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  • Earl Breon

The Burden of Command - Wally Adamchik

Earl Breon 0:10

Well Hello, everyone. Welcome to this episode of the burden of command podcast. I've got a great guest with you today Mr. Wally, Adamchick. Wally is author of no yelling, and construction leadership from A to Z. He's president Firestarter speaking and consulting. He's a former Notre Dame mascot, and former active duty Marine Corps officer in both tanks and attack helicopters. Wally, thanks for joining us today.

Wally Adamchik 0:37

Thank you very much, I appreciate the opportunity to be with your audience

Earl Breon 0:41

know. And before we get started, I gotta say, Semper Fi, and who rah, rah, absolutely great organization to be from. There you go. Alright, so first question, I asked all my guests the term burden of command, what does it mean to you?

Wally Adamchik 0:59

Well, you anytime you hear the word burden, it suggests that there's something I don't know, important or onerous or difficult about it. And and I guess there may be some truth to that. But when you say it, the first quote that goes through my mind really is, and I really think about it is that old line about everything that happens or fails to happen is the responsibility of the leader. So that's that burden falls upon that leader, that person, but I think there's a second part of this, because when I say that everything happens, or fails to happen. There's, yeah, you know, there's like, that's more about mission and things getting done. But when I really get down on the burden of command, it's a moral obligation that we have as leaders to take care of our people.

Earl Breon 1:52

Well, absolutely. And I like that because vo hearing you explain like that it for me, it falls in line, kind of with what you teach is your, your three laws of leadership, the The first one being, it's all about you, right?

Wally Adamchik 2:09

Yeah, you know, it's impossible to lead somebody or something if you if you can't lead yourself. And that, you know, that rolls into some self awareness, things and all that. But nobody wakes up in the morning and says, I'm a leader. Even leaders don't wake up in the morning and say, I'm a leader, they wake up in the morning and say, I need to drink my coffee or my diet coke, I need to get this done, I need to get that done. I need to get this done. And and all too often leadership is about what that other person is doing, what my boss is doing, and not what I'm doing. So it is all about you that if you are in a position or a role or an opportunity to influence other people, then then leadership is part is part of what you're doing. And people don't look at themselves was that way all too often?

Earl Breon 3:02

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that's, that's what I and I liked it when I when I heard those rules, because, you know, you have certain people, and let's be honest to to lead other people, you have to have a certain level of ego. But a lot of people like think that they can anoint themselves leader. And as you said, it just doesn't work that way, right?

Wally Adamchik 3:23

Wow. No, I mean, you can call yourself whatever you want. But it is it is the followers who will ultimately anoint you, you know, anybody can give you positional power. That's the one where you say Because I said so. But influence power, which is the real, were real power comes from is comes from who you are and how you are perceived and receive. And ultimately, you're given that gift of followership by your team.

Earl Breon 3:56

Yeah, and I think you know, because your first two rules tie tie very well into kind of, you know, the Marine Corps mission. You know, you talked about, it's all about you, and it's all about them will ours, whereas mission accomplishment in troop welfare, and what all great Marine Corps officers leaders knew was, you didn't do one or the other, you had to do both.

Wally Adamchik 4:19

Yeah, you know, it's, you're right. I mean, the mission is accomplished by people. And it's one of the conversations I sometimes ask, when I'm doing executive coaching, you know, what's going to get somebody to take the bullet for you, you know, what's going to cause them to show up on Saturday morning at 6am, to stay late on whatever night to get that report done? Right. It's the metaphorical bullet, right. I mean, you know, so what's going to create that loyalty to you? And, you know, the short answer is, it's your loyalty to them. That, you know, when in truth Well, for, like you said, looking out for the folks, then they might look out for you.

Earl Breon 5:03

Yeah, well, I mean, there's a favorite story and you know, I like to share, you know, history through throughout my in between podcast and I'm sure I'll share some chesty puller stories at some time, but there's the kind of the infamous story for those who aren't familiar with with chesty puller, he's kind of like, the consummate marine. He's got the chiseled jaw, the grizzled face, and, you know, but there's a story of him, I think it was at Peleliu where he catches a marine sleeping, and he wakes him up, and, and his, you know, this marine was expecting to get chewed out. But he looks at me says, Son, what would have happened if your captain would have caught you, I would have had to punish you stay awake. You know, and it was that like, he knew what these guys were facing. And like he knew that he could have smash him right then. But he kind of had their back a little bit engender some that loyalty? And that's why a lot of Marines that serve, which has he loved him so much, right?

