Thom Shea is a former Navy SEAL and now runs a leadership consulting firm. We discuss how the lessons of the SEALs translate into the corporate world. We discuss how he leads leadership teams through the steps they need to take to accomplish their most important goals.
Thom Shea is a retired, highly decorated Navy SEAL Senior Chief, author of UNBREAKABLE: A Navy SEAL’s Way of life, which was originally intended to be collection of lessons to his children in the event that he did not survive combat in Afghanistan
Frank Bria: 00:00 The 6 to 7 Figures Show. Episode 71, Let’s hit it.
Announcer: 00:04 Broadcasting from the Valley of the Sun outside Phoenix, Arizona. This is the 6 to 7 Figures Show. Tired of working so hard and having no time? Take your six figure practice and turn it to a thriving seven figure enterprise. And now your host, author, speaker, mentor and strategist, Frank Bria.
Frank Bria: 00:29 Everyone, welcome to the 6 to 7 Figures Show. I’m your host, Frank Bria and today, absolutely delighted to be joined by Thom Shea. He’s a retired, highly decorated Navy SEAL, senior chief, author of UNBREAKABLE: A Navy SEAL’s Way of life, which originally was intended to be a collection of lessons to his children in the event he did not survive combat in Afghanistan. He’s the founder of Adam Antine Alliance where he is a leadership instructor, speaker, executive coach and along with a small team of his SEAL brothers, he provides corporate consulting for companies across America and in several other continents. Thom, welcome to the show.
Thom Shea: 01:08 Thanks for having me.
Frank Bria: 01:09 Yeah, our pleasure. So there’s in corporate America, obviously there’s need for sort of leadershipand things like that. A lot of times it feels like corporate America is moving into a, what I would think would be a little less aligned with a more kind of disciplined military approach, but you seem to be approaching it from the standpoint of going in that direction. Are you feeling like that’s still, like there’s still a desire, a need for this kind of more ready, disciplined approach and leadership?
Thom Shea: 01:45 I think it’s a misconception of what maybe the SEAL’s were or what we provide. The SEAL’s are not disciplined. Please do not ever use that word in the sentence with a SEAL.
Frank Bria: 01:59 Really? Okay. That’s good.
Thom Shea: 02:02 So I don’t think corporate America or any organization is going off the rail or going left or right off center. What we look at is we only look at the human factor. And that’s really what SEAL’s do is they say what makes you good in combat is not your weapon, it’s not. Your training is about you training to be better as a human being. As a better warrior, better operator, better teammate, better leader, whatever the paradigm that you’re in. What we look at as a human factor, and all organizations are really missing the mark on what we call the human factor. The current trend is to call it a culture. So the culture in the business world is gray at best. So it has nothing to do with discipline. Discipline is easy factor.
Frank Bria: 02:56 Got it. So, the elements of, because I know you’re talking about, sort of, the human factor, but as the shows up in corporate team dynamic and things like that, what are the missing elements do you think that you’re installing here that are really important?
Thom Shea: 03:15 Well, I think there are only basics to anything to tell you the truth. And what we found as SEAL’s is that the basics make up everything. You’ve just got to learn a lot of basics. And in the corporate world, what I found in my first kind of rendition of training executives only, was that the basics, and I’ll explain it, but the basics were missing. And so then we designed a curriculum around hammering the basic skill sets of the human dynamic, how you actually get better at you. And when you discover that, it makes things very simple. So one of the things that we find early on, is a simple factor that we didn’t anticipate or I didn’t anticipate either. And that basic factor is that people don’t do something simple. I hate to say it on live or any broadcast, people don’t honor their word. From the leadership level down to, not down to, but across the spectrum, the elemental factor of “If you can’t do what you say you’re going to do, you’re of no value to an organization”. And what we’ve found is organizations don’t even think about that as a powerful means in which to operate. So, you know, like I have roles and responsibilities and everybody signs a document organizationally that “This is my role and I’m responsible to do an A, B, and C and I’m compensated however I’m compensated” and then they don’t go do it. And that’s not what they do in the organization is they’re not, they’re hired to do something and then they don’t do it. So what we found early on is to address that as a very hot topic. Thinking that it wouldn’t, you know, you guys got to do what you say you’re going to do. In the SEAL community if you don’t, you don’t stay. So we weeded out everybody that can’t do that. So I wasn’t quite sure that that was what the missing link was. Every organization has that as a big factor. So that, that’d be the first thing that we look at.
