June 21, 2022

#028: Fight The Great Resignation – Hire Veterans! With General William Toti

Hosted by hogtheweb

The accelerated learning curve, leadership, teamwork, diversity, inclusion in action, efficient performance under pressure, respect for procedures, integrity, a consciousness of health and safety standards, and Triumph over adversity. These are just a few examples of why you should be hiring veterans in your organization. Veterans possess a unique and incomparable world experience that will propel your organization to think of different solutions to keep evolving. Check out this fantastic episode with guest Captain William Totti, author of From CO to CEO: A Practical Guide for Transitioning from Military to Industry Leadership, and delve into how you can benefit from hiring veterans.

Listen to the podcast here

Apple PodcastsStitcheriHeartRadioSpotifyBlubrryPlayer.fmAcastPocketCasts


Fight The Great Resignation – Hire Veterans! With Captain William Toti

Our special guest is Retired Navy Captain William Toti and he’s written this amazing book From CO to CEO. We’re going to talk about all the things that Veterans should know, from his practical guide to transitioning from the military to the corporate world. We’re going to talk about how companies can take advantage of this amazing hiring pool of Veterans that are exiting the military. Standby to learn some great information, especially if you’re a company as to how you can get back in the fight for the war for talent and win with military Veterans.

We’re talking to Bill Toti who has written which is going to be a best seller, From CO to CEO and welcome Bill to the show. It’s good to have you.

Thanks, George. I’m happy to be here.

You’ve got a very lengthy bio, which I only cover a little bit, but you’ve had two careers. Walk me through your career and bring us up to the point before you wrote the book. You’re going to have to go slow because you’re Navy and I’m an Army. We do have some Army readers.

Yes, sir. I’m actually a Joint. I served a lot with the Army. I worked for the Army Process, one of my favorite process is Colin Powell, who I worked for in the Joint Staff. I did 26 years of active duty. I’m not sure I planned it that way. My class in the academy, Class of 1979, we have this motto. “Out the door in ’84,” because 1984 was our five-year commitment that would end.

Honestly, I decided to keep doing it until I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. What happened was suddenly 26 years had gone by. It happened so quickly. It’s not like I planned my career that way. In every case, I try to keep my options open as far as what I would do on active duty. I kept getting promoted and screened, so I ended up commanding a submarine.

After that submarine squadron, I was commodore of a submarine squadron. Nobody said this to me, it was one of those things where I believe that at some point in my life I would be too “old” to have a viable full second career, which is what I want. I didn’t want to transition out of the military and have a job for a few years and retire. I wanted a full second career.

Assuming that you retire at age 65, which is where I am right now, by the way, and if you want a twenty-year second career, it said to me that I needed to make the move in my mid-40s. I didn’t know what I was doing, but it turns out that rule, if it is a rule, was a pretty good one because I wanted to work for a company that was willing to invest in me.

I was a transitioning military officer. I commanded at senior levels, but I did not know what it was going to take to succeed in the industry. I knew that it was going to take some investment on my employer’s part for me to learn what it was going to take to succeed in the industry. The only way that an employer would invest in me is if I had enough time to return that investment back to them. That’s why I made the move when I did.

What year did you transition out?

It was in 2006. I’ve been in the industry for several years now. I did 26 years on active duty then several years in the industry and culminating in a position as CEO of a Defense Company called Sparton. The plan worked as I hoped it would through luck and serendipity, and a little bit of planning. Your show says you need to hire Veterans where you give all the right reasons for companies to hire Veterans is spot on.

When I was a junior in the industry, I learned that my companies were hiring Veterans and wanted to hire Veterans for the right reasons, for altruistic reasons, and because they knew the Veterans could give back, but what I learned was all too often, those Veterans were failing. They were failing because of a lack of alignment between what the company believed the Veteran could contribute, and what the Veteran believed his or her job was going to be. When those Veterans failed that made these already stressful situations, transitioning into a new life in the industry much more stressful. Over the years, I decided that I needed to do something about it, and that’s why I ended up writing a book.

You and I share that background. I enlisted in ’84 when you would have been given the opportunity to get out the door. I got the leadership bug and became an officer. Like you, I had no plan. I was like, “I’m going to keep going as long as this is fun.” People know from the show that I fell ass-backward into all of the career-enhancing positions about a year too early.

