A fun conversation with Tom Connally on a myriad of topics, including organizational leadership, moving during a pandemic, writing a book, and articulating company culture. Check out Tom’s book, “Becoming a Leader: A Road Map for My Daughter and the Aspiring Leader” at https://amzn.to/3qrsX8K.

Shout out to today’s sponsor, R.D. Adair PLLC (https://adair.law)


Aaron Spatz  00:10

Good morning DFW. You’re listening to the Dallas Fort Worth Business Podcast. I’m Aaron Spatz. I’m so excited that you’re joining us today. I hope that you are having a great, great week. And you know, once again, anything that you’re loving about the show, drop me a line at podcast at Bold media.us I love getting your feedback, tell your friends about it. Again, if you’re listening to this, and audio format, whether it’s Spotify, Apple podcast, whatever your platform of choice is know that this is being distributed across video so if you want to watch us on Youtube, Facebook Instagram that’s available to those of you that are watching me right now say all that know that a if you’re on if you’re on the run, and you don’t want to have time or you don’t have time to actually watch it, you can jump over on Apple podcasts, Spotify, and so on, to actually listen to it. So there’s multiple ways to consume the show. And I’m just so incredibly grateful for your listenership for your viewership. This has been a blast to produce so far, I can’t believe we’re already more than halfway into January. It’s been it’s been a riot. So today’s guests, we have Tom Connolly. Tom is a retired Marine Corps officer, but he’s also a business consultant leadership consultant, he’s spent a ton of time in leadership. That’s been a that’s been a hallmark trait of his career. I’m excited to dig more into that in more topics. And I just Tom, I just want to thank you so much for joining us this morning.

Tom Connally  01:31

Hey, Aaron, thanks for having me. It’s great to be on the DFW business podcast.

Aaron Spatz  01:37

Absolutely. No, it’s it’s a fun show. And recently, I’ve been kind of leading off by asking everybody Okay, so where are you originally from? And every once in a while, I’ll get I’ll get the native VFW person doesn’t always happen. But where were you originally from? Tom? And when did you get back here?

Tom Connally  01:56

Wow, um, well, where I’m originally from. I was born in San Diego, California, and in my young life was there you know, and then, and then I went into the military going the Naval Academy, and then the Marine Corps, and so all you know, all around the world. And then my wife and I relocated down here to Loxahatchee. In May of this year, we left Northern Virginia never had an intention to stay there. But you know, you kind of end up sometimes where the Marine Corps sends you. And, and then we, we spent two years looking for where we wanted to be, and we ended up with Waxahatchee. And here we are. Oh,

Aaron Spatz  02:40

wow. That’s cool. Okay, so I got to ask, you do it, you’re doing a move in May. And that was right when I think oh, shoot, that was right. When like a bunch of lockdowns and stuff are going down. So what the heck was that? Like?

Tom Connally  02:53

Yeah, so it was it was very interesting. You know, we, we’ve made the plan and all and had everything in the works. And we were putting the house on the market. And, and then it and we were doing all this in January, right. And then all of a sudden, you have all this begin to break out. And we had a choice, we could say cancel everything, stay right here, or continue to move on, because we have no idea what this is going to look like. And so I said, I looked at my you know, my beautiful wife, Annie and said, Hey, I think we just need to push forward. And that’s my wife. Yeah, absolutely. Let’s push forward, the future is always in front of us. So it was interesting, we were able to get through closings and all that stuff. We had some friends down here in the area who were able to do some scouting around for us and look at look at properties and you can purchase zoom became our friend real quick. And so it was it. I was amazed at the can do attitude that everybody demonstrated in making this happen. But of course it was it was easy on the Virginia end. Because we were able to we were able to sell the house the first day we put it on the market. Wow. And so you know, if you don’t have to wait around for a buyer to show up then you know, your timeline becomes kind of your own how you how you organize things, but it was a it was a lot smoother than than we could have ever anticipated. And so you know, we did have to wait around a little bit had to stay in an Airbnb in in town for a few for about six weeks. Well and but those who are everybody was very accommodating, very helpful, a lot a lot of can do to work through what we needed to do you know and Of course, a lot of virtual that, that people may have been uncomfortable with in the past, sure that we, we were able to pull it off. And yeah, people were very helpful, especially here in Texas man, it was, it was very nice here in Texas.