Wally Adamchik 6:00

Well, I was talking about the black and white of management and the gray of leadership and that it's, it's easy to make decisions in black and white specs, tolerances, policies, procedures, but what you're talking about there on pelo is interpreted interpreting a standard or a specification and saying, you know, something, in this specific situation, what's, what's the right thing to do? And that gray area is very difficult for many people, because it's uncomfortable, and there's no specific answer. But that is one of the the transitions that you need to go to, when you go from management into leadership of moving from black and white, into gray. And in an executive coaching. That's really one of the things that we often talk about. In fact, a buddy of mine did some research at the Army War College. He's a Marine, but about ambiguity, and that there is a correlation between the ability to operate with uncertainty and ultimate leader success.

Earl Breon 7:08

Well, I mean, yeah, thinking back on all of our, you know, Marine Corps directives, just about every one of them in some way, shape or form, had something about this, you know, this directive is not cover all cases or, or in cases not covered by this directive use best judgment. It built in in, right.

Wally Adamchik 7:29

Yeah. And I remember when I got out of the Marine Corps, and I went to work for Arby's restaurants initially, as a regional manager, and the CEO at some previous restaurant companies with a great success aren't prior military, so he was bringing it on Arby's at the time. And, you know, just as we were finishing our training, he brought a felt another fellow who was an army, West Point, guy, and myself, and we went out to dinner, and we had kind of that final conversation. He says, you realize what I'm hot, what I'm paying you for. And there's this long pause from the other guy myself, like, who don't want to get this one wrong. And he says, I'm paying you for your judgment. And that's that gray area conversation.

Earl Breon 8:17

Yeah, what? No, I like that. And it'd be really nice if more hiring officials kind of took that on hiring you for your judgment, because you know, there's a lot of research has been done by some of the big tech companies, that shows that a lot of those traditional markers GPA, where you get your degree from all that they have almost zero bearing on predicting long term success of an employee. It's those intangibles that the judgment, the decision making the adaptability and those soft, like leadership, interpersonal skills that have a higher impact.

Wally Adamchik 8:53

It's kind of like the 40 yard 40 yard dash in the combine at the NFL, it's sexy as heck, but really a very low correlation between that and success.

Earl Breon 9:03

Right. And we see that happen. Just about every year, somebody blows the doors off in the 40. And they do nothing in their career.

Wally Adamchik 9:09

Exactly, right.

Earl Breon 9:11

Yeah. So so a Firestarter speaking and consulting, you know, talk a little bit about what you all do, and what our listeners if they're looking for somebody, you know, what you can do for him?

Wally Adamchik 9:26

I love the broad answer is that my team we speak and consult on leadership. What does that mean that you know, and from the front line all the way to the to the boardroom. We've kind of niched a little bit into what I'll call non residential construction. Basically, anything that's not a house, the folks that are involved in building that, whether that's on the design side, through the engineering side to the to the construction side, the maintenance side, and all suppliers that go into that. That's where the majority of our businesses, but of course, we speak to the leaders in all firms, I would say maybe 80% of the businesses on that, that construction side. And, you know, if you look at what I learned, and what I experienced in the military, it's a good fit. there's a there's a field, there's an office component, there's a an expeditionary component when you're working on a beach, or on a job site, and just a bunch of good folks who want to do work, and understand that there's an opportunity to do great things every day, when permitted to do so.

Earl Breon 10:30

So I'm going to ask this question kind of tongue in cheek, but our listeners may be wondering, what construction I mean, how much more rigid and regimental can you get with very little gray areas, we talked before you got a plan, you got a materials list, you insert tab A into slot B, and things happen? What room is there for leadership development in the construction world?

