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This is the JoCo De-brief podcast, Episode 14 with Dave Burke and me, JoCo Willink and. This is a little bit of behind the scenes of what we do at Echelon Front Echelon Front, our leadership consultancy, we work with a wide range of companies and we solve their problems through leadership.


And as a team, we often debrief. The things that are unfolding inside these companies as we uncover problems and we get them solved and sometimes I think it'd be great to share these debriefs with with everyone so everyone gets to learn.


So here we go. Dave is with me today.


Dave, let's debrief. What do you got?


This is actually I kind of cherry picked this one because I wanted to actually I wanted you to be talking about a little bit. This is an unanswered question from if online or a question that didn't get answered initially during one of the online sessions that we had. And the reason I wanted to talk about this is that a version of this question gets answered or gets asked all the time. And the question was simply, how do you consistently check your ego and.


Not only is this not only is that a version of this that gets asked regularly, the connection to ego, I would say sits in almost every question we get or every problem we get.


There is a a connection to ego inside there, because oftentimes when we're working with clients and we are networking, then individually with someone inside a company, the questions will be, hey, I have a problem with this person or I have an issue with this team or my boss or my subordinates. And there's components of friction inside the organization that they're trying to solve. And listen, they they come wanting to solve these problems. These are people that are believe in the principles and they want to get better leaders.


But as you peel back most of these questions, ego is almost always sitting inside there. Sometimes it's right on top of this big giant thing.


And sometimes it's it's more subtle. It's more underneath the question. But the question that's being asked is representative of. One of the most common things we get is. The ego is part of this. So how do you consistently check your ego? And I was thinking about not just how to answer this in a sort of a Q&A scenario, but how to connect the idea of ego to any problem that we're solving. And we say it all the time.


We all at National Front, we'll give you the same answer to the most important attribute and leader is humility.


That is verbatim how we how we answer that question, because humility is what allows you to listen, what allows you to change, what allows you to evolve and adapt and let other people do the things they need. The in all the things we talk about are almost always connected.


The reason I wanted to bring this up is that a lot of times when we hear people ask the explicit ego question, what often comes to mind is, is ego gets connected to this kind of like overt arrogance. We're almost like your demeanor is arrogant and people think about sort of this external arrogance that's associated with ego, whether it's a swagger or it's a look or it's the way you interact with the people around you. Like the word I wrote down was people that are cocky.


We say, oh, this people have an ego, but. The ego that. The ego that's really the problem sometimes sits underneath, it's not visible and it's certainly not visible in the way that you look or the way you walk, the way that you act.


But it's your ego that gets offended by what other people are doing. People get when you get offended by your behavior and I talk to you about this a while ago when I was talking, when we were just talking about this idea of humility and one of the things you described, and I think it was on a podcast, I think we talked about it on one of the JOCO podcast, which is this mechanism, this idea that that humility is a physical mechanism inside your brain in the way you think about that.


And what I wanted to talk about was how I described this to someone who was talking to me about how do you keep your ego in check is the way I said.


I said your ego your ego has a voice, your own ego has a voice. And you you have to learn how to decipher the voice that's in your head. Which one is your ego and which one is the other part of your brain. That isn't the ego part. And I took that from us when you were describing me a situation and you and I can't remember what the situation doesn't matter. And you said and then I go, Oh, this is you talking.


Oh, that's my ego.


And your recognition of what you were hearing in your head, which was, hey, the problem is this person the problem is and you and you said, oh, that's my ego. And that got me thinking about the idea that ego, this thing that takes over is actually a voice that you can learn to identify.


And you don't want to mute the ego. You actually want it. You want to hear it, not shut it up. You want to be able to recognize when it's talking so you can then go, oh, that thing that's talking is my ego.


I hear what it's saying and now I can actually hear it, listen to it, and then more likely do something different with that.


And you said the reason that's important is that your ego, we all have it. Your ego loves you. It's the way it's talking to you. It loves you and you want to hear what it has to say. The problem with your ego is that it will love you. And we said this. It will love you to death, which means it's going to drive you to making bad decisions. It's going to drive you to do things that you shouldn't be doing.