Aaron Spatz  05:18

Well, so glad that you made it down. And yeah, I mean, virtual has become the, the weapon of choice when it comes to be able to interact with people. And so there’s like, a lot less opportunity, right now anyway, for in person meetings, and there’s varying degrees of restrictions, and also all sorts of stuff right across, you go across the metroplex, from Dallas to Fort Worth. And there’s just a ton of different a ton of different things that are going on. And I’m encouraged a little bit, because I’m seeing a little bit of a little bit more people getting out, I’m seeing a little bit more activities at coffee shops, if you like coffee show, there’s a coffee shop I went to recently and, you know, I was asking them how, like, how the heck did you guys do? Like how have you been through everything, and they’re like, you know, we’ve minus the time when we were actually like, legit locked down, locked down, it’s actually been really, really good. Like, they’ve been busy. So, but no, I was, I was just thinking back, I was I was, I was considering making a joke about like, well, you know, I’m like, spray all your household goods down when it was like leaving Virginia and getting here. And, you know, you’re getting like, you get, like, coated with, you know, disinfectant and stuff like that, but, but now well, you share this, then a little bit about your professional career, your professional journey, lead us then into what you’re doing now.

Tom Connally  06:35

Okay, well, as you said, you know, my, my background, 30 years as a Marine officer, you know, four years of education at the Naval Academy, I, I left the Marine Corps and figured in 2013, because, you know, your time’s up, right? You get your 30 years, and I, I was offered a job as a director for, for a company, and, and to help them craft their strategy and direction and for the, for their Marine Corps market, etc. And so, so I did that for a couple of years. And the, the company was a good company, and they were in there were great people there, but they, they didn’t quite know what to do with me. And, and so, and I, and then so I left, I went to a smaller company, a friend of mine ran at great company, very technically oriented, lot of business with the Navy Naval Research Lab. And we were looking at trying to connect some things that I had done in the Marine Corps with, with, with what they were doing at the Naval Research Lab. And we worked through that. And in the midst of it, I started writing a book, because my daughter was graduating from the Naval Academy, and I said, I said, you know, I need to write an epic essay, like my dad used to do for us when when we were young leaders. And so I started writing this epic essay, and it kept getting longer and longer. And, and, and I said, you know, it’s gonna be too dang long, it’s going to be 5000 page book, and, and nobody will read it. It was what are what am I really trying to do? And, and, of course, if you want to know a topic, try to write a book about it, right? You got to coordinate everything you got you, you got to really know what you think about stuff, right? You know, and so not like, I never thought about leadership in 30 years, right. So, so, so I, in the midst of writing all this, I said, you know, this is, this is what I want to do. I keep finding myself in, you know, boardrooms, and in putting together proposals and things with teams and talking about how you build a team and how you build an organization and what kind of structures you need to have, and strategy and organizational dynamics and all this stuff. I said, you know, I’m just going to do that. I think I’m just going to do that. So I got on the phone, and I called my boss and I said, Mike, I need, this is what I want to do. And he said, Well, that’s it that sounds like a good plan. He says, You need to get started on that, you know, I said, Well, I want to I want to be there in about 18 months when my son graduates from high school, and he’s like, then you better get started on it. Now, I said, that’s why I’m quitting. And so in the meantime, there were several other things I was I went I did some work for a couple of nonprofits and in trying to lead them and help them to go through some some interesting times that that they were going through some challenges and, and still trying to write this book. And so, so I daughter was then at the basic school where all young marine officers go and she said, Dad, you got to, you got to finish this thing, you got to write this stuff down that you say. And so I, I put some time and kind of left some things in on hold and got it finished. And and just as I’m ramping everything back up trying to get all the, you know, all the marketing and everything in place, we made the decision, we were going to come to Texas, and then about, you know, about six months after that our final decision, we were going to come to Texas about six months after that we started, we started with the the whole COVID thing. So it’s been an interesting, you know, development, developmental time, I was talking to a guy like you, a digital business marketing guy, and he said, he said, You ought to just write your second book and not worry about this for about a year. And I was like, I’m not thinking I can do that. And I’d get the second book on the board. But

Aaron Spatz  11:14

I mean, book book projects take a lot of time. I mean, they’re a lot of energy, a lot of focus. It’s, there’s there’s a lot that goes into it, right?

Tom Connally  11:22

Oh, yeah, absolutely. And, you know, in, of course, when you if you try to write it, and I wrote the first one kind of by myself, fortunately, I had a couple of friends who read it and said, hey, you know what you need to restructure this thing, or, or, you know, it would be great if this was there, that was here, you say something about this, but really, it’s a lot more. And but having a coach for a thing like that is is very is very, very helpful. Get someone who, whether you have an editor or you go to a publisher, or you can find a coach, that helps you put put those things together, those businesses exist. And those kinds of people can save you a lot of time and effort in figuring it out. But if you look at these guys that write like, you know, 70 books and stuff, you know, how the heck did they write 70 books, you know,