I came out of command in a few years’ time and grade in ’03. I’m like, “I’ve got nothing but time to be a PowerPoint ranger.” Back then it was Harvard graphics, which gives away our age. I was a Harvard graphics ranger. I jumped out at pre-LinkedIn. You were still faxing resumes. I went through a Veteran’s firm, how did you find your opportunity when you transitioned?

A headhunter, it was a wonderful opportunity. I talked about that in the book, in fact, because I do deal in the book with how to interface with headhunters, and things like how to deal with multiple offers if you’re lucky enough to get multiple offers. Like you, I enlisted in 1974, not 1984. I applied for the academy shortly after I enlisted and then was accepted less than a year later into the academy.

As a veteran, make a move when you get the chance to. Look for a company that's willing to invest in you. Click To Tweet

With no knowledge that I would be an officer, I enlisted in the Navy. When I got out, I did go to a headhunter that still exists. I won’t name them, but they still specialize in placing transitioning military. They understood the challenges of transitioning military, but they did absolutely no training at all for me. As do all transitioning military members, the Navy put me through Transition Assistance Program or TAP course and a secondary course that they allow officers could take if they want it.

I believed everything that I was told in those courses. Sadly, most of what I was told was wrong. I didn’t know this at the time. It wasn’t for a couple of years after I joined the industry, did I learn one by one. What they told me about how to write a resume, how to interview, how to negotiate for my compensation, and what the company was looking for in me were all wrong.

For example, one of the things that I wanted to believe was there a line, “All my future employer would want from me is good leadership.” I talked about that in the book and how it deludes you into believing that you have everything you need to succeed in the industry. It sets transitioning Veterans up to fail because good leadership isn’t enough on active duty. If good leadership was enough on active duty, you could take a B-52 Wing commander and put them on a submarine and make them see over a submarine, and they do fine.

That’s not true. You need to know something about the systems tactics and procedures that you’re going to be using in that command position. It’s no less true in industry. When you transitioned industry, as I said in the book, “You’re going to be a second Lieutenant over again.” You made that point in your show as well.

It’s funny how the two of us came to completely aligned opinions, taking very divergent views. You’re in the recruiting talent management business. I was in the hiring manager business. I hired hundreds of Veterans over years in the industry. Every one of them came into the job thinking, “I’m already a good leader.” You might’ve been in your park and position, but what you’re going to need to do in the industry is going to be very different. If you don’t come to terms with that early in your industry career, this is not going to go well for you.

We won’t name those transition firms. You don’t know what you don’t know. I’ve talked about it on the show. I went to the TAP and the ACAP. I’m believing everything is true. There’s probably still a scar on the side of my face where the fish hook had buried itself because I was so believing in everything. The challenge for me was it took me a number of years to realize and I have faulted the military for this.

I’ve offered countless times, back at my base in Fort Hood, Texas. What happens is as people retire, they want to get a government contracting job, so they go into the TAP or the ACAP center, and they’ve never been in corporate America. They have zero basis of knowledge to instruct what it means to transition. To your point, you’re sitting there thinking, “It’s true.” It’s like made up, out of whole cloth.

It’s the blind leading the blind. It’s not their fault. People think I’m beating up on the government. The government does a superb job teaching you about your VA benefits when you transition. There are some things that they do, but they have never done this. They’re reading from a curriculum written by somebody who if they succeeded in an industry, they’d still be doing that. Why would they leave? It’s written by people who didn’t rise to the level of a president or a CEO like I did. They don’t know what it takes to succeed. It’s worse there. Since I decided to write this book, once I got the curriculum altogether in the form of a book, I reached out to all four services.

There was an office within each of the services that managed globally each of the services transition classes for all of the various bases. The courses are taught locally, but the curriculum is managed globally at each of the four-service headquarters. I said, “Let me help you improve the curriculum because there’s so much that you’re still teaching and the evidence of that is people that I’m hiring that have been taught wrong.”

“There’s so much that you’re still teaching that’s wrong. I will help you improve your curriculum for free.” They won’t even talk to me. Here’s a guy who served as CEO and hired thousands of Veterans over the years and knows what they’re good at, what they need to get better at, before they transition, and they won’t even talk to me. It’s a tragedy. They don’t even care. That’s the part that gets me.