Frank Bria: 05:36 I think that a lot of people would agree with you. I think that would resonate with a lot of people who were kind of familiar with the corporate culture. I wonder what you think the underlying problem there is. Cause it seems like it could be complex. Is it an accountability? I mean, I guess it’s really easy for us to kind of go, “Oh well we just got a bunch of people who just don’t want to do their jobs” right? But is it a more complex dynamic? Like, is it an accountability thing? Is it a systems incentive thing or is it really just a gut you just not showing up for what you said you were going to do deep down.
Thom Shea: 06:12 It’s not complex. It’s a very…
Frank Bria: 06:16 I guess I supposed you would have said that given that you’re retired(?)
Thom Shea: 06:19 It seems complex accountability is a complex conversation because accountability is an adjective describing a series of events that either happened or didn’t happen. But then you have to go back to the original event. So it’s a third order of effect. So accountability is a conversation that’s great on a Power Point. But if you say, “Hey, we got to hold everybody accountable”, you still don’t know how to do it. So what you have to, and it’s not being taught anymore, it’s not effectively being taught organizationally. Probably stems from school’s not actually teaching it, parents, whatever the dynamic is. We saw that in the SEAL community. It’s simple things, you know, and one Admiral that was on a podcast said “You make your bed”. It’s that simple. By the way, you’re supposed to make your bed make it. And so not very complex. It’s actually very hard to install in an organization though.
Frank Bria: 07:25 Sure. Well, you’ve got a lot of moving parts it feels like. So are there two sides to this? In other wordsit feels like you’re addressing the core motivational piece, which is, there needs to be an internal commitment to this, but it feels like organizations also can be guilty of letting this slide if they don’t actually have the followup conversation and there’s consequences associated with not doing your work. A lot of people might wink their eye at it or think, “Oh, well, you know, whatever. I guess someone else will fill in”. It seems like there’s gotta be an organizational level of this as well right?
Thom Shea: 08:08 Wellwe’ll consider that being said, say the baseline foundation of being successful organizationally, whether you’re a leader or whether you’re looking at the whole company. If success is predicated on people doing simple things like honoring your word, the next thing that you build on that is all tasks. So what are people supposed to be doing? And that is where it becomes complex is we make our day to day tasks so complex, nobody can carry them out and they’re never going to be effective. And what we do in our training methodology is break everything down into threes. So commit to only doing three simple things a day. And everybody’s like, well, I have a million things to do. By the way, it doesn’t matter, you’re never going to get to a million. And we learned that element in combat. So combat is very complex. There’s a thousand bullets flying at you. You can’t look at all of them, but you can look at one or you got 20 enemy running at you, I can’t deal with 20, I can deal with one. So we teach that same methodology corporately is, you know, foundationally honor your word and then break things down into very simple things that you can do when you’re tired or whatever. And when we do that, what we see is what we call it the ROI, the return on that training or investment is about in three months they hit their yearly goal by doing simple things. Across any organization that we’ve seen from insurance companies to lumber mills to anything is break things down to and hammer the simple. You don’t have to get to the complex if you hammer the simple.
Frank Bria: 10:06 I mean that, yeah, that seems to be a recurring theme. I think that you’re right, we do make things way more complicated than they need to be. And I think especially in corporate, there’s this concept of, “I gotta add value”, which is going to add another layer of complexity. So just really quickly want to, kind of, pivot a little bit. How did you make this shift into corporate leadership training? What was that journey like from SEAL to corporate?
Thom Shea: 10:34 Try to make it a two minute conversation? I don’t know that I can. So when I retired maybe six years ago, I’d been in for 23 years and during retirement or right before I retired, I had had a manuscript written for my kids and my wife Stacy said, “Hey, let’s get it published”. That ain’t easy and I had no intent to get it published. So,e got 10 books printed out and you know, in a first edition fashion, gave it to our family, Stacy puts it up on Amazon and it goes viral. So out of it going viral, I had to decide, you know, do I want to have a job, the three letter word that you know, or the four letter word? Or do I want to figure out this nebulous space of where the book is going to take us? So I decided to do the hard thing is to figure out the entrepreneurial side. And as the book got out, CEOs of companies engaged with me directly saying, “Hey, I want you to teach me what you’re trying to say in the book”. So I designed a curriculum around teaching executives through a long, extended, year long process in five areas. And that’s their physical health, their ability to learn, their ability to make money, their ability to have good, quality relationships at home and their spiritual ability, if you will. And it took a long time and then they said, “Hey, can you come and work for me”? And I’m like, I’m not going to do that, but I’ll help you grow your company. So we designed a methodology around approaching companies by working with the executive first, because if the leader doesn’t get it, you’re wasting money and time.