Aaron Spatz  12:18

right? Yeah, either either they locked themselves in a in a in a house forever, or they’ve got some ghost writers, or they’ve got other stuff going on to write or it’s, or, you know, the thing, that thing that I get in trouble for. And I imagine, I imagine a lot of authors might do this as well, which is, you know, like voice to text, right? Like you can like orally dictate elements of your book and get it like on paper, maybe a little, maybe a little bit faster than you could write it. So I don’t know, there’s there’s a lot of different tools out there. But like, we’ll we’ll cover your book, like I would love I would love to talk more about your book, which is correct me if I’m wrong here, but it’s becoming a leader, a roadmap for my daughter and the aspiring leader. Is that right? That’s correct. Outstanding. So let’s well, we’ll jump forward to that here in just a moment. But I want to backtrack to something you’d said just just a few minutes ago. And so you, you’ve had an opportunity to lead different programs, as it relates to like the defense world, right. So you were you are responsible for helping organizations and you’re helping leads on the planning efforts with with some of these companies so for and by the way, there’s there’s a lot of like defense contractors here in the DFW area. So what what are some unique elements of dealing with the government in terms of business that you kind of stumbled upon during your time in those companies?

Tom Connally  13:40

Well, there’s, you know, that working with the federal government, you know, everything there, everything is covered by some kind of legislation. So there’s an enormous amount of paperwork that goes into, and I say, paperwork, proposals and competition and various types of proposals and what classification of business you’re in, and all of those kinds of things. You and I can make a business deal, shake hands, maybe sign a piece of paper, and do business. But that doesn’t happen in the federal government. So everything has to be codified in time delay on these things is a, you know, a long process. Okay? If you spent two years in, you know, in CAPTCHA trying to, in trying to get to the point where you’re writing a proposal or their get to a point where they’re writing, where they’re writing an offering, right. And so everything’s got to be in writing and everything’s got to be according to these this legislation. So you have a whole industry around government contracting. Where I mean, now you can, especially now you can find people that will write proposals for you, because that’s all they do. They write government proposals, and there’s a whole lot of boilerplate. language that has to be included in things. And then, and then because it’s a government proposal, you know, then the customer is one person, and then you have all of the contracting people that get involved with telling them, you know, how they can, you know, how they can make this offering, you know, to who, and, and how to reduce timing, and there’s been some efforts over the last few years to try and streamline some of this through different different giant contracting tools that they use to try and allow multiple companies to stay in the stay in the game, so that they’re not limited to, to one company, especially if they’re trying to do anything fast, nothing happens fast, I mean, fast in, you know, in government terms is maybe you can turn it around in six months. So unless you’re on some kind of a, some kind of a broad contract, where they, you know, they can write a bin of all kinds of different requirements, and you can compete. And, but that really favors large companies, or it favors certain others that are inspect specific, specified categories, 80 days, and, you know, Native American, and those kind of companies have different rules. Yeah, so. So if there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of market niche, you really have to line up to, with what your company’s capabilities are, what you’re trying to accomplish. And of course, as a small company, you you need to get on with a big company. So that, so that you can get come along on their coattails for a little bit. And if you can find people that will help you to do that, then you can develop some clientele some some relationships, and partnerships that allow, because everything is based on past performance, as well as right, past performance that lines up, you know, you’re the new guy into this

Aaron Spatz  17:20

performance, but like, how do I prove that? And I mean, for me, I would be curious, you know, is, are you able to use things like in your, like, like, civilian business dealings are able to pull that in and use that as examples for government, but I, I can only imagine the, the hurdles, and the just the, like, kind of, like, what you alluded to is just like the long lead times for contracts, and for deals and things like that, these are things that you’re pursuing, for months, if not years, and it just takes it takes time. And, you know, like, if you’re a small business, and you’ve maybe fall under one of those, one of those categories, special categories, you got some advantages that you can play on there. But still, a lot of times, it’s still going to be in your best interest to, to link up with with a prime or some just major contractor and then see, see how you can help them it. It’s fascinating to me, it’s, it’s almost like you’d have to have your own one or two people that you’re able to hire that all they do is just understand government jargon and generate government paperwork, it just seems like a crazy mess.

Tom Connally  18:29

Well, that there are fresh, some serious frustrations with it, that’s, you know, there were, I had many of them. And if you’re trying to work into certain certain particular markets, you they are very difficult to penetrate for in they may take a very long time to, to work at. And so it’s yeah, it’s interesting, and big companies want big contracts and, you know, small companies. If there are no small contracts, then they’ve got they’ve got they’ve got a partner with a prime with a large prime so that they can just get in the game. So, yeah, it’s a lot of work. And, you know, there are many great people out there trying to do great things. There’s just an enormous amount of legislation and regulation, that that makes it makes it a significant challenge. For sure. And yes, there are people who are expert in just understanding what the rules are.

