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✦𝐒𝐮𝐛𝐬𝐜𝐫𝐢𝐛𝐞 𝐓𝐨𝐝𝐚𝐲 𝐓𝐨 𝐇𝐞𝐚𝐫 𝐅𝐮𝐥𝐥 𝐄𝐩𝐢𝐬𝐨𝐝𝐞𝐬 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐈𝐦𝐩𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐟𝐮𝐥 𝐋𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐌𝐢𝐧𝐝𝐬𝐞𝐭 𝐓𝐢𝐩𝐬 𝐖𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐘𝐨𝐮 𝐄𝐧𝐣𝐨𝐲 𝐏𝐨𝐝𝐜𝐚𝐬𝐭 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐎𝐧 𝐈𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐦 @𝐝𝐜𝐥𝐨𝐜𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬
His #militray experience spans 3 seperate branches having served in the United States Air Force , US Army - USSOCOM , & most recently the US Navy where he oversaw an Annual budget of $200B+, a workforce of over 800K personnel and mentored countless indivduals along the way.
⭐ Jim reminds us that we are all leaders as long as we have the 𝗖𝘂𝗿𝗶𝗼𝘀𝗶𝘁𝘆 to explore new ideas, the 𝗛𝘂𝗺𝗶𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆 to continue to learn from mistakes and the 𝗕𝗼𝗹𝗱𝗻𝗲𝘀𝘀 to take the action in spite of #discomfort and #fear
His organizational charts have always featured him on the bottom because he values being that “𝙋𝙪𝙡𝙡𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙂𝙪𝙖𝙧𝙙” that clears the path for others to succeed above all else.
𝐁𝐮𝐢𝐥𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐌𝐞𝐚𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐟𝐮𝐥 𝐂𝐨𝐧𝐧𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐇𝐞𝐥𝐩 𝐔𝐬 𝐆𝐞𝐭 𝟏% 𝐁𝐞𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐄𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐃𝐚𝐲!
Phillip K Naithram: Well, we’re here with Hondo. Geurts Jim. Good to see you. Yeah. DC, local leaders. And we are recording today, in the George C. Marshall house.
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: Yeah. Dodonah Manor.
Phillip K Naithram: We’re here in his actual library.
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: It’s unbelievable.
Phillip K Naithram: Yeah. And for anyone that doesn’t know, a donut house is the Dorsey Marshall house here in Leesburg, Virginia, their 5 0 1 C3.
And they rely on membership and sponsorships to keep this going. They do tours every week. Please reach out to them. We’ll make sure we put links in the bottom of the shell. Awesome. Yeah. Just wanted to make sure I gave them a shout out if they need it. That’s good. That’s good. They’ve been so kind enough to let us use this.
Uh, he was amazing. He was amazing, man. It’s tour, it’s really nice for you to preserve this. Yeah. Yeah.
Well, so you recently retired. how’s that?
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: Uh, I think I took a day off. I’ve been pretty busy. Yeah, no, it’s good. Yeah, it it’s, uh, I always liked learning. And so, to me, it’s a, it’s a new chance to learn stuff and, uh, and maybe apply some, uh, lessons learned from a lot of scar tissue of 30 plus years and help other people out.
So, yeah. Well, let’s talk about that. So, you started, yeah, I was, uh, I actually started Lehigh as the ROTC guy. Yeah. It was my undergrad. And so back then, late eighties. Where’s recruiting folks with technical degrees to come in and help them build kind of advanced systems. Yeah. And so, uh, so I started there as an ROTC guy, not a really deep military family.
Um, but you know, it was a good way to get a college education. And, uh, I figured I could do anything for four years and, uh, you know, four years turned into six years, turned into 20 years, turned into 35 years. So, it was almost, yeah, a little over 38 years ago, I showed up as a. Uh, and, and here we are.
Phillip K Naithram: Yeah. But you’ve had one of those careers that anyone looking at it, you know, we can learn from, that’s a big deal for me. I, you know, we read a lot of stories about people like Michael Jordan, and I love Michael Jordan and I love his story. And I’m a firm believer in growth mindset that we can get better. Now you can get better at basketball, but you may not be able to replicate what he did, but there’s so many people around this beltway yourself included that, you know, if you really take their mentorship and learn we can do the same thing
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: and anybody can learn from anybody. So, if I can help, that’s great. But I’m learning that, you know, I’m now working with these startups with, uh, you know, young adults and I’m learning a ton from them. I mean, you know, there are, you know, just that energy and passion. Um, sometimes you gotta be a little careful folks will talk you into what your career needs to be.
Yeah. You know, I was told about 10 of the things I did my career. Everybody told me it was going to kill my career. And yeah, you can’t let some examples. Um, so we had, uh, our two boys were young, um, and they needed some extra help at school. And so, I took three back-to-back assignments and do. Normally in the military few stay in one place too long, they call it homesteading and they think you’re right.