Frank Bria: 12:27 Yeah, absolutely. You’re right on that.
Thom Shea: 12:28 And so I can’t say the transition was easier. I think the transition was harder than actually being in combat. I knew what the fuck I was doing there. I didn’t know what I was doing here. I really enjoy seeing people get their stuff in order and make their life work and whatever they’re going to do. And we’ve created a method to actually move the human needle, if you will.
Frank Bria: 12:59 That’s great. So, I mean, it’s the great storyline of having that book lead out to opportunities. I mean, I think many people see that as a potential for themselves to be able to put something out there and then have it be the core focus or the center point of some kind of curriculum. So it’s great, it’s great story you’re able to make that work. I know it’s never like a straight line, you know.
Thom Shea: 13:24 Just because you see people doing it. I, you know, I had mentors that were helping me. It wasn’t me trying to do it solo and you know, it ain’t easy. And I’d come from a world that wasn’t easy. So the transition was just me taking everything that I’d learned from mindset to skillset and to the nebulous corporate space or the business world and hammer and be relentless and pull people along with me that were also relentless. If you think you’re going to write a book and then make a million, you better have the ability to recover from failure cause that’s what’s going to happen until in some point in time it works out.
Frank Bria: 14:14 Yeah. No, that’s really good advice for anyone who has authored a book. It’s not always an easy thing. It always looks like it’s a quick and easy path from the hindsight. But no one ever sees the twists and turns of the path.
Thom Shea: 14:29 Oh yeah it’s brutal.
New Speaker: 14:30 Yeah. It can be. Oh, I gotta say, just a pause for a minute and say, for me, my big takeaway has got to be, I’m going to feel way better about myself that you said combat isn’t as bad as the entrepreneurial journey cause that makes me feel way better.
Thom Shea: 14:43 Oh it’s ruthless. It’s actually people not trying to kill you though. That’s the only, you know, difference, that people are actually trying to help you in the entrepreneurial world. I think the world more embraces people that are trying to take risk.
Frank Bria: 14:59 Yeah.
Thom Shea: 15:00 But nothing seems to work out the first 152 times that you try it. If you’re going to try, you know, if your listeners are trying to think about entrepreneurial or growing a business, you have to be able to fail and recover. That’s the key.
Frank Bria: 15:23 Yup. That is a really good insight. And I do think that the difference between successful entrepreneurs and unsuccessful ones are the ones who are emotionally, resiliently able to recover from failure. Yeah. I do think that is a key Want to pivot really quickly to the process that you take companies through. So let’s talk a little bit about what that looks like. Soit sounds, you’ve already started this discussion a little bit, cause it sounds like you start with the executive and kind of move down from there, which I think is a brilliant move. I think a lot of people try to manage up through the corporate consulting.
Thom Shea: 15:57 It’s dancing through a minefield if you start at the bottom.
Frank Bria: 16:00 Yeah, exactly. So, as you were, could you walk us through kind of your process. You obviously outlined different, sort of, areas that you’re working in, but how do you actually work logistically with the company to help them create their strategy and execute?
Thom Shea: 16:16 You know, hopefully somebody listening or watching will get some kind of benefit from this. And I, we use what was now in year five, we have an acronym. So we look at leadership first and there are obviously truncations of leadership. Then we look at how the organization or the leadership targets their environment. So the acronym is leadership targeting and then we look at how that organization actually goes out and recruits either people to come into the organization or recruits client. And there’s a method to those three first elements. The fourth element is how they actually train their organization. So lead, target, recruit, train. And then at the end we look at retention. So retention of personnel, retention of climate or clients, and obviously money. It’s a great way to measure retention. So when we colonate that whole, you know, lead, target, recruit, train and retain, those are the five points that we look at organizationally.
Frank Bria: 17:31 Okay, right. And about how long are you typically engaging with the company on this journey?
Thom Shea: 17:39 Yeah, we tailor it to the demand of the company. You know, not all companies don’t want to produce, you know, position to sell. Some just want to grow and retain the organization. I would say 50% of the time it’s about a year long process. And what we look at is we’re going to produce 2.5X in nine months. So wherever we start in those five areas measured and we produce measurable ways to analyze that, those five areas are two and a half times better then when we started.