Aaron Spatz  19:45

Yeah, it makes it what for smaller companies. It would make me nervous just trying to just turn just trying to get into the game so that that would that’s, that’s a whole nother like, I mean, we could probably talk just on that stuff for like three hours, just On the complexities of government contract work but

Tom Connally  20:04

I think there are whole college courses that have been developed just around that stuff I don’t doubt

Aaron Spatz  20:09

it I don’t doubt it and especially in DFW I mean we’ve got we’ve got several really really large players we’ve got a lot of smaller players as well but there’s there’s a lot more defense contracting here than people I think are aware of, unless of course you’re working for them but but there there’s a lot there’s there’s definitely a lot of defense stuff happening when we when we get back from the break time what I like to talk a little bit more about your book what who is your book aimed for what’s what’s the premise of the book that I’d love to get in bring us into present day of what you’re doing in the in the consulting world? So we’ll we’ll be right back. So this show is made possible by our amazing sponsors and so incredibly grateful for the for the amazing people that were we’ve been partnering with companies that we’ve been partnering with that recognize the value of the show and and what it means to DFW Metroplex incredibly grateful but our today’s show sponsor is rd Adair, PLLC business attorneys and so these guys again, like the the field of law is is a very complex, very complicated thing. And if you’re a business, you need some solid legal help. And so I would point you to these guys right. Ryan Adair, of rd Adair PLLC. him, he’s he’s got a few other people that works with him, but they handle various business law matters. So if your business is going through any number of things, right, it could be from disputes in litigation. It could be business formation or business transactions. I mean, there’s a whole gamut stuff right? So there’s, there’s a lot of different a lot of different reasons why you’d need a business attorney, but there and you’d be very well served reach out these guys, I’ve, I’ve I’ve known I’ve known him for quite some time now. And so you, you will be very happy to at least get on get on a call, kind of see see what’s going on, see if there’s an opportunity for them to help you. But I would absolutely, I would absolutely recommend that that you would reach out to them solid, solid people and incredibly, incredibly grateful for their sponsorship. So but Tom, you know, you’ve had, you’ve had a wild journey, right? So from a 30 year Marine Corps career, then you’re working in a private sector, but we’re working towards serving serving the government right through through different defense things that that’s going on. And then And then while you’re doing that, then you’ve written this book, and then you’ve gotten into consulting. So share with us then a little bit more about the book, what’s what’s the premise of the book that you wrote, and then take us into the present day with kind of like consulting.

Tom Connally  22:43

Well, thanks. You give me an open mic, you might have to cut me off at some point. Okay. No, yeah. Oh, all Marines and see stories and that kind of stuff. Um, but I, when I, you know, as I said, previously, I thought, you know, I was gonna write some, some guidance, some, you know, some look, you know, some ideas for my daughter, who was, you know, being committed going to be commissioned in the Marine Corps, she’s now captain. And I was, I was gonna just try and put down, you know, these are the key things to watch out for, these are the key things that you should think about doing. And, and, of course, like I said, you start writing a book, you start really, you know, you want to give good guidance, but you got to provide some background to that you can’t, you’re talking about writing to a group of people who has a very limited experience base, right. So the things that are evident to the 30 year veteran are not evident to the to the new, the new leader, right. So it was I started writing it and I went back and forth about the idea of this, this just a general, you know, leadership guidance to everybody. How, how much should it be marine speak and focus on on military. And that was never intended to be like the centerpiece of my business. It was, it was design. The thought originate originally was, this is for my daughter, and my son, my son wants to be a Marine officer. He’s down at Texas a&m now. And so they, I thought, you know, I’m going to try and give them something to go by. And it just kept getting longer. And I see so I, I said, you know, this needs to be more roadmap, like, some tidbits of information pieces of, of the greater thought, because, as I was writing this thing, I realized, you know, Leadership isn’t a apprenticed vocation. You you need to learn it from a master. You need to have someone maybe lots of someone’s who Help to show you the way. Now in the Marine Corps. That’s easy. I say, that’s easy. I mean, hopefully we all get as many great leaders as I had to work for, right? Doesn’t always happen, but, but you’re gonna see the good and the bad, but there’s always someone that you can look to and say, I want to be like that. I want I want to be like that guy. But you need to know what the questions are to ask. So as I began to put this thing together, pare it back, cut it, move it around, look at it, I thought, you know, this needs to be a roadmap, this needs to help point them, you know, what are the key things? What makes what will help you to jumpstart your apprenticeship, right? How do you optimize your apprenticeship, get the most out of it, and then begin to also recognize that at every level, a leader is an apprentice, right, you move from one position to the next position, you know, up the chain of command, you gain more authority, you have different responsibilities. But in every position that you go to, you have to learn new things. Leadership is very nuanced for the situation, the people that you have to lead, because you can decide who you want to be. And you can develop your character to be that person. But the type of leader that you are, has to be in response it has you have to do and be what your organization needs. Sometimes you can delegate a lot, sometimes you can’t. Sometimes, you have experienced people working for you, and you don’t have to do as much. You just need to listen. But at every level, you have to learn what those things are. So you’re constantly an apprentice to some degree, right? And you’re constantly somebody’s master, somebody works for you. And you are responsible for bringing them along. So you’re always in this apprenticeship and master role as a leader. And if you’re not, you’re not moving forward. And, and I, I gathered that, and I came up with a few points, you know, and I said, Listen, everybody needs to believe in who their people are. If you that’s the first rule. If you you have to believe in your people, you have to believe that everybody has value, you know, as a Marine, you get your people and then you make the best of them, right? Because you don’t, you don’t get a choice who you get, you know, in the industry, you you get to hire people you hire. Oh, and, and, and when you hire them, you commit to the idea that, that you’re going to grow them, because you hired them. Right? And if and of course now if they don’t meet expectations or some other thing, then you can let them go. But in the Marine Corps, you got who you got. Right? And unless they’re criminals, you’re you that’s who you have. You need to grow them. You need to believe in them. That’s a there’s a few stories that that go with that. But you know, fundamentally I will you know, I realized one day I was actually watching a movie, old, old movie. In those days, it was News called City Slickers. Right and this old leathery cowboy turns to the city slicker and says, you know, you, it’s life’s about one thing, and I said, wow, you know what, leadership’s there’s one thing in leadership, and it’s your people, and it’s believing in your people. Because you don’t know who the heroes going to be tomorrow, you don’t know who’s going to use going to win the battle for you, you don’t know who’s going to win the contract for you, you don’t know who is going to be that person that has that that key piece of information or that key action. And so you need to treat all of your people that way. You have to be competent as a leader and as a technical. And in your technical field. You have let’s