I got to be honest with you. It’s my feeling that they’re carrying even less now because of people being deployed so much and not staying the full twenty, but we share that similar vein. The other thing that I didn’t know when I met these veteran transition firms, again, was believing what I was told and I had no reason not to. We had grown up in a world where integrity and what you said was your word or everything. If you said, you’re going to do something, you’d go do it.

I look at myself and think, “What an idiot, how did I miss this?”  I get it I’ve forgiven myself since. I always thought that the Veteran firms were in it for the Veterans. It was this complete oversight on my part forgetting that the person paying the fee is the company. I quickly learned about the whole puppet master of how these firms are doing.

I don’t want to take away from the help, the guidance, the good things that they’re doing, and the intent, but it’s what drove me into coaching Veterans pro bono, and then I set up the first junior military officer hiring program at KPMG Consulting. It went over to Deloitte’s program. I sat one up at HP. I’d assist again at the Booz Allen Hamilton.

Some veterans fail in their corporate job because they are not aligned with their job and vice versa. Click To Tweet

I was a hiring manager at HP. I ran the defense business at HP for a few years.

That is crazy. Who was the head of the public sector when you were there? Do you remember?

I had two, Dennis Stolkey and Marilyn Crouther.

I know them both. It’s a small world.

Meg Whitman was the CEO. She was the third CEO when I was there. She is a great American supporter of defense. Since I was around the defense business first and the Navy business, she treated me as if I worked for her because she took a great interest in the defense business. We did a great job hiring. That’s where a lot of my lessons were accumulated. What we needed to make sure the Veterans understood as we hire them. I accumulated a lot of those lessons then.

During that period, what you may or may not have figured out is that was part of enterprise services. The global hiring for enterprise services was run by me.

Correct. It used to be EDS. HP bought EDS and it became part of enterprise services. I was part of it.

I loved that I hired Veterans. We’ve done a lot of webinars. We’ve talked about inviting you to share your knowledge and experience and wisdom with the transitioning military. I want to dig into the company side and what companies can do because during my first start and I thought I had a brilliant idea which was the public sector side of KPMG. I looked around and the head of the Defense Space, the head of the Navy, the people that ran DOJ and Department of Treasury were all military Veterans.

I remember talking to them and I said, “You guys made it, why aren’t you hiring more Veterans?” I always joke I don’t know if they thought I had a great idea or they were tired of hearing me bitching and moan about them not supporting fellow Veterans, but they let me go do it. It became successful. I got to do the prep. I got to teach them about what it was, but I had the front end of the deal. I wanted to get more Veterans in. I don’t necessarily have the time to build things. Eventually, we went on to build a bootcamp.

Over the course of my time in the veteran space, I’ve watched JP Morgan pledge to hire tens of thousands. I watched tens of thousands go in. I watched the attrition rate skyrocket to your point, they’ll go in, and they burn out. They fail out. I’ve watched so many companies commit to hiring Veterans for all the right reasons.

It’s like throwing them in the deep end of the pool and hoping that they swim in the middle of sharks. When you talk to companies, anywhere from top 1 to top 5 things that companies could be doing better. Here’s what’s driving me nuts, Veteran unemployment is higher generally. There’s some of that that we’ve all deployed and we’re like, “I want to go back to my hometown, a near location restricted,” which I try to beat out of Veterans’ heads every chance I get.

I would tell Veterans, “I landed in Austin, Texas, but I’m a Kansas City Chiefs Fan. I’m not near my family in Kansas City, but if I want to go see a Kansas City Chiefs game, I go. My time is mine. If I want to go see your Royals game, I go. If I want to go see Sporting Kansas City because I’m a soccer fanatic, I go. Location doesn’t matter as much. Back to the point of companies, if you had all the CEOs because they’re facing the Great Resignation, the great regret, not getting enough people, Veterans, you and I agree, it’s like you couldn’t have a better pool. What do you tell them to do differently?