And so, they’d say your career’s going to be over. If you do that, what it was the right thing to do for the family, right. Thing to do for me. And I figured, Hey, it’ll all work out. You work hard, get your out, you know, outcomes will speak for themselves. And so, I mean, take advice from people, but treated like advice, not like you have to write and be also be a little careful, some of the.
The things I learned the most from were from the jobs I thought I would like the least. Yeah.
Phillip K Naithram: I hear that message a lot.
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: Yeah. And so, it’s really about what do you bring to the table and not try and don’t, don’t let folks pencil you in. It doesn’t mean you don’t want to, you know, if you want to focus on one thing and be great at that one thing, that’s good, but, but always kind of give to your, uh, always be curious, I guess I’d say yeah. Curious about what you might do, what options are out there, what other people are doing. And curiosity is one of those, um, Skill it’s one of those power skills. The more curious you are, the more you get back from being curious, it’s one of those interesting, uh, skills like that. Kindness is like that too.
Phillip K Naithram: Yeah. And I think that there’s a lot of humility that comes with that too, because if you’re curious, you have to admit to yourself that you don’t know and that you, you know, you have to ask other people.
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: Yeah. I would say, um, although I’ve seen curious people who still don’t believe it unless they do it.
Right. So, I think you, so I, so the, so the, you know, if I was a boiled down. You know, three years of scar tissue and what, you know, what would I wish I would’ve known more coming out, you know, way back when, um, curiosity, having the curiosity explore, having the humility to learn and then having a boldness to act.
Yeah. So, you gotta be curious, but then you’ve gotta be willing to learn and figure out, you know, what somebody else is doing. Uh, but there’s a lot of curious people who are humble, but then don’t make them. Don’t So, and so trying to figure out the right balance of those has been, uh, um, it’s only come to me lately that if I look back in retrospect, those three skills are their power skills, um, because you can apply them anywhere and you don’t have, in fact, you don’t have to have deep knowledge.
In fact, it’s sometimes it helps you when you have no knowledge, uh, to apply those skills. And it also breaks down in generates trust. So, when people. Genuinely curious, and they generally want to ask questions or, hey, they come to the house, which here, what was he reading? I wonder what, you know, then suddenly you break your, become human and suddenly now you can instantly trust somebody because they’re willing to ask you something.
Yeah. It’s a really interesting, uh, it’s a really, and, and sometimes I think we get in this mode that leaders have. Bold above all else. And all the answers have all the answers and have no vulnerabilities. And you know, and quite frankly, those are those, aren’t the leaders I like following.
Phillip K Naithram: I mean, it I’ve gotten that message repeatedly that, you know, it’s the vulnerability and opening up in that. You said something interesting earlier is that a lot of people have shared with me that they learn much more from the people that they mentor then from anyone else that’s even from their own.
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: Exactly. I, in fact, I did for a while I was doing a, uh, I, it was, I call it almost reverse mentorship. I would pick the most junior folks in the organization and choose a couple of them to be my mentors. Yeah. And actually, it was, you’d go on to like the next level down because it’s too, you know, Five organizational levels different in the organization. And, uh, and it’s so far apart that you’re not worried about them sucking up or saying what you want to hear. Cause it’s, you know, it’s and two things happen.
One you’d really get their view of the world, which was really important in terms of developing the talent. And then the second thing is, again, they were not afraid to tell you what you probably needed to hear. Right. And then third year teaching now, how to mentor people and the value of mentorship. If you, as a, is used a leader, say, well, come on, I’m going to go pick you up.
Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s go have a session. So, it’s, it’s, it’s really an interesting, uh, interesting phenomenon doing
yeah. So, I’m a mutt. So senior executive political appointee in three different services, air force, air force, and special ops, and then Navy and Marine Corps.
And so, uh, so I think that was my way of being curious and showing humility and then understanding the bold move that maybe folks didn’t see. And so, I, it, I think, I don’t think anybody is naturally a leader. I think sometimes some of us, we all have skills. We all have weaknesses. Um, I think. You know, having moved around a lot as a kid, I went to high school or junior high and high school in the bay area, Houston, Texas, and lecture, Pennsylvania, like three of the most optimal places.
Everybody teaches you to, you know, you have to learn from folks and learn and adapt. You can’t just have all the answers. And, and I, um, and it’s, it starts right. If it works, I double down on it. If it didn’t work, okay, go move something else.
Phillip K Naithram: You Build resilience and grit by doing that because things don’t always work out and there’s a feeling of. Almost shame or embarrassment sometimes when things don’t work out and to get over that, you’ve got to keep making mistakes
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: yeah. I, um, you know, some folks will say you want to fail or fail fast. I like to learn fast. Yeah. So sometimes learning is because you try it and fail and you know, many of us blame, um, the thing about failures, you have to actually figure out what happened in success.
Many times, we attract. To the wrong thing. Right, right. We, yeah. It wasn’t that you were just lucky or that the timing was right. Or somebody else did something you don’t know about it. It was all because you’re the smart version now. So, we, we tend to attribute success, very egotistically, but failure, you can’t, you know, you’ve, you’ve got to have the same level of ownership and failure, and, but sure.