Aaron Spatz  29:04

let’s let’s let’s jump in at something there, though. So you, you brought something up. So there’s there’s a lot of times where leaders will enter an organization whether whether they were recruited from the outside, or they kind of made their way up from within. But there’s there’s a lot of examples. The military is no exception to this. But there’s there’s a ton of just regular corporate America. Examples of this even here, just in the DFW metroplex, where you’re hired in as a leader. To lead a group of people that have like an infinite amount more of technical knowledge expertise than you do on a topic. There is no amount of study that you can do to ever catch up or exceed the level of technical competence that these folks have. Now, you can certainly get a cursory level understanding and knowledge which obviously is important, but what is the most because what I’ve seen is is there There’s a unique challenges with that, because you, you have to earn respect in a different manner. Versus, hey, you grew up in this place, you’ve got a, you know, you got 20 years of aerospace experience doing this one or two things. And now you’ve been promoted to a leader of this group of people within the specialization in the aerospace engineer, whatever. I mean, the industry doesn’t matter. But that’s, that’s like, that’s one thing, right? That’s a lot more obvious to understand. But what about for those that come in as leaders, maybe they crossed industries, from like, I don’t know, pharmaceuticals to like aerospace or something. And they’re in there, they’re coming into a place where they they do not possess the knowledge at the technical level, but they’re, but they’re brought in as a leader, how do they most effectively lead groups of people like that?

Tom Connally  30:50

Wow, you know, that’s a, it’s a great question. It, it’s a complex question, I would start with the statement that, I think that anyone who’s committed to being a leader can be successful, if given the time, right, if given the time, right, and, and that the commitment, right to leading that organization. So as you get more senior in the Marine Corps, or you move through the industry, this is part of the reason why my business has has matured, and I’m focused very much on coaching, because because you need people around you, and you need people to go to and people that will hold you accountable. I think you always lead every leader, you know, you your people have value, you assume that, but you also have to be humble, right? Be humble to understand that you have experts around you that can tell you almost everything you need to know in industry today there there is no simple industry. Yeah, there is no simple industry. Through you know, it becomes more complex, the larger it becomes and the and the more different specialties that they cross, right, it’s, it’s obviously more simple, if you just make one kind of widget, but you still have marketing and you still have payroll, you still having you know, human relations, you still have administration, you still have all these different things that you have to deal with, as a leader, you have experts around you, you if you’re humble enough to apprentice yourself, you know, in the course of a day, you apprentice yourself to those experts, at various times, you’re the apprentice, they’re the master, and, and you’re not hired to duplicate their work or necessarily even check their work. But you are hired to ensure that they’re doing their work, and that they understand the context. what leaders do best is understand the context of their industry, in their company in that industry, and the direction of that company, and what and then establishing the goals and the strategy for that company. In doing so, if you believe in your people, and you can be humble, to accept the expertise that they bring with it, then you can develop a culture where everybody wants to come to work and play. I call that a culture of performance. That and that is very much what leaders do. leaders create. They create culture. And they they do that by helping people to understand the context of what they do. You know, as well as I do that, in any organization, the the most the person with the least control the person who has the one specific job that doesn’t have the ability to make all the decisions the person who probably feels the most stress because that is their only that’s their that’s their only focus and their only thing and and over time that they’re they’re going to become disheartened maybe if they don’t understand the importance of where they’re at and what Thank you. And that can be true at any level. Right? And so, but I think it’s always great for all of us to have people in our lives at various levels. You should always have someone that you consider your mentor or the person that you’re aspiring to be you should always have people that you’re leading that you’re bringing up you’re building up and then you should always have a peer that that can call you on your you know wild ideas right who can be that not the best idea. But, coach, this is where coaches come in. And nowadays there are coaches for everything right there. And in the advantage to having someone like a coach is that that person is not going to make you feel good. That person is going to challenge you to do what you what you said, was important to you accountable and help you to see things from a perspective that you wouldn’t otherwise see. You know, in the we build those things in in the military, right. We call them Sergeants Major, we call them for sergeants, we call them platoon sergeants, those, those those people that are looking at Django, okay, the other side of that equation is this. And maybe that’s a great idea. And maybe it’s not, but you said this, right, that we’re still going? And do we need to reevaluate that. So if there was one thing I would say, is humility, if there was two things, I would say that it’s having, it’s having those people finding those right people around you, that will, that will bring the knowledge that you need to accomplish those things, for sure.