The interesting thing is I wrote the book speaking to the veteran. It wasn’t an epiphany. One of my hiring manager friends in talent acquisition read the book and said, “This book is written for me. It’s written for talent acquisition. It’s written for the people in HR in a hiring company, because it tells me everything I need to know to help the Veteran succeed. Even though you don’t seem to be talking to me, you’re talking to me.” That’s when I said, “I need to leverage that. He’s right.”

Leadership is hard, but it's even harder when you're leading people who can actually quit. Click To Tweet

There’s a lot that I covered in the book because as we said about those people teaching the transition assistance courses, they don’t know what they don’t know. The hiring companies don’t know what they don’t know. What I tried to do in the book is eliminate that as well. An example, I tell my active-duty friends and this is in the book, “You may be a good leader. Leadership is hard, but it’s even harder when you’re leading people who can quit.”

The point I’m making there is I was in command of a submarine and I tried to use all the good leadership principles you would lead to get everybody focused on the mission and aligned to the mission. In the final analysis, if they didn’t agree with me, there was no place for them to go. That is not true in the industry. People vote with their feet. If you’re losing your employees, you’re going to lose your employees because they’re going to leave and that’s your failure. That’s not their failure.

When I coach transitioning Veterans, I say, “You need to rethink your method of leadership. That’s point number one.” For companies that are hiring those Veterans, it’s important for them to understand the perspective.  I’m not saying that you got to recalibrate every transitioning Veteran, but I will say that there are signals or precursors, signs that an employer can detect potentially in a transitioning Veteran that’s going to tell the company whether or not this Veteran’s going to have a bit of a challenge adjusting.

I talked in the book about one of my first assignments after I joined this company. I joined a company and we figured out quickly that we had a misalignment. What they thought they were getting with me, and what I thought I was getting in my job were very different. The happy news about this company was we figured it out and they decided to adjust and train me. I benefited from that for the rest of my career. I would not have risen to the position of CEO if that company didn’t recognize early on that I may not have known everything that they assumed I knew. They decided I was worth investing in and they trained me, and that was wonderful.

There’s this book called What Got You Here Won’t Get You There and I recommend every transitioning military member read this book. I recommend every company hand my book to transitioning military members. If they had a second book give them that book because the book makes the point that the more successful you’ve been in past environments, the more likely you are to fail in future environments, because you’re going to presume that your past successes will lead or somehow leverage for success in the future.

Even if the environment, the conditions, the people, the resources change, and the mission have changed. The point is your past successes sometimes give you an inappropriate degree of confidence. They cause you to fail in future endeavors. I covered that in the book as well. That’s point number two. The disease of success.

The third point I cover with companies is that sometimes transitioning veterans struggle to find the mission. When they were on active duty, the mission was self-actualizing. It was obvious. It was the defense of the country, national security, and all those things. Sometimes when they can transition to industry, they think that it’s all about the money and it’s not.

People who succeed in the industry, who’ve never served know that there’s a higher purpose and calling. There was an altruistic aspect of the company and the industry that needs to be served. The success comes when they understand the mission, but sometimes transitioning military people struggled to find that mission. If they don’t find it, they have difficulties self-motivating and that causes some failure, but there are a whole bunch of other things in the book as well.

I cracked it open. I took a trip on Mother’s Day and the book is waiting for me. I can’t wait to dig into it. I almost was going to write a book on this topic, but we wrote Talent War with Mike Sarraille, my co-author and good friend. We were so happy to write it and just about what talent looks like, but I can’t wait to read it because it’s such a gap for Veterans.

Your book is vital. It’s written from the standpoint of talent acquisition. My book is written from the standpoint of fifteen years of hiring veterans and watching too many of them fail. I was engaging one-on-one counseling veterans and I said, “This is not efficient. There’s got to be a better way to get the word out more broadly.” I didn’t intend to write the book, but as I started writing things down, I said, “When this thing’s done, it’s going to be a book. Let’s see if we can get it published.” That’s why it ended up that way.

I don’t know about you but by the time Mike and I got done, we hated our book at the end of it. We were tired of reading it over and over.

You think the journey is done, but it took a year from the day I finished to get it in bookstores. That was something that I didn’t understand. Even if you find a publisher. They want their developmental editor to have a crack at it, then you’ve got copy editing, then you’ve got typesetting, and proofreading, and then printing took two months. I’m glad that journey’s over.