I like to learn fast. I can learn fast by failing. I can learn fast by having humility and learn from you.
Phillip K Naithram: Do you have a process that you follow? When you go into a new situation or let’s say you failed at something, or you learned at something, let’s say you learned at something. Do you have a process of debriefing that to understand what you just learned?
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: I think, um, I think it’s radical levels of transparency. And so being really transparent, why we screwed that when I’m guys, I wish I would’ve done this, or we could have done this or in 16. Holy moly. You’re the one that did. So, you’ll often hear me talk about, I sometimes call myself the pulling guard, right?
Big guy on an offensive line, not in the limelight, doing the kind of blue-collar work, make holes for the team to run through. Um, because for me, um, in terms of humility and just how to inspire folks, uh, most great leaders love to bask in the light, reflected off their team. Right. They don’t want to be in the spotlight.
They want to be. They want their team in the spotlight and they’ll just get the warmth of that. And so, I think, um, having that humility and then being able to be transparent, be vulnerable, um, that allows you to then much more quickly debrief, understand what happened, get honest feedback and then iterate fast.
And so, to me, it’s not as much of a process as a. And if you get in that, Hey, we’re all here. You know, learning velocity is key. That’s a mindset. Then all the things naturally come into, you know, breaking down a situation or figuring out who had the answer, but was too afraid to say it or got, or get yelled at.
Cause the three loud people in the room wouldn’t let she, or he told them.
Phillip K Naithram: Right. I think, yeah, that, because now you’ve opened an honest communication between you and the other team and that’s key because now, they don’t have to be. Yes person. And just tell you what you want to hear. They can be open about what they do.
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: Exactly. So, so another trick I used, because it’s really tired. If you get more and more shinier, everything works against you because everything is here to inflate your ego. Right? You get a bigger office staff you get in. So, you’ve got to constantly fight. I’m not getting caught up in that, so to speak.
And you know, one of the things I do is that. Have a team. I had the good, fortunate leading. I wouldn’t be at the bottom of the orchard. So, if you’d walk in, you know, as many times you’ll hear, if you go in the military office, you’ll see kind of the rank structure and the highest ranking down to lowest ranking.
And I would flip it, flip it. And because I think as a leader, your job is to support your team or your direct reports, their jobs to support their teams. Ultimately, you’re there to support the customer. So as a leader, I think you are accountable to the aura. You worked for the whole organization. The organization doesn’t work for you.
Phillip K Naithram: Where’d you learn that? Where’d you where’d you first learn that was that when you do in special operations,
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: I think I, I caught, I, I saw it somewhere. I walked in the office and somebody had done it. So, I’m not that smart. I’m a hell of a poacher, you know, and you know, something clicked. And so, I would say I had to learn early on this humility.
I’m trying to balance know, you know, we all struggle. I think with work life. And, um, I was just fortunate to learn early enough in my career that I couldn’t do it all myself. And, and so that it wasn’t because I had any great teaching or had some natural ability. I just was confronted with that very early in my career with two, uh, two kids a year apart and all those things.
And, uh, and I figured out if I could inspire, empower and trust. I didn’t have to; you could get so much more done than you could as one individual human. You just had to let go of. You had to let go of that. Um, it’s all about you and make it all about the outcome. We’re all about the mission. And, uh, and then as I say, bask in the light of the reflection on everybody, not, not look for the spotlight for yourself.
Phillip K Naithram: Yeah, no, I like that. Um, so, so let’s talk about you though, but what you actually do on a daily basis, I want to learn more about. Your daily routines that help you show up being this person and build that mindset of waking up at a certain time. I know you’re up pretty early because we all see your wake-up songs.
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: Yeah. I think, uh, you know, I’m, I’m probably most energized early in the morning and then late at night. And then, you know, I think, I think piece of it is for everybody, I guess, uh, uh, uh, something I’ve learned over the years, figure out what makes you feel. Okay. And it’s different for other people, right? So, for me, talking to people, energizes me, mentoring people, energizes me solving a hard problem, energizes me sitting in a four-hour staff meeting.
Doesn’t energize me. Right. Um, but we all have to do some of those things. So, I guess what I have found is if you can find the things that energize you. So, we have a cabin on a lake in which Virginia, we go.
Phillip K Naithram: Yeah. I heard a story about you and a
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: chainsaw therapy right out there. And you know, so for me, sometimes I just need to be either that, or, you know, doing when I was doing iron man’s training for, uh, being on a bike for a couple of hours, sometimes I needed those recharge moments, but whatever it is for you figure out what they are and where most, where I failed for a long time was, I tried to do my regular thing and then adamant at the end.
Yeah. And I had to flip that to say, okay, what are my energy providing tasks? Um, you know, mentoring or whatever is one of mine. And I build that in first and then make the work, uh, come in around it. And so, I would usually allocate maybe 10 to 15% of my day to that energy providing tasks. And I found with the 85% that was left, I was twice as.
