by Scott R. Tucker

July 20, 2021

JB Spisso

In this episode, we have JB Spisso, a leadership & culture expert, owner, published author, and sergeant major (retired) US army. JB gives insights about a deeper meaning of leadership, how to adapt and overcome, and the best ways to translate leadership skills learned from the military into the civilian space. 

Episode Highlights:

  • 01:45- When does JB realize the meaning of leadership?
  • 06:08- Translating leadership skills vs. being in management
  • 12:16-Where does creativity come in to be a leader? 
  • 14:00- JB's transition process 
  • 17:44- Leadership is a learned trait


Key Points:

  1. Leadership is a learned trait; it will continue to get better over time, and it doesn't have to be one way. 
  2. Find mentors in the business world that have already done what you're doing. 
  3. Have a conversation with people and ask questions on where you are good at, and then continue to refind your skills 

Quotes:

  • “The military is a melting pot of diverse human beings, where you learn how to lead the group, bring them together, and have a common goal. “
  • “If you see a skill set in a veteran, tell them. The military have to remind themselves of the great skills that they have and find a way to translate that into the corporate world”
  • “Adapt and overcome. You might not get all the plans, but if you get most of it, start moving,   don't be afraid to make adjustments as you go. “
  • “The military is very creative. We are adaptable in so many things. Let's continue to find ways to adapt, continue to network, ask questions, talk to people, and be a good listener. “

Transcript of Episode 041 with JB Spisso - Leadership is Learned!

Scott Tucker: Hey everyone. Scott Tucker back again with another episode of Veteran Wealth Secrets where we talk about the opportunities to go from, just relying on a lifetime of paychecks and benefits from the government to create an, a life out of autonomy and financial control. And the topic today is something I'm really excited.

To talk about is the idea of leadership because we're always told in the military, oh, you got leadership skills. And lot of times maybe we're more have managers your skills, and we don't understand the idea of leadership. With us today, former command Sergeant major who doesn't know leader better than an army command Sergeant major at JB Speedo.

CEO of JPS leadership consultants. And thank you so much for coming to us from Nevada in the middle of the lockdown. It was a better time to get out there and get online and share some insight, right?

JB Spisso: Oh, that's right, Scott. Thanks for having me. Hopefully I'm your old coach Jack Emma's watching today.

Scott Tucker: Yo, that would be hilarious. I don't know if he would remember me. I like to say I didn't necessarily play lacrosse in army. I sat at the bench, but no, it was great. We just found out before we got on the call that while I was a cadet at west point JB was there. H helping us learn to do things better, but Jamie, why don't you tell us a little bit about, I was asking before is Hey, most of the time I'm guessing most privates when they enter or coming out of bootcamp, they're not anticipating becoming a command Sergeant major.

What was that like for you? When did you realize what leadership really was and how you want to do apply it to not just your own career in the military, but those that you were leading.

JB Spisso: Great question, Scott, I, I joined the army for the college fund and didn't want my parents to have that burden and.

Thankfully a recruiter kinda gotta be, I said let me, if I'm going to do this for four years, let me pick something that's exciting and fun. And, lo and behold, I ended up joining the ranger regiment had no idea what I was getting into. When I went through ranger indoctrination program, I was just trying not to get cut that day.

And then, fortunately was assigned to. Bravo company, second ranger battalion. And from there took off and a few years into it. I feel, it felt like I was getting promoted very quickly. I said, wow, maybe I can do this. Maybe I do have. Some leadership skills and that, and it just took off from there.

And fortunately I was able to be in the range regiment for 10 years, able to work at west point for almost a decade. I was a drill instructor, officer candidate, school instructor. It became this natural part of my progression and because of west point and the New York Rangers coming up for a development camp there in the beginning of your training camp this kinda turned out.

And actually somebody saw something in me, Glen say they're the president and general manager of the New York Rangers at the time and said, Hey, you're pretty good at this. And I I actually said, I don't know what you're talking about, sir. He's like this leadership thing is exactly what he said.

He moved his hands around and oh, And he said, ah, is that guy? I, it goes, I watch how people look at you when you talk. He's you should think about, you should think. He's like, when you're done being a soldier, you should think about doing this and that's how it started. And

Scott Tucker: oh, interesting.

So you hadn't been thinking about, becoming self-employed or consultant, what was your mindset? What post-military life was going to look like? And when did you start to have, obviously he laid it out there in front of you, but it must have taken some time to bring the epiphany altogether where you're like, yeah, I could be doing

JB Spisso: this.

Sure. I, I wanted to be some type of entrepreneur, but wasn't sure. So what did I do? I said, maybe I'll be a high school teacher, coach hockey, basically. Like that post-military career give back a little bit still a a a H Gil where I can help people a very noble profession because being in the military is a very noble profession.