When you talk about for me, when I think about consistently keeping your ego in check, it's that recognition that there you have to develop a mechanism in your own mind that you are constantly looking and listening to and hearing for your own ego's voice. It never just goes away. It never just stops. You are not going to keep it from talking, but it's the recognition of when that's the thing that you're hearing and how to to do that. And.


There are so many examples of people that are in the game, people that believe in the power of humility and people that believe in the power of of extreme ownership and the principles they teach still run into trouble. And almost always, almost always, it's the ego that is the instigator of those problems.


Yeah, the that that quote that your ego will love you to death is a permutation of a quote that I heard from a guy named Jay Adams, who is a skateboarder in the 70s.


And he was he was the he was the guy that gave skateboarding. You know, skateboarding has a like a rebellious, rebellious attitude to it. At least a large portion of skateboarding has a rebellious attitude to it. He's kind of the guy, I guess maybe him and Tony Alva, that crew, that crew of guys or the guys that gave skateboarding sort of this rebellious attitude.


He ended up he ended up having, you know, a pretty rough run, ended up, you know, drugs, alcohol, drugs, prison out of prison, back into prison. And he eventually became sober and went off drugs.


And but, you know, he was able to talk about this addiction. And that's what he said. That's what he said about drugs.


He said. Everybody, he said everybody loved you. He said he said something like, hey, it doesn't matter if you love drugs or not drugs love everyone and they'll love you to death.


He eventually did. He died of a heart attack while he was, you know, sober at a pretty young age. I think he was maybe 50 something. Fifty three, fifty four, something like that. But I just thought to myself, is that the fact that the fact that something can love you to death.


And I immediately I immediately thought of that. Your ego, because your ego loves you, your ego absolutely loves you.


And, you know, you you said this statement, which is the right statement. But I need to I need to think about how you said it. You said you said you want to hear what you your ego has to set, which is true. You want to hear what your ego has to say.


But it's but that doesn't that doesn't do it justice.


That doesn't do justice your ego.


Is is this is this demon that has intimate knowledge of your desires and wants and needs and it knows exactly what it is that you want, and so you want to listen to that thing.


So we want to hear that voice is is is an archangel to your brain, but it's really a demon.


And that's why you have to watch out for it. And it's going to tell you all these things that it's not just that you want to hear them. It's it's beyond that. It's beyond that. It's a deeper one.


And so that's why it's so tempting. And I'll tell you another thing. There's a. There's an attitude of, hey, if I say, you know what, that's my you know that, you know what? If I admit it, then it's OK.


So there's some things where in life, you know, if you admit it, then it's almost like it's OK. Right. And it's a horrible thing. Like, I think I think Echo is the first person I heard this when someone says, you know, I'm just direct with people and therefore, if I treat you like horribly, it's OK, because I already told you that I'm direct and that's just the way it is. Yeah. Or I'm just look, I'm just a straight shooter, so you need to deal with it.


And as if that makes it OK, sometimes people do that with their ego. They say, you know, I know this is just my ego, but this is what. And I'm here to tell you, that does not make it OK, just admitting that it's your ego that's driving your decision making process doesn't make it OK, it doesn't make it OK. It still is a negative. And by the way, it's the same amount of negative whether you hide it.


And I see that you're doing something for your ego or you are blatantly tell me about it. Either way, I know what you're doing and it's bad.


So it's it's a that ego will it will love you to death.


Yeah, and again, I'm paraphrasing, I won't get any of these quotes exactly right, but you once said every problem you have, if you dig deep enough, if you peel it back enough, eventually you'll find out how you are causing that problem, how you are contributing every problem you have.


If you dig deep enough, you will eventually find out how are you, how you are causing it, which is a good thing, because that means that you can fix that and it's your ego that will keep you from doing that.