And so, um, where I failed was trying to build it in afterwards, how I don’t have time for this. I don’t have time for that. And that, that really helps. So yeah. So, my battle rhythm is I get up in the morning, uh, kind of get connected and see what’s going on. Go try and get a workout in and then, you know, start jamming for the day.
Yeah. You still doing PT, still doing PT. Yeah.
Phillip K Naithram: You know, you you’re, you’re the, I think the 14th. That I’ve spoken to that says that they’ve done triathlons. Yeah. There’s gotta be something to that. When, how long ago did you do your last triathlon? What was that training process? Like? How did you fit in the time into everything else you’re doing?
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: So, uh, so I’ve done a couple full hundred mans. If they had the 18-inch neck category or the Sasquatch category, I would be, I would be an Ironman champion, you know? Uh, so yeah, I, I have the wrong body type for, uh, for doing triathlon, but, but what I like about triathlons. Really, at least for me, it wasn’t competing against other people.
It was competing against yourself and, and figuring out, um, how to, you know, break down. It’s 18-inch kinda like when you have a hard problem. Um, I think it was Eisenhower. It wasn’t Marshall was Eisenhower said, if you can’t solve a problem with. Because normally when you go to solve a problem, you use the things you’ve always done and you’ll get the answer you’ve always got.
And then if you can’t solve it, you’re never going to make it harder. And so sometimes, okay. How are you going to get through is Ironman for me, which takes a long time. Okay. Then you got to break it down into bits and pieces. Okay. I got to get through the swim and I got to get through. OK. To get through swim.
I got to get 2.4 miles. Okay. That means. You 45 buoys. I got a pass. Okay. So, and so you break it into bite sized pieces and then you just, then you just keep chugging along and you’re, it’s amazing. I find that way in problem solving too. If you try and do it all at once and the giant. It takes Reverend usually don’t get there.
Phillip K Naithram: Yeah. So you apply that to everything, that mindset where’d you learn that was that reverse engineering. The problem, is that from your military experience or?
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: Yeah, I think it’s just, you know, I’ve had the great fortune of being, I mean, I’ve, I’ve, you know, been on teams, building X airplanes, very, you know, very complex stealth missiles, um, very complex problems.
And so then you figure out as a leader, um, how do you then attract a very diverse team? Because the more diverse the team you can attract and empower and get working together. So again, not that smart, uh, I’m pretty good at developing talent and I’m pretty good at trying to get the talent in the right mindset to tackle it.
And so I think that applies to a lot of things. Yeah.
Phillip K Naithram: What’d you say during that training process and even tackling these problems, what’d you learn about yourself, your mindset, and I’m sure the internal. Has a few different things to say about him. Oh
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: yeah. I mean, one thing I learned was so in a long triathlon, I come up with lots of ideas because I’m bored and the worst thing in an army and you can’t wear headphones or anything.
So, you know, I’m out there for a long time, 13 hours talking to myself. Yeah. Um, which is a long time. So the first one I did, yeah. First one I did, I came back with like 3009. Of the three. So back to humility of those 3000, and then I made a mistake of first day back in the office. I threw them up all on the organization and completely over sped the organization.
And so the organization, I started making a rule that I could only bring out an hour’s worth of ideas over a one-month period. So every month I could bring another hour’s worth of ideas. Okay. The humility pieces out of those, probably 3000 ideas, three were pretty good. And only one of them was really successful.
And that’s when I paired it up with somebody else’s idea. So you’ve got to generating lots of ideas. Doesn’t mean all your ideas are good ones and that’s okay. A lot of people, you know, don’t, you gotta be careful not that. Well, I had an idea of the, uh, my boss didn’t like it. So he or she is, you know, they’re, they’re ignorant and they’re not innovative.
And you know, so you have some humility of ideas of like crappy rocks. They’re really not good until you connect them with something else and then put them in the Tumblr with some sand and, uh, and shine them up.
Phillip K Naithram: And you have a new idea. What’s your process? Like? What do you, do you write them all down on paper? You journal about it?
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: Nah, just keep them in my head and they’re good. They’ll come back to me and I’ll talk to somebody. Hey, what do you think about this? Get some feedback. What do you think about that? The other thing about ideas is, um, some of my best ideas. We’re bad ideas, five years earlier. And so when you have ideas, sometimes the timing’s not right.
The environment’s not right. It’s the not the organization is not in the right spot or it’s solving a problem that you don’t need. So I just kind of parked those in the back of my mind. And then if something pops up again, oh yeah. I remember four years ago. I thought about that. Or you talked a lot of folks and they say, Hey, I, you know, I know a couple of years ago you said this, um, what were you thinking then?
Oh, now I got.
Phillip K Naithram: Yeah. So you don’t, are you a journaler at all? Do you keep anything like that? I,
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: uh, I will write stuff down and then throw it away. That’s just where I remember. That’s how I remembered it. Right. Why write it down and then I’ll throw it away if I write it down, I’ll remember it. Okay. Um, so everybody’s different.