But, we, we don't care about money or metals and that's kinda really the case, but when you get out, you undervalue yourself, but then all of a sudden it's entrepreneurship. Came about. And I saw that people are number one, they're star for it in the civilian sector.

And number two that, they're, they'll pay for it and try trying to help people be successful. And I've really honed a group. Even though I work with a lot. C-suite executives, a lot of CEOs, but I've hold a group, this next level group this young captains like to call it that are getting ready to be C-suite executives that are reaching out and you become this mentorship.

And the military is, is very good at mentorship. And so you try to impart that on people just there recently, I was talking to a a young up and coming executive and and I didn't paint the whole picture. I want him to paint his picture. You don't have to do it exactly like me or exactly like somebody else or you should find what works for you.

And you know this as you see it, I try to tell military people all the time, boy, you're really valuable. You don't really know the skills and skills that you have, and I know that's what you're trying to do every single day.

Scott Tucker: Yeah. It's, the whole concept of if you just translate your military skills onto your resume, then you know, you'll go find something you enjoy doing.

One that every everything everybody does in the military is a, is something they enjoy. But two were quite diverse for moving through lots of different types of jobs. Translating that skillset of translate, Hey, leadership skills versus, being in management, I was reading on your website and I know that's important to your fo your philosophy.

Can you get a little bit more into, how do we translate? Why we have that?

JB Spisso: 26 years in the military and his, he went to west point and, we recruited you two years prior, right? You junior in high school, we started recruiting you. We bring you in we have you for four, sometimes five years.

If you go to the prep school. And at the end of that, we, we make you a Lieutenant, put you in charge of people and go, man, I hope we die. But then what happens every time you get promoted? What do we do? We send you back to a military school. Same thing for me, here I am, I was a Sergeant major combat veteran, and I go to the Sergeant majors academy and I'm like, what am I doing in another school?

Then you realize over every single promotion that you got throughout your career. You're, you're continuing to go back to these leadership schools. That's where businesses. Because that's not what they do. Sometimes it's just survival of the fittest and whoever makes it there, it gets promoted where we're, if you gave people a little bit of training and education throughout the way.

So why do I think I'm far ahead? It's because of the training and education that I got into the military and plus, the military is a melting pot. Have people think about your platoon? You had rich kids, poor kids from all over, because with relate to kids without religion, it was such a melting pot of human beings.

And what'd you, do you learn to lead that group and bring them together and have a common goal? And there's a lot to be said, Little talk the other day. And I talked about team chemistry and where's it come from? And how's it. How's it molded. And where's the value in it. And companies that want to have a healthy culture, a culture that's positive that helps push people in the right direction.

I'm not talking about oh, is everything okay? I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about, a culture that that values people's talent. And I think that's where the military has done a lot of things the right way, even though sometimes we're, we're put into a bubble and we got to do the same things, but we also value people's talent and that helps them be successful.

Scott Tucker: Do you think that, veterans who come out confident with their leadership skills Sometimes forget to continue that training to go back to the Sergeant majors academy w where could we be doing that better to position ourselves better for these opportunities? Because if it is going to be, sink or swim survival of the fittest, if you happen to be an organization, That, that isn't doing the right thing in training, training their employees.

You've got to take it upon yourself as the individual to stand out because we all know there's a communication gap between the veteran and the civilians. And so if you want to lead without. Being the V the Veteran that the civilians are upset with that. They're all, they're just trying to act like they're still in the army.

It's just Hey there's a lot of gaps to fill. We can't do that without learning,

JB Spisso: right. A hundred percent. And what we have to do look about, look, I came out as a Sergeant major. I could tell a private that go paint rocks, and you would, in the army, go pay your rocks. Roger that, so what I had to do is find mentors in the business world. And I did, Tom power, John Maloney, Doug seafood, Kevin Weeks, find mentors in the business world that already do this to help you, and have coffee with them, call them and you'll be surprised that they are so willing to help you sit down with them.

Just called a friend of mine the other night, Jim Edgeworth. He's a, self-made, self-made billionaire big insurance guy. Played hockey at Dartmouth back in the seventies, rough and tumble as they come. You call these people for advice, say, Hey, how would you handle this? I'm going into this business meeting.

And what do you think? And continue to find that. And then these people, they see that skill set in. You like, again, we'll go back to Glen sailor. Like he saw it. And I tell business people that all the time, if you see something in a Veteran, tell them, because look, we're grown up in the selfless service business, I remember in Afghanistan, they were like, oh, we're giving you this metal Sergeant major. And I'm like, why? Cause I'm a Sergeant major. That's why you're giving it to me. Give it to that corporate over there. Who's been in 67 gunfights, give it to them. But that's sometimes how it happens.

