why we’re doing it, and then asking them if they’re willing to do it. It’s about $6,000 to run a fellow through the program.

You keep saying, “Fellow.” Is it only men?

No. A fellow represents anyone that’s within Special Operations. The fellowship. We refer to them as fellows. During my time in Special Operations, within Army Special Forces, as a Green Beret, we didn’t have females as operators. I tend to go with the gents, the boys, or the guys. I’ve taught myself to go, “And ladies,” because it’s far more prevalent. In some of the other units in some 160th pilots, we’ve got females coming to that.

It’s something that’s going to become more emerging than current. It’s super fascinating that you’re able to fund this completely off donations. What’s your annual budget?

I intentionally try to stay away from the money side of it. I want to say we’re at $1.4 million or $1.5 million in order to manage the whole process, or maybe a little high.

It seems small. It doesn’t seem like enough money to make this all work. Your program is strong.

On average, we’ve grown it. We’ve got 225 fellows within the organization. $6,000 a piece for that. We’re trying to grow that and our capacity to be able to manage about 300 at any given time. As the military is drawing down from some of the operations, we’re seeing an increased number of folks doing their time and then retiring coming out. Our capacity has had to increase to meet that. We’re finding ways to increase that cash requirement as well. I don’t envy Bobby and what he does, but he does a great job at it.

It almost seems irresponsible for companies not to attempt to hire some of these people. It seems like a hidden gem, a diamond in the rough that when you find out about it, you’re like, “This is built-in incredible talent, solid core values, solar systems. They know their crap.” I would sense the loyalty is quite strong for them with companies as well. They’re not job hopping, are they?

Typically, they’ll get in and hold onto a job for 3 to 5 years. If an organization has upward growth potential, you’ll see folks that will stay in that organization. When organizations cap out and there’s no way to move forward, we’ll see our fellows take that next step and move into another role. The good news about it is they’re conditioned to make sure that they are grooming their replacement because it’s something that’s been ingrained in us the entire time.

In the military, the longest you’re going to be out of the organization is three years. You’ll probably do 2 separate jobs within that 3 years. You’re going to spend your 1/3 perfecting the role and then you’re going to spend the next 2/3 of your time grooming, your replacement because it’s a known thing. It’s going to happen. You are moving out.

Employee engagement and development are strong in our fellows. They understand that and the need. It’s always been, “Build your replacement so that you can move into that next role.” I’m a big fan of that attribute with all of our fellows. When they move into an organization, they get that, “It’s not about just me. It’s about the team. Not only is it about the team. It’s about developing the team to be able to take the next role. If I’m always trying to develop somebody for that growth potential, then we’ve always got somebody to assume that.”

I’ve got one more question around the whole Special Operators Transition Foundation, and then I want to go into some of your background and experience as well to draw on what you’ve learned in the military and that second command-type role. How does a company connect with you guys to start hiring some of these people, or what do they do? Do they go through a search firm? Do they work with you directly?

We’ve got a couple of avenues we do that. We’ve got the website, SOTF.org. There’s a link in there to be a business partner, a donor, or for fellows to apply for the program. If anybody has a strong interest in getting engaged with the Special Operators Transition Foundation, my LinkedIn is up, you can automatically call me and we’ll start having those conversations. Go to the website, and say, “This is the company that I own or work for. We are looking for the premier veteran talent that’s coming out of the organization. How do we get involved?”

We’ll immediately get back in touch with them. We’ve got a strong network of business partners, but we’re always looking to increase that because we have fellows that come at and some of them know specifically what they want to do in the industries they want to work in. We’re always trying to find opportunities for them.

I’m going to talk to you about becoming a corporate partner because once we’ve got these people in place, we should get them into the COO Alliance as a member so that then they have a network of other COOs or peers that are also not all from the military as well. They’re starting to cross-pollinate and their peer group is people in that second-in-command role, but 70% of them with no military experience, and it’s like ideas having sex. You cross-pollinate from different industries. Let’s go back in time. Walk through your experience. What got you here and what were the leadership skills or roles that you were playing?

I’m enlisted, which is how I ended up becoming that senior enlisted advisor. In the military, it’s a steady growth. You know the next position you’re going to get into. The first time you become a non-commissioned officer and a team leader. You’ve got a small team, 2 or 3 people. You spent 2 or 3 years mastering that level of supervision and then it’s constant growth. You move into a squad leader, 2 or 3 teams underneath. You move into a platoon sergeant, 3 or 4 underneath you.

First sergeant, you’re the HR, operations, compliance, and standards. Eventually, you move into that senior enlisted advisor, the sergeant major role, where you’ve got some pretty big responsibilities. We talked about them earlier. You were the voice of the commander, making sure that their intent and vision are understood and complied with the organization.