Frank Bria: 18:21 That’s great. I think this is a good conversation for anyone who’s doing any kind of corporate consultative work where there’s longer term engagements. Are you finding that it’s easier for you to kind of get in with a smaller engagement and build from there? Or when you first go in, have you already agreed on a longer term set of targets? What works better for you?
Thom Shea: 18:45 We’re so adaptable. I don’t think we look at just the long term retainer initiative cause sometimes it’s not what’s needed. What we find is a three month initial setup to engage with us and with them and have an end point to it. So, either we’ve achieved the results in three months that we initially decided on and we want to extend that to achieve more or we complete it. For some reason, most people, most companies want to extend out to a year.
Thom Shea: 19:25 Sure. Now, I mean that framework of, you know, establishing a win in a 12 week timeframe and then expanding it out is a really classic, best practice for corporate consulting contracts. Since it’s almost a little magic, the people really want to see some kind of milestone hit or a win at that 90 day mark, it’s a human nature thing. I see it across all industries.
Frank Bria: 19:50 If you hire somebody to teach you to lose weight and in 12 weeks you’ve gained 50 pounds, you might want to rethink of it. You know, they’re in that disruption period of the first period of time. From our vantage point, we’re always, “Oh my God, it’s going to not turn”. Cause when you disrupt an organization or a leadership teamit always has down river effects on finances. But boy, when it actually is you solve the leadership problem, there’s actually a quicker return.
Frank Bria: 20:26 Mm. Yeah. I do think that’s an under valued concept. I think a lot of people, a lot of corporate folks when they see financial results, not quite the way they want, it’s very easy to go knock on sales and marketing’s door and think it’s really all a top line problem. Butit is amazing that turning the knob of leadership can have those financial results and it’s not always the first knob people go to. I do think it’s underwriting(?). Last question for you. The corporations who need this kind of work, how would they recognize, what are the symptoms of illness they would recognize in their organization where they think, “Oh man, we got to jump on this”. What are they observing?
Thom Shea: 21:19 They’re stuck. Sousuallywell we take on our corporations or small groups or small teams or even individuals that have already achieved success, but are now stuck, they’re on a plateau. They invest a shit ton of money and it doesn’t work. They try this, they try that, and they’re stuck. So I would say 90% are the stuck, you know, people or companies, the other 10%it’s a big risk to us, not financially, but it’s a big risk to take on a bleeding asset that everything is going bad. Because that’s such a disruptive event in their life and in our life to break it again when things are a problem is because there’s a problem. And 10% of the efforts that we go on are what we call bleeding assets, where everything’s going wrong. Everybody knows they’re going wrong and nobody wants to, nobody knows how to solve it. We go into that and it’s very disruptive. Same method.
Frank Bria: 22:33 At that point. Yeah, and anything’s going to be painful. Any change is gonna be painful. But necessary, I mean, what else do you do? Either you lose the company or you make the changes I suppose.
Thom Shea: 22:43 Most people ride the company all the way into the ground.
Frank Bria: 22:46 Yeah, I have seen that. That’s true. You’d think, you know. But anyway, Tom, we’d love to continue talking about this, but we’ve run out of time. I know you’re super busy and really appreciate you taking your time for the interview. Before we go though, for folks who are interested in connecting with you, learning more about what you do, what’s a great place for them to go to connect with you?
Thom Shea: 23:09 I would say [email protected] And that’s the website. You can get a brief of what we do and then Thom Shea on Facebook or reach out to me directly in an [email protected] And hopefully you put that in notes cause I can’t even spell the dang name myself.
Frank Bria: 23:39 No, we’ve got, we’ve got the link below the video and on the show notes page. Soif you’re out about listening to this, come on back to the show notes page and you can click on through to connect with Thom. Thom, thanks so much for being with us today, really appreciate your time.
Thom Shea: 23:53 Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.
Frank Bria: 23:54 Absolutely and thank you for being with us on this episode of the 6 to 7 Figures Show. I’ve been your host, Frank Bria, and if you are doing any kind of corporate consulting work, there are really good lessons here from Thom about how to structure that and how to engage. So take that, apply it, and hopefully that helps you push through. Thanks for being with us and we’ll see you next time. Take care, bye bye.