So, you know, my wife is a cheesy opposite and she’s the journaler and the literacy teacher. So she’s very organized. And so the other thing you have to learn over life is. Um, ducks pick ducks. So I would always look to hire people who are, so there were two of us in an origins. It would be a nightmare, right.
Because I don’t write stuff down and I’m always kind of, you know, I’m not trying to get the train running on the tracks. I’m trying to figure out where to change the tracks. Right. Okay. So you need to Casa, I would always compliment my skills with somebody who tended to be more task organized would keep the trains running on time would be the.
We be the, okay. Um, and, and again, neither is better or worse. Right. But together you’re, it’s an exponential, it’s not a, it’s not an addition. And so, yeah. So this idea of emotional intelligence, understanding yourself and then understanding people’s really, really, really, really.
Phillip K Naithram: Yeah. And did you, and you do any formal training to pick that up now?
Just kind of
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: I’m, I’m a, I’m a grinder. I’m not the academic type. I, uh, just try stuff if it works or not, if it doesn’t work. Okay. Try the next thing. So, you know, iteration speed also don’t, don’t take forever to try an idea. Just try
Phillip K Naithram: it and just try it. Yeah. Did you actually play sports? Did you actually play?
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: No, I was actually soccer guy, but we moved around so much that, yeah. So I just got to play formerly, but, um,
Phillip K Naithram: how, how long did you play? Like what, from what age? To, what age do you play in high school?
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: All the way up through kind of in the high school. Yeah, but it’s on other things. So, I’m a music freak. I love music.
They were playing music when I was two. What the, what instrument? So, I started playing piano when I, so I could read music several years before it could read like texts. Uh, but I always liked playing by ear and by sound more than playing by music. So, uh, not right now, we need to get a band back. We used to serve our offices at times.
We have time. Now I can go back. Yeah. What got you
Phillip K Naithram: started with this wake-up song and even putting that out there. Cause you, you write an actual narrative that goes along with. Thoughtful. This is what the song means to me as an individual. And here’s how it can apply to you. And, you know, that takes time and effort, like what got you started.
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: So, if you look back in my career, I tend to run to the sound of guns. So came into the air force late eighties, desert storm, but then, and went to SOCOM early, two thousand, all the special ops stuff then, uh, came to the Navy Marine Corps. Because I sense that’s the next So, um, where the guns are going to be, uh, you know, of motion importance, and, and, uh, I tend to have looked for places were, um, good teams working on hard problems.
What I’ve learned over time, particularly in stressful, like the light, you know, the almost 12 years in special ops, uh, when a team is under, uh, uh, strict. They as a leader, um, it’s really important. You communicate to them regularly. Uh, you tell them what you know, and you tell them what you don’t know.
People are like, I mean, they’re like well-trained hunting dogs. They can smell out on authentic leadership. And one of the things I learned was, um, in those high stress situations, people want something they can count on happening on a regular tempo. But they can absorb it in their own state of mind in their own perspective.
It’s not confrontational or no, so it’s easy to, it’s regular, easy to digest. And so, uh, so I used to do similar things, uh, in the office. So, when COVID hit, I know a lot of folks were really dealing with a lot of stress. You know, my, you know, parents were now having to be teachers and, you know, grandpa and I found that.
Well, I love music and I love talking about leadership and music is one of those things that anybody can take kind of on their own terms. And so, you know, the greatest innovations are usually two things that already exist. You just put together in a new way, because then you can scale it really quickly, right?
You don’t have to invent; you don’t have to create. So, to me, I tried it, it got some positive feedback. Folks were saying, hey, this was really helpful. I needed something to get my mind off all the stuff. So, I tried it again and then I think we’re up to 380 songs later, 300 days in a row, but for me, it’s great.
I’ll go. Searching for it is that what’s my state of mind. What’s the, you know, what’s interesting stories about people. What can you learn, but do it in an easy way? Right?
Phillip K Naithram: Have you discovered songs that you either forgot about or didn’t know about?
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: Yeah. Or, or bands or there’s so many good musicians out there. So, some of it is rekindling old music. Some of there’s a lot of new bands folks wouldn’t have heard from, but, but the biggest message is not the music or the leadership or anything. Hey, we’re all better together. Right. And if you need some help, raise your hand and ask for help, ask for it, right? Yeah.
People will give you help. You know, most of my failures in life have been when I needed. And I took too long to ask for it, whether it’s a word oh yeah. All the, all the things of human nature I’m admitting I can’t get something done. I’m admitting I can’t do this. I’m admitting I’m not perfect at everything.
Phillip K Naithram: Like a failure. That’s sort of like, yeah.
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: All that kind of stuff. Yeah. That’s all human. So, you know, um, it’s natural. So, what I found is as a leader promoting, hey, you know, I, I, I was probably, uh, as your mind, imagine a year ago, well about this time, last year as a political appointee, you know, things were pretty stressful and had some things going on at home and stuff.