And in every question we have, if you even think of it in larger terms, every problem you've got and you think about how you want to solve that problem. And I think the reason why I said you don't want to you don't want your ego to not talk. You want to hear it is the point is. You've got to recognize where your ego is contributing to whatever problem you've got as you played out of with someone else or the market or whatever you you've rationalized is the real problem.


If you dig deep enough, you're going to find the problem is you. And the only thing that keeps it from doing that is your own ego. That's how much power your ego has. It will stop you from solving the problems in your life. I'm not trying to take this just like level 20. I hope you will.


So there's this this whole concept of telling the truth, right? Telling the truth. Tell the truth. And you can take that to extreme right of, hey, listen, I am going to tell the truth and that is the best solution. And Sam Harris, a friend of mine, he's like one hundred percent, like, you need to tell the truth about what's happening.


So you run into the sort of what is the expression that Sam Harris and other people used to? Oh, it's a thought experiment, right? That this is the term thought expert will do a thought experiment on this.


So like the thought experiment is, OK, if your wife asks you, you know, how does dinner taste that your wife cooked for you?


Right. And the dinner didn't taste good.


Well, should you tell the truth? Because the truth is, the dinner doesn't taste good. And so and I know I've always said, well, you know, here we are, we got to think strategically, right? We got to think, Steve, tactically, you might be telling the truth strategically. It's going to cost you you need to think through that more. And I always felt kind of uncomfortable with that answer because I am a truth speaker and I believe in telling the truth.


So here's the deal. Guess what, you should tell the truth. You should tell the truth, and you know what the truth is, you made forty seven mistakes to get to a point where that dinner that your wife made doesn't taste good.


You didn't give her feedback six years ago. You didn't.


There's a million things that you did wrong that put you in this position. So so that's why we don't tell the truth.


The reason we don't tell the truth is because if you tell the truth, what you're going to be telling is that it is your fault. You know, this is the Charlie plumb thing. When Charlie becomes like, hey, if my cellmate annoys me, it's my fault.


So that's the truth. The truth is, when Dave says to me, hey, JoCo, is it annoying you that I keep picking my nails while you're talking?


The truth is. You're not annoying me. The truth is I am being annoyed because I'm allowing myself to be annoyed. And the truth is, if I was a good leader, I'd actually be able to get you to stop doing that with your nails or that time. That's the truth. The truth is, I should be a better friend and be able to communicate better and have a better relationship with you where I could get you to cease doing things that annoy me.


That's the truth. So when you really tell the truth, the truth is it's your fault. So when when somebody says, well, Dave, if Dave is doing a bad job at his job, if he's doing a bad job. Should I tell him the truth, yes, you should. And the truth is, Dave, I haven't given you good direction, Dave. I haven't given you good guidance, Dave. I haven't given you the resources that you need.


That's the truth. And if we ultimately get to the truth where Dave actually is incapable of doing this job, yes, I should tell the truth.


But we skip all the ones that were our fault along the way. We skip them and we go straight to Dave's fault. And that is your ego. All right, what's your next to what's your next example? Yeah, so this one's a little more traditional situation, working with a company, there's a supervisor. It's one of like I don't think there's like seven or eight supervisors at all working for this one manager. So the scenario is I've got this manager.


He's got seven teams all working for him and I know them all.


The supervisor calls me and he's like, Hey, man, I'm kind of losing my patience with my boss.


We have these monthly I think they call them like a hot wash or a up or basically the manager goes round all the teams and kind of does the highs and lows or what's been going on and just kind of catches everybody else up on what's happening with all the teams. And so lately, like the last several months, his team is is getting skipped like these, not even being acknowledged or let's say you're that supervisor working for me. I'll be like, you know, marriage.


This builds teams. This John seems this Joe.


And I'm going to go right past you and you and and this supervisor and his team is kind of getting overlooked and it's creating some frustration, which is totally understandable.


So I wanted to kind of kind of dig a little bit of like what what what a what's going what do you think that is? And then like, what do you think the intent is behind it? So it turns out that his team is actually unique. The other six or seven teams that are supervisors, they all work with a client or an outside agency or a contractor. They all work with somebody else. This one team is actually responsible. They call it the continuous improvement team.