Wally Adamchik 10:51

You know, I get I get a similar response when I go to one of my trade associations, which is the National Speakers Association, which is the trade association experts who speak professionally. And, you know, it's the same thing, you know, we're sitting, in fact, just a couple of weeks ago, at the National Convention, we're in the Gaylord hotel, and just outside Denver Airport, brand new facility, you know, I don't know how many hundreds of millions of dollars, it was, but you know, think about any structure you walk into, whether it's a school or a mall, or an airport, or the roads that you drive on. I your point tongue in cheek, say, it wasn't the architect who built this thing. You know, it was it was it was people taking a specification, but applying it in a dynamic environment, ie an uncertain environment, which requires that interpretation and gray that I talked about earlier. And it's with a variable labor force, we obviously we all know, the challenges with the labor force these days. If I, you know, finding enough high quality people, so yeah, it's about materialists, it's about plans. And it, if you don't have those things, it doesn't matter who the people you have are on your team, you will not be successful. So those those those management disciplines that you just cited, again, planning, scheduling, all those things. People need those to be successful, and the greatest people can't be successful without them. But when I take great management and great leadership together, that's when we have superior results. And let's face it, I think that's what we're all here to do is to, you know, do the best we possibly can, and maybe make some money along the way or make a positive impact for a nonprofit along the way.

Earl Breon 12:42

Well, yeah, I mean, and it goes back a couple episodes ago, head gentleman, Joe Calloway, and, and he talks about a lot of the same stuff. He talks about simplification and planning. And, you know, it's like, as we were discussing this, like, neither one of us could come up with an answer, and maybe you could remember, but I can't remember the last time that I sit down, I wrote out a plan. And that plan was to the T, the plan that was executed.

Wally Adamchik 13:09

Well, no, no plan survives contact with the enemy. That it whether it's a game plan on a football field, or anything else, and the power is not in the plan, it's in the planning. In fact, that becomes pushback, because it says, Well, why should I bother planning, because it's going to change? Well, you should do planning, because the power is in the planning, ie, I now know, the situation the contingencies, Option A, option B, option C, and I much more ready Lee able to adjust or pivot using that word we use these days to to it with a minimal downtime, and minimal risk to the organization. So hey, this isn't gonna work, I'm gonna go do this. But that only happens because I've thought through it completely before I even got there. No plan survives contact with the end. Well, yeah,

Earl Breon 14:04

and I would imagine in the construction world, where you're on strict timetables, and all that, that you want to have that plan. And as you said, those those kind of contingencies already thought out, so you can make those adjustments. So I guess, in a lot of ways, leadership abilities, better planning better execution saves a ton of money if you do it. Right, right.

Wally Adamchik 14:28

Well, and that's true in any organization that ultimately, the word we look for here is efficiency. And if you want to flip that word around, you can call it a lack of friction, you know, friction, heats up and wears things down, including people so well, that organizations are not friction free, but they are they have less negative friction than poor lead organizations.

Earl Breon 14:55

Yeah. So you mentioned kind of being a niche in the construction world. What led you kind of into that realm? Or did it find you?

Wally Adamchik 15:06

Ah, you know, I think it's a little bit of both my dad and brother worked in construction, you know, in their lives. So when I was 1314, I was doing, I was a helper on jobs. And then like I said, you know, obviously, 10 years in the Marines come out, get my MBA at Carolina. And then I went back, and I got into the consulting world, and in that world, I, I bumped into the construction world a little bit. And it just became a natural evolution out of that the, you know, the personality profiles, the nature of the work, it just fits me really well, and I fit them really well. And I, you know, some people comment on my ability to, you know, stand in front of an audience of construction foreman or construction superintendents, you know, pretty much hardcore, blue collar, direct, you know, type a people and, and, you know, get them to laugh and have a conversation and make an impact on them. People can like, how do you do that? That must be so hard. And I'm like, not really, it's, I'm talking to my brother, when I'm talking to those folks. the punch line there is they know, I trust, they know, I respect them. And I'm not there is some guy with an MBA or an author of two books on there is a guy who understands their world, and has some ideas and is willing to have a humble conversation about how these might work for you. No different than what a good leader would do. in any situation, right. I trust you. I respect you. I have humility to know that I don't have all the answers. Let's collaborate to see how we can be better together.