We had to go through DOD and get the stamp of approval because we were talking so much about Special Operations. We got back our fair share of redactions. What was interesting to me was you would hire Veterans when I’m talking with hiring managers, I’ve always stressed it. It’s resonating more is as we face the Great Resignation, you have this amazing talent pool. The teams I built have hired over 80,000 people. I’ve seen my fair share of resumes and hiring managers at scale. What has always driven me nuts is you get hiring managers that write this job description and there are 25 things that this person needs to have.

The more successful you were in past environments, the more likely you are to fail in future environments. Click To Tweet

We talked about in the Talent War, they’re not talking about the attributes, they’re talking about the hard skills or certification, or degree. They’re still stuck in that old mindset. First of all, I tell them, “The stickability is outrageous. It’s such a difference. A military person wants to land somewhere. They want to have that mission. They want to earn the money, so they’ll stick.”

I wanted to ask you this interesting question, but as I’ve helped people learn how to interview military Veterans, for me, the toughest question that I ask a military leader is to describe for me your leadership style. Normally, one would think that that’s the softball question. You should be able to knock that out of the park, but it turns out after years of doing this, that it’s the hardest question. They’re doing it by muscle memory and they’ve never had to articulate it. I haven’t gotten there. What do you advise Veterans on explaining how they lead, learn, and train to have a mentor or coach? What do you emphasize to them to be more in the interview process?

I try to emphasize to Veterans the need for situational leadership. To have an adaptable leadership style that conforms to the requirement because, in operational tactical situations, you had to be a very assertive directive leader because the urgency demanded it. In most cases in the industry, there won’t be that driving factor. There won’t be an urgency where you need to be very directive in your leadership style. In fact, being directive is going to chase good people away because people in 2022 don’t react well to that.

Early in my industry career, one of my first jobs was firing an employee who was a transitioned Air Force One-star. Part of it was a test for me to see if I would fire the general and part of it was the guy didn’t need to go. When HR was talking me through why we were letting them go, they referred to him as a, “Command and control leader.” That confused me because, in the military, you exercise command and control of forces, and it’s a good thing. I couldn’t imagine why she thought being a command-and-control leader was a bad thing.

As she explained it to me, it became apparent that they had hijacked this military expression that we use on active duty and morphed it to mean something different. When HR uses the expression, command and control, what they mean is he’s the kind of leader who barks out commands and exercises inappropriate control of his employees. Being a command-and-control leader is a bad thing, not a good thing in the industry. It was an epiphany.

In fact, the general was losing people because he was very directive and rough on people. He did not suffer fools. He was too direct. He didn’t think that building teams were important. He didn’t understand that it required different methods to build teams into the industry than it did in the Air Force. Again, leadership is harder when the people you’re leading can quit and his people were quitting.

That’s the thing. It’s to morph your leadership style into one that’s more appropriate for the industry. However, there will be situations and most of them are emergency situations. I talk in the book about the time when there was a subcontractor who worked for my business, who was the Washington Navy Yard Shooter in 2012. We were reacting to that. I had 50 employees in the Washington Navy Yard and we stood up a crisis action team.

At that time, I’m running the business. These are my employees. I had to fall back on those very directive leadership styles that I exerted when I was on active duty. “I want you to do this. You guys are going to do that. Set up a phone line with the FBI. You fall back on those skills. You set up a phone line to headquarters. Headquarters will do a deal with informing the public.”

It was very bizarre because I ended up sending out situation reports and hearing Wolf Blitzer repeat them in near real-time on CNN. The point I make is don’t forget how to lead in that fashion, but you’re almost never going to be called on to lead in that fashion. It’s going to be much more soft coaching servant leadership style. If you haven’t learned that on active duty, you better learn quickly because the guys who’d failed to learn are going to fail.

Outside of the leadership style, if you had to pick your top three things that you want to share with Veterans to better articulate because it’s like putting two magnets together sometimes. You have these hiring managers that despite the high attrition are still listing out objective requirements and not defining success, not listing the attributes, and then not investing in to hire. As part of the top 50 leadership group at this company, I got a chance to talk to a leadership group, and I said, “Every hire that doesn’t make it is a failure on your part. That’s where you need to start.”