Aaron Spatz  36:17

Yeah. You know, as I’ve seen, I’ve seen humility play itself out in a really, like, really positive way. Right? So like, people will enter organizations, and they, they obviously are not the technical experts, right? But they’re brought in to lead a section or department. But if they have the humility, and they couple that, with this desire to learn, like, I think I like for a lot of people, I just think they want to see that you give a crap, right? Like, do you do? Like, do you care? Like, do you care enough to like, understand the pain that I’m going through? Do you care enough to understand what this department does? Like, maybe we are like, you know, the the Forgotten department, or the they’re the very the very, under the underappreciated group of people, or were the rockstars were the ones that are like, all the attention is on and there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of other pressures associated with that. And so I found that leaders and some leaders that I’ve had the privilege of working with in, you know, in the civilian world, and even here in DFW, have been people that are, they had this combination of humility, of wanting to learn, but then like, the ones that I feel like we’re really, really leading. And this is where we may diverge on a few points here. That’s okay. This is what makes it fun. But like, but some of the divergence or some of the some of the ones that I feel like stood out to me, were ones that then they, they took a vested interest in their people like they, they actually like, you didn’t have to sing the company song and do like the whole, like, it wasn’t all about that. It was all about like, Okay, well, what do you want to do? Like, where are Where are you headed? And then helping kind of nurture that along?

Tom Connally  37:54

Hey, Aaron, you just wrote my book Lin, the Yo, there we go. See? See, it’s not rocket science. But yeah, so I talked about the prime imperative, right? Believing in your people, right? Number two is competence or even proficiency both as a leader and an in your technical field. The third third major point is owning the mission. You are the leader, you’re responsible, you own the mission, that and everything you do or fail to do will reflect and your people will reflect you. And then the last one is just what you really hit on I call it go the extra mile. Are you willing to go the extra mile for your people? Are you willing to be the guy, you know, when somebody looks down or whatever goes, sits down next to him, he goes, Hey, tell me what’s going on. I really want to know, I really care about this. And then you’re able to actually care. Yeah, and they’re, and they’re willing to do something about it. And that’s, and that’s where, you know, being a leader. A lot of what leaders do is messy, it’s called people business. Yeah, people’s lives are not perfect. My life’s not perfect. Your life’s not perfect, there are challenges. That’s where a leaders can make a huge difference. You’re absolutely right. You know, you have to be able to take down the armor and sit there and go, you know, what, I hear what you’re saying, and let’s, what can we do about that? How can I help you and everybody does want to spend all their time with their boss, they don’t want you to come over on the weekends and water the lawn, you know, but they, you know, they the fact that you care that you give a shit. You know, I mean, I would have wrote that in the book. But, you know, I was trying to leave out the words but but it’s exactly right. You’re exactly right. And, and, you know, I especially tell young leaders, you know, if you care, your people will follow you to hell and back. They’ll do anything for you. They’ll make sure you don’t fail. Yeah, because you care night you got to obviously continue to to grow, you know and learn. And that’s why the underlying principle of everything that I talked about is, is learn something every day and teach something every day, is if you’re always learning something in teaching something, especially if you want to make, make somebody happy, go sit down at their desk, and just give them, give them the mic and say, Tell me about what you do, right? And stay there until they’re done. And now you have someone and then you go, wow, that’s cool. And then expand that circle, go to the department over or somebody else or whoever you work with, and, and then bring that back to your people and go, Hey, you know what I learned today, and everybody in that room may know already, but you’re now communicating. And now you’re creating context. And now you’re demonstrating that you care, and you’re demonstrating that you’re learning and that and they will not let you fail, you will build trust, you will build a culture where people know Hey, and that’s where we enter the old setting, right? Organizations reflect the leader.