Earl Breon 16:53

Oh, yeah. Well, I mean, that's, I said it before. And I'll probably save it and million more times before I die. But But leadership is just relationship, right?

Wally Adamchik 17:01

Well, that's exactly right. And, you know, good book by causes and positive on that one, out of the leadership challenge. And that's what it is the leadership is a relationship. And if people are sitting here going, how can I become a better leader? Work on your relationship building skills, whether that's reading, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, written, you know, back in the first half of the last century, but it's still a timeless classic, and things like, you know, looking people in the eye and saying, Please, and thank you and using their first name. Those are the little things that lubricate relationships, and reduce friction.

Earl Breon 17:42

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So talk about your varied background a little bit, as I mentioned in the opening as a Marine Corps officer, you started out in tanks, right?

Wally Adamchik 17:54

That's correct.

Earl Breon 17:56

And so your book no yelling? Yeah, I highly recommend people pick it up. It's it's got a few years on it now. But it still holds up very well. You tell a story about being out on an exercise and getting called up to I think you visit with a CEO. And you tell your unit, I think use the word you say be productive,

Wally Adamchik 18:19

be productive.


Yeah. So thanks for bringing that up. You know, a Second Lieutenant out with my tank platoon in the training area of Camp Fuji, which is at the base of Mount Fuji, Japan, it begins to snow it was in in December, and the smart thing would have been to go back to barracks just cancel the entire thing. But now we're going to be out there for a couple of days. So we moved from the offense to the defense and bring my Marines together. And I said, Look, I don't know how we're going to be here, just do something productive. productive. I mean, there's so many things that they could do in that situation, they could eat, they could hack, they could sleep on attack situation, they could maintain their vehicles, they maintain their weapons, and there's just a bunch of things that they could be doing in attack situation. Well continues to snow, I get down to my vehicle, I'm orienting myself map and putting my pistol and all these things. And I hear my name being called, fathom jack, the captain wants to see you and I trudge on over through the snow. And my company commanders is looking at me and he's red with rage, as he points in front of my vehicles, and he says, What is that? And I look and double take over to the front of the vehicle, and I'm one of the tanks I said, looks like a couple of snowman, sir. He wasn't, he wasn't amused. And actually, it was a snow couple. They were anatomically correct. I'll leave it at that. But much of 1819 year old Marine, so I'll let you figure that one out.

And, you know, is this some new defensive maneuver you learned at Fort Knox? Are you trying to embarrass me in front of the battalion commander, you know, dot, dot, dot star, exclamation, FM? Excellent, you know, and I'm like, No, sir. Sorry, sir. I called memories do something productive and grow. I wasn't specific enough. And, and, and that, everything that you know, we started this conversation, everything that happens or fails to happen. It was clear in my mind that I told them to be productive, and in fact, they were productive. And if you really think about it, think about the story you told about chesty being on pelo and coming upon a situation and interpreting the situation, right. These kids have never seen snow, right. 1819 years old, from the south. What did you do? You know, what did my kids do when they were the first What does everyone do the first time they see snow? Right? They try to pull it together and create some snowballs and create a little snowman and, and all those things, and they were just being human. Now again, you know, just like, for God's sake, I talked my Gunny, actually, my, my, my senior lyst. I said, God, he could, could you go take care of this. And any did. And there's a punch line in this though, by the way, when we get, you know, these these young guys doing this stuff, him he's doing this stuff, and you know, I didn't write them up or put them on charges. It was just one of those, you know, oops, is I guess, but what's really cool is when I don't remember the exact timing, I think it was five years later, when one of those Marines gets commissioned as an officer and asks me to pin his bars on. So for those people in leadership positions and leadership roles, people will build snowman, they will let you down, they will screw up. They will not do things the way you think everything should be done. But then they will also provide opportunities and do things where quote, your opinion bars on them. And that is worth the snow.