So we pass it down. We say here, give it to somebody else because the military is all about that. But what we have to do is, we have to salute ourselves. I have a young man. He's my assistant helps me run operations. His name's Ryan Carmichael. He goes to the university of Notre Dame.

Like he reminds me, he's Hey, you've done some great stuff. Your military careers. And when you tell me these things, he's this is incredible. And so military people have to remind themselves of that. And then you have to find a way you're right to translate. To the corporate business.

Because we can't all be, GI Joe's they say?

Scott Tucker: No, absolutely. And in the find a way, let's say if I figure it out or whatever it is yeah. Yeah. Sometimes you have to beat creative if we're just going to sit around and wait for things to happen for you, you know that in the military, yeah.

You follow orders. You eventually get moved to new duty station, whatever that doesn't happen. You have to create it for yourself. When I was looking at some charts, parts of desired skillsets from 2015, it was all about, managerial skills or that critical thinking or something like that.

But then in 2020, Out of nowhere, number three, on that list, creativity popped up. And I thought that was interesting. And I was just curious, where does creativity come in to being a leader? In this day and

JB Spisso: age? You have to be so adaptable with everything going on. I have friends in pro sports still and they talked about how they went from, having a hundred staff to 20 staff and how they had to be creative.

Now they need, this guy needs to. Go get the water, pick the meals out for something else. So you have to continue to find ways to adapt. Military is very creative. As it gets stuck at some base camp somewhere and you have to figure it out. Like I have to build a base camp.

I don't even know how I'm not an engineer. Okay, let's make a square on the ground. Let's start from that. I think it's very important things I'm doing today. Like I'm doing mental toughness classes via zoom. Yeah. People aren't used to it and I'm very energetic and I'm a cheerleader, but I'm trying to find ways to pass that on to people, through the, the flat screen.

And and I think if you just, you have to continue this network, ask questions, talk to people, Winston become up, become a great listener. And th the other thing is. And, this is being an army officer. We used to tell you all the time, the 80% plan executed on time is better than 100% plan executed late.

Like you might not have all the time. But if you got most of it, start moving, you can adjust as you go. Don't be afraid to make adjustments as you go

Scott Tucker: adapt and overcome, but you got them, but you got to make a decision because no decision is still a a decision to do nothing and that, yeah. Let's back up a little bit, cause I want to know how you, how your transition out of the army went. Cause you mentioned before we got on the call, If someone spoke to you about, Hey, maybe you should do this as a career, you could be very useful. And so even before you got out of the military, I think you got started this.

Can you tell us kinda how that process went and how more veterans or more of those that are about ready to transition should be thinking about some opportunities.

JB Spisso: Yeah, that was it. And then, it started obviously with Glen Seder and then ratio of the Pittsburgh penguins and other GM saw me and I started doing things and just chipped away.

And then I got into some businesses and that sort of thing. And ask people, say, have conversations with people you trust say, Hey, what do you think I'm good at? How do I get there? This is probably the longest my hair has ever been in my life, but but it works.

Yeah. And so you, and then what you continue to you do is refine your skills. A great friend of mine, Tom power. We talked just last week. And he said, he's known me 11, 12 years. He's like from then till now, he's you're so much more savvy.

It's you are, he's you are getting it, you learn it. You understand. It's the same thing. It's, you learn these things as you do develop and grow, you know how to talk to people. And I think I've already, I was always great at talking to people. It didn't matter who it was. It was a private.

I, I was comfortable talking to everybody very positive of an uplifter of talent, I was never a yeah, I was tough, but I was never a demeaning Sergeant baker. So I think all those skills work with, what I'm doing. But like even when I wrote my, I wrote my book here, warrior leadership, right?

Like I wasn't, when I wrote it Sure how to get a published, everything else. So I called a friend of mine, Steve Schwab, who was my RTO, my radio operator when I was a platoon Sergeant and who's written four books guys, way smarter than me. And I'm like, yeah, How'd you do this? He's let me tell you how, oh, by the way, call my editor.

And so I called her Karen Cantrell and my first draft I received back, it looked like the Texas chainsaw massacre and she's Your writing's good. It's got to get better on it. I was like, okay. And I did, but sometimes, military guys, veterans, you have to be like, oh, she doesn't know what she's talking about.

I know she knew exactly what she was talking about. And I did it, it got better. And I have a published book for over a year now. So I guess a lot of that is, is and I have all the badges, but in the combat, the whole thing don't be afraid to check your ego at the door and learn a little.

Scott Tucker: Yeah, absolutely. And speaking of learning, what do you teach in your book? Warrior leadership? What, who should be reading that book? I

JB Spisso: It's made for anybody, but it's short chapters that you can tab. I think a lot of executives like it, they read it, they tab it and they hand it to somebody they're to.