So which is it? Strictly internal. So they kind of just work for themselves to help the rest of the teams. But they don't actually generate revenue. They don't actually do anything that has sort of an external focus for the team. So there is a little bit of a kind of a difference in what this team does in terms of how the supervisor and his team operate.


And then the question of how does he what do you think? What's going on with your manager?


Like, why is this happening? Make us kind of came in pretty hot, like, hey, this is this is bad.


This is a real problem. And the focus of the problem, which I think is very similar to what you said, was we skipped a whole bunch of steps and got to what is wrong with the manager.


And as we just asked a couple of questions like, hey, is he trying to prove a point? Is he kind of calling you out as he maybe trying to make you look bad? And he's like, oh, no, no, no, it's not that at all.


Look, well, well, what is it? And. It was more than anything he's like, I honestly just don't think he knows exactly what we're doing in this in this this continuous improvement thing, this internal thing. So the last conversation actually helps me kind of summarize this more succinctly was is he doing this on purpose? No. Is he doing it to make you look bad? No. Is he trying to marginalize your team? No. So what's the real issue here?


Just to follow up on each one of those questions, what what leader would proactively marginalize a team?


What leader would proactively try to make someone look bad? Right. There's all these things now. Now, I'm not saying that couldn't happen, but the chances are me as a leader, my goal is not to proactively make Dave's team look bad. Yeah, that's not that's not what we're doing. That's right. And yeah. Is the chicken dry? Yes, the chicken drive. But here's why.


This is what's happening. And and we started to dig a little bit and and, you know, the details probably aren't that important. One of the things that I started digging on is that what the boss, this manager was doing, he would share his agenda on the on the share drive for each meeting and have his subordinates kind of take a look at it.


And when the team that was being overlooked wasn't on the agenda, what he first thought was like, oh, OK, well, I'm not going to say anything because I maybe he's got a plan and he kind of created the scenario by which why this is happening until that kind of scenario spun out of control.


What turns out, the boss didn't have any none of those things were true. None of those intentions were true. And really what this conversation came back to and it's crazy you just pulled from that last thing about the ego connected to this was, hey, how does your boss get to know what's going on with your team?


How does your boss become aware how the internal piece of work and all these questions about how does your boss get to understand all the positive things you're doing, all the ways you're contributing, all the impact that you're making on this uniquely designed team who is really in the ideal position to set your boss up to understand all these things so he can explain articulate that to the rest of the big team. You know that seven supervisors. Fifteen, twenty people. It's like one hundred and something people team who's in the best position to do that.


And of course, the answer is he is he I am I'm I'm I'm in in the ideal position. So the takeaway from that was, hey, one thing is, obviously your boss is not out there to do it by design. And the other part was so the second piece and that part was, I think, relatively easy to resolve. The second piece is that what he had also done was kind of perpetuated the narrative he created with his team.


So these meetings would come and go. The way it kind of a setup is like the seven leaders are all there. The rest of the team are sort of remoting themselves. And so they're watching this just sort of as observers. And when those meetings was over, he was kind of saying somewhat succinctly, like, guess we don't matter.


Yes, we don't. Exactly right.


And so that the both the up and down solution was, hey, listen, if your boss isn't aware all those things, you're in the ideal position. And what you have to actually go do now is you got to go solve that problem with your subordinate leaders as well, or your subordinates as well of what you know, what you've kind of created.


This one was not a hard problem to solve, but it was really cool to make the connection between what you just said of, hey, how do we get to this point? Well, there's forty seven things that you've done to get to that. That that meal that didn't taste good to that situation is what it is you have.


There's forty seven mistakes that you made as a leader to get to a point where my boss, my subordinate, whoever is doing something that I don't agree with. Yeah. I don't want them doing that. Yeah.


I don't want them doing that. There's forty seven mistakes. What kind of influence do you have over your boss if that's not happening, what kind of relationship have you built.