Aaron Spatz  41:12

Yeah, that’s true. That’s true. I mean, you can quickly, you can quickly get a pulse on on on an organization or on an organization’s leadership, by some of their front lines on the front line, people like this. So I’m going to go down a quick rabbit trail, because you kind of you just kind of open it up there for a minute. And so one of the ways that I’ve seen so like when we’re like looking for like a dentist, right, or like a, like an eye doctor, or whatever, who is the first person that you talk to you, you’re not talking to the eye doctor, you’re not talking to the orthodontist, or to the pediatrician or whatever, you’re not talking to that person, you’re talking to their receptionist or to their scheduling person, or whatever. And the impression that that those people make have such a profound impact on the business. And what is amazing, is I have found that the people that are warm, inviting, they’re empathetic, they care, they actually want to help like you’re not you don’t feel like you’re inconveniencing them, like you’re called just didn’t ruin their day. And so like what I found is those places where the frontline person that I’m talking to, like actually, like, by my estimation, cares that you called right, they take they take time to actually listen to you get your book, or if you can’t get in quick enough, they, they’re able to explain something like they’re able to make you feel valued, right. So then by time you get there, you’ve already got it, you’ve already had a positive experience. And chances are, it’s this isn’t always true. But chances are pretty high that the remainder of your experience there is going to reflect that experience with the frontline person. And again, it’s not always true, right? People have bad days, they sometimes people just walk up the wrong side of the bed or something. I’m not sure. But by and large, though, the places where where I’ve, you know, we’ve had like a horrific or suboptimal experience with the front, the front line person kind of in lends itself at all, like, you kind of see it all creep into the rest of the place. I’m like, Okay, well, we’ve hit like, 25 different places we could go to within five miles of here, I’m not going to go here now. And so that was just I don’t know, there’s just a random thought, like, as you’re, as you’re explaining that to me, and I’m like, you know, what, I felt like a real life. Right now, example of like, how that plays out?

Tom Connally  43:36

Absolutely. You’re absolutely right. And, and, you know, so. And the fact of the matter is that we oftentimes don’t value those employees that are in those positions, and we don’t incentivize their, you know, their performance. And maybe it’s, it doesn’t, it’s not even a monetary incentive, it’s just to thank them for doing the job. It’s to sit down with them and go tell tell me about, you know, what we could do better. And

Aaron Spatz  44:10

the culture stuff that you’re talking about, goes back to creating that culture. And so it’s like, what, what kind of culture do you want to create and cultivate in your company and it doesn’t happen by accident, like you have to be intentional in the way that you make it and guess what, it starts at the top?

Tom Connally  44:24

Right? Absolutely. It absolutely does. Yes. That’s, you know, that’s why you know, leadership training, you know, for organizations is it is a wasted expense if the if the CEO isn’t involved and doesn’t believe Yeah, you know, you can you can go in and inspect you can hire me and I can come and spend two weeks talking to all your people and, and teach them all about leadership right? If their boss doesn’t follow those, those same tenants doesn’t believe in those things, then it will be for naught. It’s through, it’s wasted money. So, you know, so the the, if you’re, if you’re going to, if you’re going to help if you’re going to build that kind of a culture, then yes, it has to be intentional. But I don’t I think that it has it starts, you know, it’s like, it’s like a cell, right? It starts with a nucleus of the idea that, you know, I care about the people that work for me and with me, yeah. Right. Yeah. And it has to start with that, if you don’t believe in that, then you need to think about what you’re doing.