You would’ve thought I called the Pope a Baptist. The heads were spinning. It was like sacrilege. They still list these requirements, so Veterans still have a lot of hurdles to get over if they get to the interview stage. What top 2 or 3 things that you share with people? I’m anxious to learn how you approach it and what you share with Veterans and I’ll be through the book by the end of the week. For our readers, what do you tell Veterans about how to articulate their true value and what they bring to the companies that they’ve applied to?

I do cover all three aspects from the job search, getting hired, and then two, how to succeed in the job, and then the third phase is how to excel and get promoted. The book does cover all of those aspects, but the first thing I would say is that when my transition course, or I call it the great lie, told me that all my company was looking for was good leadership. I try to teach the Veterans is there is something they’re looking for from you. You get to this point, when you say, “Hire for talent. Teach for skills.” You say something like that.

Hire for character, train for skill.

A veteran doesn't need great leadership to be successful; they need to have an informed passion for learning. Click To Tweet

I came to it independently and what I talk about is the Veteran needs to convey one thing. It’s not great leadership. It’s an informed passion to learn. That’s the way I characterize it. Informed because you cannot forget all this great stuff you’ve learned over the course of your active duty. The company will want to leverage all of that learning. You can’t discard your history and passion. The companies want to hire people with a fire in their belly. Nobody’s going to bring that to bear more than folks that have been on active duty, that’s informed passion.

The third bit is to learn because none of you Veterans are going to come to that company with all of the knowledge you need to succeed. The hiring company needs to know that. They need to know that the veteran is not going to come to you with all the information they need to succeed, but what the Veteran can come to them with and needs to prove to the hiring company they have is the ability to learn.

The Veterans change jobs every couple of years, and when they change jobs, they were put in a position where they wouldn’t need to learn the new jobs, so they’ve done this. Even in the resume, I say, “You’ve got to demonstrate with evidence, not with hand-waving statements. The fact that you have an informed passion to learn because that’s the most beneficial thing you can bring to your new employer.”

I gave a speech and I was talking to, as I say, my people, 75 HR, and talent acquisition professionals, and I said, “When you talk to your hiring managers, you talk about these job descriptions.” To your point about the passion to learn. I said, “I want everybody to raise their hand if your job description and job duties changed dramatically within the first 120 days.” Every hand in the room went up. That’s what I share with Veterans is companies ultimately are looking for a number of things and I break it down into the simple because you get the Veterans that come to you and they say, “I want $125,000 or $150,000. I finally want to make some money.”

I’m like, “You have to prove to a company that you can earn 3X or 4X for the company what they’re going to compensate you at. If you can prove that value, whatever the situation, that’s what they’ve got to figure out. They’re also looking for potential.” Military people have that in spades. Some of the most dreaded terms in the military were hurry up and wait. We don’t like to be bored. We like to be doing things. We like to be learning something new.

To demonstrate that potential is absolutely huge. If you were to give three tips to hiring managers as to why, or how they should look at Veterans, what would you be telling the group of hiring managers that have not dealt with the Veterans as a talent pool before? What would you tell them that is a statement that says, “This strengthens the fabric of your organization?”

Even if you’re hiring a Veteran for an entry-level position that may look like the same position for a recent college graduate is going into. You could put a person in that position, it’s going to be on steroids. Their ability to accelerate their learning and their progression in the job and contribute more will be 2 to 3X times than a recent college graduate. I say this based on experience and evidence and not based on what I wish I’d like to be.

I hired junior officers out of their first tour of duty on active duty into an entry-level program manager position alongside an MBA. Watch that junior officer accelerate and move up the career path progression substantially faster because of all of this life experience that a Veteran had and the ability to learn. You think, “MBA, they’ve been going to school.” It’s not the same thing. You’re going to get way more bang for the buck for the investment you put in a Veteran than you will an equivalent on somebody else.

Take me as an example. When I was hired into my first company, I was promoted into a vice president position within two years of being a new hire. When I was promoted into that vice president position, it was over roughly 20,000 employees who’d been there longer than I had. I’d like to think that it worked out well for both of us because I was hired out of that position into another position in another company that had even more responsibility. Within ten years I was hired into my first president of a business unit position. You can’t explain that accelerated success without my 26 years of active-duty experience behind me. It doesn’t happen if I hadn’t had the experience that I had before I entered the industry.