And I got my cell phone in a, in a box corner. And so, one Saturday, I just phone five friends. I’m like, hey dude, I just need to talk to you. Yeah. And, uh, you know, Kindle those relationships and yeah. Talking it out. Yeah. Just. I can work through it now, right. One step after the other. So, it’s really, really, really important.
There’s an as a leader, if you show that humility and vulnerability, then you get, um, you have empathy and folks can sense that empathy. And then they’re willing to say, well, I’ve got a solution I’m knocking down winter. They’re there. How about if we do this without you asking them for it? Right. You know, whether that’s on a work problem or a home.
Phillip K Naithram: Yeah. Now these five people that you called are those people that have been around for a while and you, you just regular check in with them or were they just,
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: I mean, a couple of them were guys I served with long time ago. A couple of were kind of more contemporary, you know, but just, you know, not, and it was not a big, you know, let’s have an hour long, you know, it was just, hey, hey, good to talk to you.
Let me get your mind off things. Get out of your head, head exactly. Right. And you can do that with your, with your partner. You can do that with your, you know, everybody else. But but I find, um, you know, back to this mentorship, having mentors who are outside your normal day to day job is also really important.
And, and so you can, so they would be the kinds of people I would talk to them. Absolutely.
Phillip K Naithram: No one person fills all our gaps in more than one mentor for different things. I’ve got mentors that are in my personal life. That, I mean, these are folks that are married and got kids. So, I look to like, you know, to them for that sort of advice, some people are really great with their finances. And I just, I’m so impressed by that. Like how do you do this?
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: Oh, so it’s fascinating for me after doing one thing for so long now is, you know, I feel like I’ve gone from kind of MVP and a premier league to, you know, JV. At a junior high, in a different sport, I’m back to, you know, I might go, uh, I, you know, I’m, I’m Michael and now I’m done with basketball and I’m going to baseball.
Right. Um, and to your point to be successful on that, you’ve got to approach it with assuming humility. Um, and, but I love it because the learning, the learning curve is so steep. And for me, that’s energizing. Yeah.
Phillip K Naithram: And, you know, talking to someone else, calling them up and saying, hey, what’s going on with you?
And letting them just tell you, tell you what’s going on with them, getting you outside of your head is so important because it can become overwhelming really quickly. It’s different when you’re going through something tough. Cause you’re thinking about it all day long. So, you’re exhausted without having taken any action towards it.
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: I think particularly over the last 18 months between. You know, politics and COVID and everything else. Yeah. The ground, you know, the kind of base level of stress for everybody I think is much higher. And so then as stressful things hit, it seems like it’s harder to cope because you’re coping with this base level of uncertainty.
Phillip K Naithram: started at
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: 25%. Right. Right, right. And so that’s, to me, like, you know, back to this, you know, wake up song and link. Okay. That’s a given. Everybody can kinda, okay. Let me just read your song for a little while. I’ll read a couple things and. Uh, hopefully it’s help and I’ve got some pretty good feedback.
It just helps people. Okay. Get, let me get clicked in, let me clear my head for the day in an, in, in a new way. And so, if it’s helpful, that’s great.
Phillip K Naithram: No, I love him. Um, you know, something that I ask, everybody that I talk to is about a jumping off point. It’s a moment in time. It’s a moment. Where you couldn’t keep doing what you’re doing, but you’re unsure about what to do next.
A lot of people have shared about it’s a time were looking at the time, they thought it was a horrible, horrible experience. They hated it. And it was sort of like overwhelming and they, they didn’t want it to be happening. And now they look back and they were incredibly grateful that it did you have something like that?
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: Tons, but probably one that comes to mind. So, I was probably in a. You know, so I’ve been, I was probably late twenties, um, and I’d been doing pretty well in the air force and, you know, getting more and more responsibility. And, uh, you know, my wife and I, our old high school sweethearts, we had two boys who were a year and a week apart and we had them relatively young.
So, they were like two and three. And, uh, and you know, we had some challenges with them. Uh, and some things we need to work through with them in terms of, uh, getting them, you know, all the services and support they need. And I was trying to do everything at work and trying to do everything at home and wasn’t balancing all that out.
And, uh, and it was an emotion important thing at the time for my wife, who’s with the boys all day was getting home for dinner. Yeah. But then, you know, I wanted to work longer and I was starting to get late for dinner, you know, and, and it wasn’t, I was trying to avoid getting home and just get. And I finally got to the point of saying, you know, hey, I really love the air force, but I love my family more.
So, if I want to say any air force and do what I need to do for my family, I’ve got to, I’ve got to approach the job in a different way. And instead of trying to be the expert that everybody came to, I had to flip it and I had to be the leader that inspired all the extra. To do what they need to do and bring it on the team.
And the, again, lucky for me, I learned that many folks don’t learn that until they’re kind of mid-level or senior level leaders when there’s. You know, they know they can’t get it all done. I learned that really early. How old were you? I was probably 26. 27. Yeah. That’s huge for a 26-year-old. Well, so the good news is I’ve just had 30 years now to practice.