This is a similar and we wrote about this in the book when I came to me and didn't understand why our commanding officer in Ramadi was asking these questions. Why did you why are you asking these questions? And it's like, hey, bro, who's the one that's supposed to who? Who is it that should inform the boss?


So he doesn't ask these questions? Oh, yeah, that's us. That's us.


So let's do a better job of keeping the boss informed, because then the boss won't ask questions. And what's beautiful about that? And you put you already said this is like if it's just the boss's fault, what can we do about it? Nothing. It's the boss. We can't do anything about it. If it's my fault, I can fix it. I can fix it all day long, a little something called extreme ownership.


And I guess it is now my turn.


So. You ever seen the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest? Yeah, a while ago, Jack Nicholson. Is that right, Jack Nicholson? You know, I saw it for the first time when I was a kid. I mean, I saw it for the first time when I was a little kid. It must have been, you know, when they used to put movies on TV and they would edit out the profanity and maybe they edited out some of the nudity.


So you get to see the movie.


But I saw it when I was very young and I'd be young to a point where I didn't really even remember it. But I remember there's one thing that I remembered. Saw the movie takes place in in kind of a mental hospital, a mental ward. There's two main characters. One of them is, like you said, it's it's it's R.P. McMurphy, who's played by Jack Nicholson. And the other main character is this name is this main character named Nurse Ratchet.


Mildred Ratchet, and she's played by an actress named Louise Fletcher.


So I saw this movie when I was a little kid like and I'm saying as I was a little kid, it came out in nineteen seventy six. So I guess a little kid was maybe 1980, maybe.


I don't know how long it took to get movies there.


I didn't see it in a theater or anything, but I remembered seeing it and my first memory of it was. There was this nurse character, do you remember this nurse character? Not not really.


Just she she wasn't she wasn't good, though, even as a as a young child. Not good. Yeah. There was this person that I that I just remember thinking not good like this. This we don't like this person.


So, so that's my that's like the only thing I remember it from being a little little kid was there was a bad person, a person that I didn't like in this movie. And then I saw it when I was older, you know, probably a bunch of times.


And that just kind of reiterated the fact that there was this character that I absolutely hated and was kind of universally hated. Everybody hates her, so the other night I was you, my daughters, my two is just my wife is gone with my couple. My kids are just me and my college daughters that are right now home, finishing up school, finishing up the college. I'm at home.


So it's covid locked down in San Diego and my kids are trying to figure out what to watch.


And something something clicked in my head and I said, Oh, have you ever seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest? No, we haven't said, OK, let's watch it. So we start watching it. And. Almost within within the shortest amount of time you could imagine that she comes on the screen, both my daughters are like, what's up with her?


You know, as she starts going through this first scene, like, I hate her, my daughters are saying like, oh, I hate her.


And of course, this is the feeling that I had when I was a kid, too, and you think it it doesn't make any sense whatsoever, right? Because the two characters that you've got right. One is a nurse. A nurse. Right.


And and I will tell you, quite frankly, I think that nurses are near sainthood. Right. The job that they have, it's an incredibly hard job. It's a it's a thankless job in many respects. It's crazy hours. The pay isn't great.


I mean, it's a you if you do that job, you have to be a caring, loving, sacrificial person to do that job. And so here's this nurse in this, and she's in a mental institution, by the way, so she's got people that are got all kinds of issues.


And on top of that, you've got this this Jack Nicholson character who's the other side of the spectrum.


He's only taking care of himself.


He's he's completely looking out for himself. He's a he's a miscreant, is a criminal.


But you you get this affection for. R.P. McMurphy. Randall McMurphy, you, you you you like him, but you hate this nurse, you hate this nurse.


Why is it. Well, it's very obvious. She's cold and she lacks emotions, she doesn't have any emotions, the way she plays this role is absolutely brilliant.


Every response that she gives is in this measured kind of monotone voice. No emotions, no real emotions behind it. And the other side of the spectrum and look, we've got the one that's a nurse, so we're setting up her. I mean, she's set up to be near sainthood, right?