As a senior enlisted advisor, you’re constantly working down and in which allows that commander to work up and out. A commander will come in and say, “Here’s what I plan to do in the next twelve months. Here’s what we’re doing with this operation.” The operation’s officer, the S3 officer will take it and begin the nuts and bolts to it. The executive officer was always managing the budget.

That sergeant major is making sure that vision and mission are understood at every level and being that person that can go down and say, “You tell me what the commander means. That’s not it at all. Let me get you up to speed so that you understand it and you’ve got total buy-in.” It’s important that that role does that because it’s the continuity of thought and understanding throughout the entire organization.

SIC 271 | Senior Enlisted Advisor

Senior Enlisted Advisor: The sergeant major ensures that the vision and mission is understood at every level of the unit.


The other half of this is the senior enlisted advisor has to be the one that can go to the commander and say, “The capability of your organization can or cannot meet what your vision is. If we can’t meet it, here’s the training process in order to get there. If we can meet it, you’re not stretching us far enough. Let’s increase this operation.”

It’s the voice for the workforce and that sounding board for that commander or CEO to make decisions and have somebody that can go, “Great idea. That’s an ugly baby. We can’t do that one.” The other half of that is the senior listed advisor or the sergeant major who is responsible for the professional growth and development of enlisted leaders. Formally, they manage the enlisted side but informally, sergeant major also has a responsibility to work with those junior officers and train and educate them on how to work with their enlisted and within the organization.

Oftentimes, sergeant major is the continuity of the organization because they’ve been there a lot longer. Typically, an officer will come in. They’ll do 2 or 3 years as a lieutenant, and then they’ll go out to a broadening assignment. They’ll come back as a captain, spend 2 or 3 years, and go out to a broadening assignment. They’ll come as a staff officer and potentially, a battalion-level commander. They go back out. Where those enlisted typically stay within that organization or like organizations, they don’t do as many broadening assignments as the officers will do. That being said, they’re the keeper of all that knowledge and the understanding of those capabilities and it’s continuity of information.

I never would’ve guessed that you’re focusing in the military and in that role on the professional growth and development of people.

The number one responsibility outside of advising the commander is the professional growth and development of the force.

In the private sector, we don’t have any exposure to this. All we see is what we see in the movies. We think you guys run around on tracks carrying your backpacks and singing songs. We don’t know what you’re getting. Nobody’s telling us. This is interesting. What professional growth? Give us a few core areas that you’re working with people on.

Number one is understanding employee engagement. We call it development but, “You’ve got a brand new soldier. How are you going to assimilate them into the unit and into the culture?” You’ve got broad military culture which basic training does that. You’ve got specific microcultures within the organization. Everyone goes for basic training and they understand how to be in the army.

Suddenly, you’re in a special operation unit that works in Asia. That’s going to be way different than a special operation unit that works in Europe or Central or South America. There are going to be similarities and crossovers, but understanding culturally how it’s completely different. We used to have this conversation all the time. The Fifth Special Forces group primarily operates in the Middle East. They’ve got a very unique way in which they do operations.

The First Special Forces group, the one that I came out of, their typical area of operations is Asia. Being able to take understanding the cultural differences of working with Koreans and people from Taiwan, Philippines, Thailand, Bangladesh, and India, and go, “All of those different cultures, I’ve got to be able to understand and work within, then I can take that cultural understanding and apply it to the mission set in the Middle East.”

Whereas the fifth group is, “We have to understand Sunnis and Shias.” We have to understand these minor differences between religious-based, and some cultural between the countries, but it’s not as broad. Whereas you work with Koreans, and then you go work with people from the Philippines, it’s two entirely different worlds and being able to shift that mindset.

That being said, when we’re developing soldiers for whatever unit that we’re in, there’s a lot of cultural assimilation that has to happen. That’s a big part of it. It’s teaching people, “How do you effectively counsel?” Employee engagement. We call it counseling within the military. Are you talking about things that they screwed up 30 days ago? No value. You should have addressed that on the spot. Are you going to talk about, “What is it that you want to do in the military? Here are the roles that we need to get you into to make sure that you can do that growth.”

I’m going to try and align your personal goals with my unit responsibilities. If I can align both of those, both needs are being met. We’ve got this functional unit because you know what needs to happen for the organization and why it’s important that you are involved in that. If I can teach someone from, “You’re going to do this with 2 people as a team leader, then you’re going to do this with 8 or 7 as a squad leader, then with 30 people as a platoon sergeant or 120 people as a first sergeant.” If I can teach people how to be leaders at every level, then moving into that next level of leadership is an expansion of what they already know.

SIC 271 | Senior Enlisted Advisor

Senior Enlisted Advisor: If you can teach people how to be leaders at every level, moving to the next level of leadership is just an expansion of what they already know.


I launched a program a few years ago called Invest In Your Leaders for exactly that reason of giving people the core skills to continue to grow as leaders. Many people stall in their careers. The crossover between the military and the level that you’re working at and the private sector with best practices and businesses is staggeringly incredible. I didn’t know. I even love that you used the Fascination Advantage by Sally Hogshead.