Right? Right. So, when I’m, you know, running off of $148 billion a year Naval enterprise, where you have to trust 130,000 people that you’re on the team with. You can do it without getting stressed out. Um, so that’s, that’s probably one of those, you know, just learning moments where it forced me to do something.
I didn’t think I knew how to do and do it in a way. I wasn’t sure it was going to work. And then it gave me the it’s kind of the tiger woods. Change your swing in the middle of your golf season and you’d get better. So that’s, that’s been one for me. So that’s were. Work-life balance is a, uh, uh, can actually be a benefit to you.
Many folks. See it as, okay, I’ve got a family that’s going to make me, you know, I’ll have to work less because I have a family now you just gotta work smarter and figure, figure out that, how to leverage diversity. And learn how to lead, not just manage and try and do it all yourself. Have you, and
Phillip K Naithram: how old are
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: your kids now?
Or I’ve already to be 30 and 31. Are they military? Nope. Nope. Nope. They’re a there, my wife’s a teacher, so they’re on the, uh, one’s an artist and one is a. Yeah.
Phillip K Naithram: Where you from a military family, is that why you meant
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: around? Yeah, a little bit. My dad served for a couple of years, but he was, uh, he was with General Electric and so he was in the corporate world and we just moved, uh, back then with the corporate world.
Phillip K Naithram: what do you think you being in the military and having the positions you had did for your kids and their mindset and, and w you know, the dinnertime conversations and you making that decision when they were relatively young,
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: you have to ask Sam, but I, yeah. You know, I would say. I think we all, if you look at our family, it’s kind of all servers.
Like my wife’s been a teacher for almost 30 something years. She is, everybody thinks I am accomplished and that she is much more innovative, much more passionate and a much better leader of 19 four-year-old. And, uh, you know, it’s funny, we compare notes after my day to Pentagon or days remark remarkably the same.
I think only her kids learn. I’m not sure in the Pentagon that we learned a whole lot, but, but I would say it’s the value of. And at least for my wife and I it’s, uh, you know, it’s always about, um, you know, making sure you take care of family, obviously, you know, but doing it, having a kind of a larger purpose.
That’s why I love mentoring. It’s why I love being on a show like this. And not that I’m smart. I just got a lot of scar tissue. I have no, you know, no, no natural. Anything. Just a lot of scar tissue learn from mistakes. Yeah.
Phillip K Naithram: Yeah. We have the benefit of not having to repeat them because you’ve already done them. Right. Yeah. Um, what, so what are you doing now that you’re retired besides hanging out in West Virginia with the chainsaw?
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: Um, so. Well, I don’t probably may go. They do another one. I gotta figure out what’s next. Uh, what’s the next big challenge there? I think, um, I think, um, you know, again, all of five or six weeks out of it, um, what I’m finding the most interesting is, uh, is these teams who are trying to accomplish something.
So, it kinda, my view is I’m looking for. Um, I’m looking for folks I like working with right. Who are working on something for a purpose and an area where I can lead and also help? And I find a lot of this, uh, as they’re trying to grow and scale and, you know, and, uh, you know, I think a lot of folks who spent careers in service or in the military, a lot of them like going back to college, to teach a lot of them like to help companies were trying to accomplish something.
So, it’s, it’s service just in a little bit of a different, a different bent. And, you know, I’ve, I’ve, I believe pretty passionately in the country. Part of our strength and accompany company in the country is having innovative teams doing important, interesting stuff. So, whether it’s I’m, you know, I’m working with some biologic life science companies and some another company trying to build exoskeletons.
So, we don’t hurt workers. The workplace and, you know, all sorts of interesting things. So, it’s, it’s a little bit like being in a candy store now, you know, lots of choices.
Phillip K Naithram: Well, you’ve got the time, right. Have you, or their hobbies and things that you’ve picked up over the years that you found that has helped you take that time away like fishing, or
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: I think, I mean, I just, I love the outdoors.
Uh, you know, I’m trying to get out running or stuff. I love maybe I’ll get back into some woodworking and some of that stuff,
Phillip K Naithram: like a woodworker, like you would make furniture or anything.
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: Yeah. I mean, it’s probably not giving a justice to woodworkers. I was a wood hobbyist. How was that, sir? My wife and kids are much more creative than I am. So that’s an artist. Yeah. Yeah. But I think you find whatever those back to this freshness. Yeah. What keeps you fresh? Cause I find as a leader, when I was least effective, is when I was least fresh. You know, when you’re either tired or you’re grinding on something, or you’ve been too close to a problem, or you haven’t taken care of something or made a hard decision, you know, you have to make you just keep putting it off.
And, um, when you’re fresh, you’re open to new ideas. You’re curious, you’re energetic, you’re all that. So, for all the emerging leaders out there, figure out those things that give you energy and keep you from. Uh, and then, and I know they’ll change over time. One of the ways I used to, um, um, keep myself, I would say learning and growing as I tried to do, um, one thing, in fact, all I had all my direct reports they had to have on a major initiative that had at least a 50% chance of failing.