A nurse, she sacrificed for other people, meanwhile, and I didn't remember this, but I want to watch you the night. The reason that McMurphy is in this mental institution is because he's being evaluated, because he's in prison and he's in prison. And this is clearly state that he's in prison for statutory rape of a 15 year old. So you have no reason to connect with this guy in any way. He's he says I'm in there for fighting.


I fight all the time. You can clearly see that this guy is the opposite. He is a pure, emotionally driven person. So on the one side, you've got this emotionally driven person that fights and goes wild with women and he's drinking like that's his thing, he's a bad guy, he's a traditional bad guy. We should not like him, but we do. And the other side, we've got this person that has good. How many thousands of millions of times have you heard me talk about keeping your emotions in check?


Right. I talk about it all the time. So here I've got the the the paragon of emotional control, a Nurse Ratched.


And I hate her. And as you watch the movie, you see his emotions start to come out, you want to bring him back, you're like, No, Harry, hey, don't do that. Don't let your emotions run this situation right now. You're going to make that decision. You're making a bad decision. You're making emotional decision. Stop it. Right now.


You're also looking at her going, what kind of cold, evil person is this that has no emotions whatsoever?


And that's how she rules. She rules as a tyrant. She leads as a tyrant.


She leads through imposition of her will on this group of people. He is a leader as well. And he leads with his emotions and connects with people. And it's an incredibly good example of why we as leaders and as human beings, we need to. Maintain balance between emotion and logic. Because if you're too detached, you cannot connect with people. And if you don't connect with people, look at a minimum, you don't connect at a maximum, you are hated for not having emotions.


The other end of the spectrum is if you only act on your emotions, you will make bad decisions.


And if you do that through everything, through your business, through your co-workers, through your relationships, through your life, you will end up in a bad spot.


I'm not saying you're going to end up with a lobotomy in a in a mental institution, but you will end up in a bad spot.


So think about that.


And, you know, another thing that I was actually very stoked on is the other day on Heff online. I had been talking about, look, the worst thing you can do is impose your will on people like and we said it in this podcast or another one, but if I'm imposing my will, I'm making a mistake as a leader.


And then one guy on the phone online said, hey, you mentioned the other day on the Unraveling podcast that there was an experiment where the the the reaction that got the worst the lowest level of compliance, the lowest level of compliance came from the imposition of an authoritarian leader over the subordinate.


That's the worst that's the worst level of compliance. The best level was when the connection was made. So if you're brushing up against imposition, be careful and if you are leaving your emotions out of the equation, because you've heard me say detach from your emotions. Rethink it. We don't I don't say detach and be void of emotions, detach, take a step back from them.


Because emotions are part of being a human being, we can't let them run the roost, but we have to employ them properly so we can form relationships and we can actually lead.


And with that, I guess that's a good place to stop, and if you want to go deeper and we go deep into all aspects of leadership, in case you can't tell, this is what we do, this is what we love to do.


Join Dave, join me the rest of the Echelon front team at EFF online dot com, where we solve problems through leadership. We're having these conversations all the time and we have in live.


We are having them live.


You want to ask a question, come ask it as they've asked me, ask anyone in the front team if you want leadership guidance inside your organization.


We can do that to come and check out our leadership consultancy, Echelon from Dotcom, the example that we talk about here are coming from the business that we work with all the time, that the examples are changed. Your secret's safe with us. We modify the examples to a point where there's no possible way you could trace it back to you are, nor could anyone else.


I've also written a bunch of books on the subject of leadership, extreme ownership, the dichotomy of leadership, leadership, strategy and tactics. Have some other podcasts.


One is called Jonquil podcast. One is called JoCo Unraveling. One is called Grounded and one is called the Warrior Kid podcast. And if you want to support. Any of these podcasts, including this one, you can get some gear from JoCo store or from Origin, Maine or from JoCo Fuel Dotcom, thanks for listening to us debrief. Now go lead. This is Dave and JoCo out.