Earl Breon 22:12

Oh, yeah, no, 100%. And there's a lot there. I remember, you know, remember the first time and I'd like I could visualize it being a marine myself like, yeah, yeah, that's probably exactly where my mind went to. But no, but you know, and, you know, people who haven't been in that position, they may not be able to quite identify, but you're right. And you learned a little bit more about being a leader about better communication. Exactly. Exactly. And, you know, because the whole guidance from from Pat, and, you know, just don't tell him what to do. Tell him what needs to be done 11 dazzle with your brilliance, there are limitations to that. Right. There are,

Wally Adamchik 22:54

obviously and that comes down to a phrase that will use in the military called commanders intent. You know, set the guidelines set the guardrails internal lives.

Earl Breon 23:05

So with all that fun and tanks, me and safely secured on the ground in a big, fairly impenetrable metal box, what what got you decide to? To jump into whirly bird?

Wally Adamchik 23:20

Hi, yeah, I don't know, I never wanted to be the guy sitting there. And, you know, 10 2030 years from now to say, I could have been, you know, it's about living a life with no regrets. So, you know, I always had in the back of my mind that I, you know, I, maybe I could be a pilot or maybe go aviation and, and I just didn't initially, but after four years, there is a program where a handful of people are able to transition to naval aviation to Marine Corps, aviation and applied for it. The key The bottom line is I because I didn't want to be the guy 10 years from now saying, I could have any similar stories to the tank story and aviation. No, no, no, because I learned how to communicate better. clarity of communication is one of the key things and yet and you see it in, in in just basic life, you know, like, Hey, where do you want to go to dinner? Oh, I didn't really matter. I don't, you know, whatever. And then you go out to dinner, and the person with is like, yeah, I didn't really want to come here anyway, like, why didn't you say so? Right? Well, I didn't want to be difficult. Well, now you're sitting there having a bad time, right? So clarity of communication, as the sender and the receiver is one of the primary responsibilities of the leader. And if you're, again, if you're sitting there thinking, Well, what can I do to get better? become a better communicator?

Earl Breon 24:49

Well, yeah, oh, man. And so again, I didn't want this episode to be 100%. Military centric, but, you know, we're hitting on all cylinders here. Because, you know, there's a reason why we have a, you know, kind of a call back command or repeat command in the military to make sure what was said is what was heard, right?

Wally Adamchik 25:13

Well, yeah, and in high in artillery, but you know, an artillery silence is consent. Right? So rather than muck it up, you know, if I, if, if there's no correction on it, it's fire it, but you go through the drive through, and at chick fil a, or wherever, and some of them do the read back and some of them don't. I remember one of my first bosses using the phrase to be effective. So let me just so just to make you make sure. So what you just said is, and they were doing what's called restatement and paraphrase, I'm thinking to myself, yeah, you moron. That's exactly what I said. Can't you listen? The moron was me not realizing that they were using superior communication skills. So restatement and paraphrase Now, within that, it's all in the delivery. If I say, hey, just so I made sure I got this correct. Earl, what you just said is die. That's significantly different than me saying. Alright, so what you just said is, right. One is the burden is on me burden of command, right. One is I've just implied that your demands.

Earl Breon 26:20

Well, yeah, and it's so valid, because, you know, I, yes, I've had this discussion many, many times. It's like, well, we're not communicating face to face. Well, even better, you can write an email. This is this is, this is how I interpreted what you said, is this, correct?

Wally Adamchik 26:34

Absolutely. And you go, that, you know, absolutely. You know, because there's really three conversations, maybe four, there's the one you think we have, there's the one I think we had, there's the one we think we had, and then when you listen to the tape, there's the one we actually had, which Oh, by the way, still has multiple interpretations. So yes, clarity of communications in any relationship is very important.

Earl Breon 27:01

And I think even in the face to face, I really do believe that people, especially in a space that we're in speaking, right, I think people really do underestimate the power of your voice and the power of your body language, and how much even saying the same exact words how much your voice and body language can change the message that sent?