Okay. And so, I would measure them on having an issue. That, because that was the only if we, if I only measured them on and only measure myself on things that were high chance of success, we were not likely to change. Right. Right. And so, you have some judgment, so pick something like that. Hey, where are you going to try and to change the game, um, pick something, be part of a team or initiative that cuts across your organization and, you know, involves other people and then pick something for you.
Well, why don’t I used to love science fiction books, and then he got busy. I have kids and all that, and I got it. So, I tried to, hey, I want to go back and read the science fiction book once a month. Was that, that gets me thinking right. And thinking in different ways. So, whatever those, if you can have one thing, you’re trying to have a, try something new within your organization.
One thing where you’re a part of something broader than the organization you’re in, and then one thing you’re doing for your shelf. If I had like one or maybe two in each one of those categories, Kind of kept me from getting complacent and a steel. Yeah. What
Phillip K Naithram: I hear you saying is that you’re just getting used to being, or being okay with having the state of uncertainty.
Like you don’t know if it’s going to work out, but that’s just a natural feeling and that’s no longer a reason to not do it or to put something off. Whenever I’ve had to put some, whenever I started seeing myself put something off, it was usually because I was in fear of it, failing.
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: Again, a lot of scar tissue I’m far from perfect.
I have a decision I should have made yesterday that I probably need to make Saturday noon. So, you know, it’s so it’s okay. Some folks add stress by beating themselves up the self-talk. Right, right. And so, you know, I think you just give yourself some. And then just be really, you know, I, if you talk to my wife, I’m sure she would tell you, I am, you know, I’ve not mastered the work life balance right now.
So now here’s a new opportunity to try that. Um, and so, you know, I think the hardest part is just being honest with yourself, but not so self-critical that you add to your own stress. And that’s, again, that’s easy to say really, really, really hard to do over time.
Phillip K Naithram: And, you know, something you mentioned earlier is that, you know, working harder at it or grinding more on it is not always the best take that time away and maybe you’ll see it differently, or it becomes less of a grind in the first place.
Yep. Yep. Yeah. That’s good stuff. Yeah. Well, listen, I really appreciate you sitting down and chatting.
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: That’s great. And I appreciate that. I’ve learned something from it already, so hopefully everybody else says, I really appreciate you. These kinds of things. I mean, we have so many resources amongst your shelves.
We don’t use that. I’m, I’m an abundance thinker kind of person. And so, you know, you going and finding folks who want to talk about it’s here, it’s abundant. You just have to go find it and put a little, uh, elbow grease in to bring it to the, to the table here. And so,
Phillip K Naithram: and that was to learn from you. Like what, what can I soak up from you and apply to my life? And if I want. I’m sure. There’s plenty of people that do.
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: Yeah. Yeah. And good leaders love talking about leadership, so there’s plenty of around and I’m sure you’re going to go find them. Yeah.
Phillip K Naithram: Well, that’s the plan and, uh, I’m really grateful to, to Dona Manor and the George C. Marshall house for giving us
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: this space.
If you haven’t read a, if you haven’t read about Marshall and for anybody out there, if you’re maybe a, you know, a younger generation. A true unsung hero and everybody remembers the Eisenhower’s or the patterns of the world. Read it, read a book or two on Marshall and you’ll find. The quintessential servant leader.
We talk about the pulling guard, staying behind, not getting all the fame of being out on the front lines. He is the quintessential servant leader.
Phillip K Naithram: So now that we’re talking about reading though, let’s, let’s get one or two book recommendations from you that you’ve read that have made a, um, historical fit.
You mentioned that you’re a, you’re a
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: fiction reader. Yeah, I would say, uh let’s whatever read lately. I’ve really liked. There’s a good one. Humility is the new smart is a pretty good book. Um, there’s one called the originals kind of how non-conformance change the world by Adam. Grant’s a good book that I go back to a lot, uh, another one’s machine platform crowd.
So how to think in terms of platforms, not products and pieces. So, like this is a platform right here, right? And, uh, and what’s interesting about platform thinking is the more people who engage it in the more diverse way. Adds value to everybody on that platform. Right? Right. So, LinkedIn, how you use LinkedIn may maybe different than how I use LinkedIn, but the fact we’re using it different.
Adds value for both sides. So that’s fascinating, fascinating, a way of looking at things. And so, yeah, then go pull some good science fiction. There’s so much good. There’s so much good were
Phillip K Naithram: where you a fan of like, you know, um, with game of Thrones and all that sort of stuff
Jim “Hondo” Geurts: or no, I was more old school.
Yeah. Lord of rings foundation dune all the new movie. Yeah. I have not seen the new movie, so I need to get out there and yes. So, uh, so then I’ve got some friends of mine in LA talk about weird networks of very creative people. And so, they keep me pumped up with a list of, uh, they, they have two lists for me.
They have one list of really good science fiction and then one list, one list they think I should read because they want to change how I think about things. So then, so it’s pretty funny.
Phillip K Naithram: That’s awesome.