I had the very same thing. I’ve told the story, but I was a consultant. I was working not far from you, but I was working out of Fort Belvoir. I was working on the Army PEO. I had a family circumstance, which said, “I need to get back to Texas, but they didn’t have anything except tech at the time.” I took a job in HR and for me, that launched everything. I would never have guessed. It was fate and it turned out well. I loved creating the Veterans’ programs. I had somebody reach out to me many years after I hired him into that company and said, “Remember me?” I was like, “Yes.”

 A couple of people that have been hired are now managing directors at large consulting firms. They’ve gone on to be VPs and SVPs. It’s great to watch. To your point, when they’re humble and recognize that they have to adapt to a new environment, pull all of that together, be a servant leader, and adapt to the circumstances, then all of that behind you is a tailwind. When you use it the right way, your ego is going to be the headwind, to your point about the one star. It’s just ego. “I know what I’m doing. I’ve been here. The disease of success. I’m complacent. I’m going to keep doing things the same way, even though they’re not working.”

I’m grateful that you wrote a book. I’m grateful to dig into it. This is a little bit of a broad statement. I want to be careful because there are so many people with great intent, writing good books to help military people close that gap and jump and I always applaud that. The interviewing advice that I’ve seen coming out of TAP and ACAP, and the books that I’ve read are horrible.

The term we used in the army was jailhouse lawyer. It’s like when you’re in jail and you’re getting advice from your fellow inmates about, “This was illegal.” They have no idea what they’re talking about. I’m going to give you the last word and you and I are going to talk again. You’re going to come to talk to our candidates on webinars. I’m so grateful you wrote the book. Normally I ask, “What did you learn now that you could do better that you wish you knew at age 22?” I’m going to leave it open for you.

Hiring companies need to know that a veteran is not going to go to you with all the knowledge they need to succeed. Click To Tweet

Writing a book is a lot of work. I didn’t want to write a book. I tried to look for a book that I could hand to candidates and say, “Here. Read this.” I bought them all and I read them all. Most of them are to use another military word, pablum. Easy to digest, but have no benefit. It’s hand-waving advice on, “Make sure you can communicate the mission to your,” but it doesn’t tell you how the subtitle of my book is a Practical Guide for Transitioning from Military to Industry Leadership, because that’s what was missing.

What was missing was the practical step-by-step guide on what you need to do to convert your brain and learn to help you get a good job and succeed in that job. I ended up writing the book because it didn’t exist. I hope your readers benefit from it on the industry side, company side, as well as on the candidate side.

We are certainly going to be sharing it with all of our candidates without a doubt that we come into. I’m going to start including it in my speech because you’re there is no practical guide. There are a few books out there. The one that I do recommend I won’t name it, but you could erase half of the book because it’s hubris about how great they are and why they exist, and why they’re the best versus getting into, “This is what you need to know about yourself. This is how you articulate that. This is how you turn this into a successful interview where you’re getting multiple offers.”

Bill, I can’t thank you enough for coming on. I wanted to take more time because we’re both of the age where Jaws was a great movie. One of these times, you’re going to have to come back and tell me about the USS Indianapolis and your work with that because it’s one of the most fascinating stories out there.

I’m happy to do that. I always love to talk about that ship and its great crew.

I love it. Google was not out when the movie came out. People were looking through the encyclopedia Britannica, and it was not very good. Bill, happy to have you and the book folks is From CO to CEO: A Practical Guide for Transitioning from Military to Industry Leadership. I can’t thank you enough for being on the show. We wish you much success and we hope to have you back soon.

Thank you, George. Happy to do it. See you.



Important Links


About William Toti

William Toti is the author of “From CO to CEO: A Practical Guide for Transitioning from Military to Industry Leadership.” He is the former CEO of Sparton Corporation, and former CO of USS Indianapolis (SSN-697). Current consultant and board member.

Looking to Develop a Talent Mindset?

We'd love to learn more about you, your team, and your challenges.
Talent War Group is ready to help.


General Form

This will close in 0 seconds

ACDP Contact

General Form

This will close in 0 seconds

Podcast Form

This will close in 0 seconds