Wally Adamchik 27:28

Yeah, I mean, there's been a lot of research done on that. But it's absolutely true that, particularly if you know the person very well, that subtle, I roll that subtle glance away, that had my arms crossed, are they tied, or they open? All of those things, you're your receiver, and you know, you're the sender, the receiver is processing at a subconscious level, and not even in, you know, the meaty thinking part of their brain. But remember that thing we call gut feeling, we don't know where it comes from? Well, it comes from the fact that you are picking up all those subtle cues. And you're going I don't trust this guy, or what she's saying there. Oh, what's up? That's coming from a real place. It's just one that we have a hard time articulating. So absolutely, right.

Earl Breon 28:16

Yeah, that's, that's one of the hooks that I use it every once in a while. You'll people that have heard us talk a little bit they kind of caught on, but y'all come out, and I'll be like, Hi, my name is Earl Breon. And I'm happy to be here with you today. And then you could see the audience their faces, like Oh, shit, this is gonna suck. Yeah. So then, but then you switch it and you you come across like your normal delivery. And everybody's like, Oh, thank God.

Wally Adamchik 28:43

Yeah, that's great. Good technique.

Earl Breon 28:46

So all right, well, you know, we battled through some some communications things here. And but I think we got a lot of great content out there. I'm going to put some links to your stuff in the show notes, because I really want to promote you. And once you're doing Firestarter, I really do like the mission and think you're all doing some great things. Before we wrap it up, and I'll let you out of here. Is there anything that you would like to share with the audience that we haven't covered yet?

Wally Adamchik 29:21

Well, this reminds me of a time I was on a TV interview, actually, in supportive of my first book, but you cited no yelling the nine secrets of Marine Corps leadership, you must know to win in business. And this happens in every interview, almost I think you've seen it, you've had it done happened to you, and your audience has seen it. So you know, you're in this 32nd 30 minute, three hour, however long The interview is and at the end of the interview that this is the true story, the interviewer says, okay, in the time remaining summarize, you know, they asked this incredibly long winded question is really more about them talking about me talking. So the first thing that goes through my mind at the end of their incredibly long not that yours was long winded, by the way, after that incredibly long winded question was, Oh, my God, how much time do I have left? You know, in the heat of the moment, I was like, all right, it comes down to this trust and respect. So I talked about trust and respect, right? And then so and here's the final comment, then, that we and you always do talk about these, these concepts, these principles, these tools, techniques, of leadership. And what I say to folks is that these are universal principles. What I mean by that is, works most of the time on most of the people. But there are always there's always going to be someone who's who's Goofy, someone who is not normal, somebody who has issues. And you know, who doesn't play along, right. So you do you know, your listener does, I've done everything or all has said for the last, you know, however many podcasts did what while he said, but this person isn't doing what I you know, they're not responding, you know, therefore, this stuff is bullshit. There. So this stuff doesn't work. And no, it didn't work on them.

It works on most of the people most of the time. And the, the, so the thing here is don't get discouraged. You know, when you go do these things, communicate more effectively show trust and respect, you know, all the things we've talked about, and you continue to talk about on this show. It's just means keep at it. Right? People will build snowman, as we've talked about, some people are going to create blizzards, you probably need to fire those people, right. But this stuff works. Most of the time on most of the people there universal principles does not work all the time on everybody, but in their rooms of research to show that work. So you know, quote, trust and respect, are probably the crucible core things, but also, it you're going to have some bad days, and you're gonna have some bad people. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't be doing this stuff. Because it does work.

Earl Breon 32:17

Oh, I love that. I love that. It's like you read my mind. So that the episode that's going to come out right before this one is going to be about a gentleman named Cliff young, and I don't want to ruin it for the listeners. But if you've not heard of Cliff young, give him a look. And it ties into everything you were just saying. So Well, again, while I appreciate you being with us appreciate you sharing and battling through these technical difficulties. I really do. Value everything you're saying. Like I said before, I'm going to have your links up, I want to really push what you guys are doing and hopefully drum up some business for you. People curious. So thank you for being with us today.

Thank you sir. I appreciate it and continue. Continue the mission

Wally Adamchik 33:09

will do

Earl Breon 33:09

and for our listeners if you have any questions for me, or for Wally likes it I'll have his contact info up on how to find him on social media and whatnot. You reach out to me at burden command at gmail. com. That's burden dot And, again, keep those shields up and look forward to speaking with you again in the next episode.

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