She and I have hung out together in Antarctica. We’ve been in a couple of mastermind communities together. Her work is brilliant. I was asked by a COO. He said, “What do you think about quarterly reviews?” I said, “I hate them. I love on-the-spot reviews.” If you screw up, tell them right away and tell them how to improve. If they do something great, tell them right away. That’s amazing. Tell them what you saw. It’s like coaching your kids. You don’t wait until the end of the year to give your kids an annual review. You coach them every minute of every day.

If they see something up in January and you don’t talk to them about it until April, they’ve continued to do the same thing. I’m a big fan of this. If I’ve got a 1-hour review with somebody, I’m going to spend about 10 minutes talking about what they’ve done in the last 90 days. It should be focused on, “You started here, and here’s where you’re at now.” I’m going to spend the whole rest of my time, the next 50 minutes, talking about where they want to go in the organization and then defining the path to get there.

It’s that alignment of personal goals with organizational needs. If those two are in sync, you’ve got an employee that’s dedicated to the job because they know that the job is dedicated to them, “I know right now I’m asking you to do this job and it’s terrible. I get that, but if you can master this, then we’re going to take that and move that skillset into this. If you can dig in for the next little bit, I promise you, it’s going to pay off. Now we’re going to work into that.” Now they go, “You’re not just using me to knock out whatever mundane task it is. You are refining my skillset so that I can supervise the next person that has to do that.”

How about you as a leader? Over the years, I’m sure that you didn’t have all the skills you’ve got now when you were starting out. What do you think were the most formative or transformative skills that you learned or worked on yourself to get to where you are?

I tell this story all the time. It’s such a new and lame conversation, but it stuck with me for the longest time. It still sticks with me. We were getting ready to move some equipment to a training area. I leaned over to one of my guys. This is when I was in Special Forces. I said, “Run over to the warehouse and grab us a pallet so we can do this. Make sure it’s a good one.” He paused. He looked at me and goes, “What makes you think I wouldn’t want a good one?”

It clicked on me. This massive light bulb went off in my head over the dumbest conversation about a pallet. Your employees are pretty smart people. They’ve got the right desire to go and do things the correct way. Trust your employees and back off. My first role out of the military was as a Director of Training and Leadership Development and then I moved over and stood up a leadership development consulting wing for another organization. I tell people all the time that oftentimes, leadership is the fine art of shutting up, “Here’s the intent. Here’s why. Go make it happen. Here’s the end state. This is what I need to accomplish. Here’s what it needs to look like when you’re done. Here’s why it’s important. Go do it.” Let people get out of their way.

When I was younger, I was very much hands-on. I’m going to be there. I’m the boss. I’m responsible for this. I’m a bit of a micromanager. I’m learning how to back off from that. I’m going to spend time investing in training my people so that I don’t have to spend all of my time managing my people. There’s that continuity of management. New person, new task, a whole bunch of supervision. Veteran employee with a routine task, very little supervision. I don’t need to be involved in that. I can spend all my time working with that new person.

A veteran employee with a brand new task that neither of you knows, we’ve got to collaborate and figure out how we’re going to do this. We’re going to figure out what my lane is, what your lane is, where I need to back off, and where I need to be involved. That becomes that conversation about how to do that. When I’m doing leadership development, I’m training people, it’s understanding that level of supervision or the individual that you’re working on. That level of supervision is based on them, not on you.

It’s all situational. Situational leadership is such a core skill for leaders to learn. Let’s go back to the 21 or 22-year-old Josh Johnson. He’s getting started in his career. What advice would you give yourself back then that you know to be true now?

Dig into why things are happening. When you’re early, it’s what’s happening, but when you start understanding why things are happening, you then understand what that process is for. This is where I see this as the most important. We were talking about assimilating into an organization and figuring out where you fit in that workflow within an organization. If I’m receiving something from somebody and I don’t like it, and I’m like, “If they only did it this way, it would be much easier.” Go and have that conversation and say, “Why are you handing it to me this way?”

SIC 271 | Senior Enlisted Advisor

Senior Enlisted Advisor: Dig into why things are happening. This way, you will understand what your processes are for.


Maybe they don’t know, “We can easily do that. If we do it this way and hand it to you, your job’s much easier. Fantastic,” or, “We can’t do it because of,” and I understand why that doesn’t work, now my focus is entirely different, “This is my problem set. There’s a reason it’s my problem set.” If I understand the why behind everything, then I can start looking for, “I know what we’re doing. I know why we’re doing it. Now I can look for ways to improve that,” but if it’s just what we’re doing, you’re never going to find that level of improvement. If I went back and talked to a young me, it’s focusing on why things are happening so you’ve got that clarity of the process, and then you can look for ways to improve.

Thanks very much for sharing with us on the show.

Thank you.

I appreciate it.


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