That's what I like the hand. It, they tap some parts, say, you know what? This is pretty good. A friend of mine, Judy Farkas, Sarah big CFO of a huge company, sh she read it and then she made all of her S her staff read it and sign it inside so they had to read it.

So it's all part of just getting people on the right path and understanding that leadership is a learned trait. Sure. Your parents or your primary caregiver can impart some of that on you. We did for you when you rewrote west point puts you through all these glasses, but it's learned over time, like your leadership continue to get better.

It doesn't have to be, one way here's a perfect example. Coaches and professional sports are finding that out today. Think about it. The days when, you showed up. You play for the logo on the front of the Jersey. Some players don't do that. They play for the name on the back, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but you have to know how to inspire that.

You have to note it, help that player, keep that in its right place. Because at the end of the day, you're trying to all get on the path to success.

Scott Tucker: Yeah. That's I was telling my dad, coach, the NCAA never wanted to coach in the NFL because he didn't, he wasn't the type to, to deal with that kind of stuff.

So I'm glad you're helping those athletes, get it right. But tell us what's the next three years like for you, obviously we've, we're now almost a year into some very challenging times. It doesn't look like it's stopped at any time. Anytime soon leadership's important.

You're going to be needed. Your firm's going to be needed so much, what do you see down the road and who are you looking to serve? Who should be reaching out and contacting you?

JB Spisso: Yeah, I think if you're obviously if you're a high level executive and you need some thoughts, advice, you need the old Sergeant major right arm, you don't to.

Colonel has a Sergeant major and the Colonel could say something and the Sergeant major might be behind closed doors that say sir, ma'am, that's ridiculous, but if you want to do it, if we want to do it, we will. But what have you thought about this? So that's what I give the, what I give the senior executives.

There's that next level? I have a mentorship development program. It's nine weeks long. You get do one-on-ones with me. It's all personal interaction. And I try to help you develop your leadership style. Look again, I'm a cheerleader that works for me. Might not be your style. It's okay. Because you have to find a style that's authentic to you because you know the deal you went in and you try to do something as a platoon leader and it wasn't authentic.

All the Joes are saying. That's not real, but if you don't want it, but if you're going in, you're authentic at what you do and what you believe then it's okay. Yeah. All right. And then people can adjust.

Scott Tucker: No. That's the one thing when I was my, my, my platoon, they would come up to me like, sir, you don't seem like a west pointer.

Why are you going to lump us all together? I guess I found a bit of my own style. Really was listened to my platoon Sergeant, my first Sergeant, cause I was like I'm still green. I don't know what I'm doing, but JB really appreciate you coming on and sharing that insight. Can't wait to take a look at your book and see how I could apply it to my small startup.

There's three of us, but now I like it. I wanna, I only got to be a platoon leader for 10 months. My Xcel lost a radio. Got fired. Now you're the XO Scott. I'm like, oh, great. So then after that I was in staff jobs and kinda floundered out there and post-military life for awhile. And I thought, as I found this ability to produce content and get online, I was like, I don't know, maybe this is a different way.

To lead by example and share and stuff like that. So really appreciate your your motivation and what you're doing. And and what you're up to, how do people contact you and who

JB Spisso: should be reached out? Sure. They can just get me on Instagram and at JB speed. So SPI SSO, you can get me on my website at JBS leaders.

If you DME I'll do DME right back. You can email me, I'll email you right back. I'm looking forward to helping folks. And I want to just tell you, stay after it stay thankful, stay aggressive, keep working out, enjoy life, smile a little bit, bring all that positive traits that you can.

This is your very difficult times for everybody. And so this is the time you should reach out, check on a buddy. And again, anything I can do to help people I'll be glad to do. And I love what you're doing, Scott.

Scott Tucker: Thanks, man. Really appreciate it and appreciate your inspiration. And I know folks that'll be watching this will appreciate hearing from Sergeant major again.

Cause I think we need it these days, but all right, man. put your website up there. Got that eSC

JB Spisso: did JBS leaders.com. Perfect.

Scott Tucker: Awesome. All right, thanks again. And for everybody, we will see you next time.

JB Spisso: Have a super day.

About the author 

Scott R. Tucker

Scott R. Tucker is an author, speaker and the founder of US VetWealth, a lifestyle and financial consulting brand that helps service members go from paychecks and government benefits to wealth and liberty. He likes to say, "I Help The 1% Who Serve Our Country Become The 1% Who Influence It." A West Point graduate, serial world traveler, military financial expert, and entrepreneur, Scott brings valuable experience and insight to those who have sacrificed so much in service to our country.

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