Aaron Spatz  45:49

That’s true. It’s true. I mean, the, the most impactful people that I’ve worked with have been the ones or, excuse me, the ones the most impactful people to me personally, and also to the organizations that they’ve been a part of, or the ones that actually exhibited that they cared. And it’s funny, because people assume, okay, hey, this is the boss, right? He’s, he’s gonna, he’s gonna put a certain amount of sauce on this, like, there’s a there’s a certain amount of care sauce that he’s going to put on this. And but maybe kind of expecting that it’s not completely genuine, right? There’s like this, there’s a sense that like, Okay, well, he’s, he’s kind of obligated to care, right? He, it’s kind of his job, to some extent. And so I don’t feel the authenticity come through. But when the authenticity comes through, and then the leader actually like, you get the sense that they that they really do care. And, and maybe it manifests itself in a couple of different ways, right? It could be your incredible vulnerability as a leader to, to humble yourself and recognize that you don’t know at all, like, that’s maybe one approach, or maybe there’s some, there’s some adverse situation going on. Or maybe you like, you go and you screw it up as a leader, and you mess it up, and someone’s gonna come like kind of stepping in and help you out, right? There’s any number of ways where these, these like these bond building, like activities happen. And then the the people understand like, wait a second, this guy isn’t here just to he’s just not he’s not. He’s not just another suit and tie. He’s, he’s not just another Yes, man. He’s not just another guy to make my life miserable. He actually does care about the organization, and its success in our department and our department success, but he also cares and values me as a person, and I feel safe. And I think that’s one of the things that you’d hit on a little bit earlier, Tom was like, you know, feelings, making it a safe place where, hey, I’m actually really dealing with this right now, whether it’s personally or professionally, like, Hey, I got a lot of stuff going on at home, I don’t talk about home very much. But here’s what’s happening. Or, hey, you know, what, I’m just really overwhelmed by this. By this project. There’s just there’s a lot of stuff happening. I feel like some it’s out of my control. I’m just I’m starting to feel like I’m drowning. Like, that’s just where I’m at. And so, but when you when you create a place where people can talk like that. It just, it opens up all sorts of possibilities. And it gives you I think, opportunities as a leader, I think it also challenges you as a leader, right? It just it makes it makes it all the more important, like holy cow. This person just opened up to me and like, what do I do with that now?

Tom Connally  48:19

Yep. Well, you know, if you’re looking for somebody to say leadership is easy, it isn’t me. Okay. Yes, it isn’t. You have to be committed to the idea. Yes, in I’ve seen leaders of all different What do you want to call it? aptitudes and attitudes? I don’t know. It’s the attitudes, you know, psychological profiles were worth the extrovert. The, the, you know, the the high performing the, I’ve seen them of all different kinds be successful. I’ve seen them fail. Yeah. And the, the fact of the matter is that the difference is, is two things. Do they really care? Right? And are they committed? Are they committed to being a leader? You know, my son sociate, you know, he wants to be a Marine officer. And, you know, he’s, he’s been saying that for a few years now. And, and so, I check with him every so often to say, Are you committed to being a leader, because this is a responsibility. You know, if you want to lead, it’s a responsibility, and some people have been into it. And we often get promoted, because of our competence. And other things were excellent in a technical area, or whatever it is, and all of a sudden, we got 610 1225 people working for us. And nobody ever taught us anything about this stuff. Some people have some innate abilities to you know, to deal with that, but it requires a commitment because it’s a it’s a lifelong endeavor. Once you begin to lead people, it’s a lifelong endeavor of study action, reflection and refinement. It’s in that circle. You know, it’s In the military, if you do it fast enough, you know, you learn those lessons fast enough, then you’re successful. Right? But in, in, but it’s an unforgiving world, you know, in the military oftentimes. And when you when you get out is sometimes it can be unforgiving but if an organization has the room to allow people in this is why I say any leader can, anybody committed to being a leader can be successful in any position given the time to understand the position, right? Because that sometimes there’s time and sometimes there’s not, but this is also the reason why there’s different kinds of leaders at different times in the life of an organization, right. It’s one thing to be a leader of an entrepreneurial endeavor, it’s another thing to be the leader of a of a well entrenched, well developed company, right, that’s trying to move to the next level or, or trying to maintain their market share. Those are those those challenges are different. That doesn’t mean that the same leaders can do them. Some people don’t, you know, are better at one than the other. But given the time, you know, anyone who’s committed to being a leader committed to that understanding of that cycle? Then they can do it.

Aaron Spatz  51:19

Yeah, for sure. For sure. Well, the time I mean, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed her so I can’t believe we’re all like, are we starting to run out of time, but when, but lovely, just in his very last segment here. Share this how can people how can people get a hold of you? And what’s like, what’s the best? What’s the best path for people to take in terms of follow up with you and what and what and what you can do for them?

Tom Connally  51:40

Well, they can they can find me at Connolly consulting.com That’s my website. just spell it right limb like the governor and the the senator right co nn al Li and and they can find me there, they can just send me an email at Tom at Connolly consulting.com. They can find me on Facebook to at 24/7 leadership. They can find me on Instagram at Connelly underscore consulting. But what can I do for them, hopefully I if someone has a challenge that they’re trying to move through and move themselves forward, and they’re committed to the idea of improving their performance and success, personally, professionally, spiritually, physically, then I am available to to help them understand that I’m happy to talk to anybody, initially for a couple hours and see if that’s a fit. I don’t think every coach fits every every client but but we’ll see if that’s a fit. And give him a couple of hours of what I call deep transformative coaching. And we’ll see, see where that goes. Coaching is very personal. So people have to you have to have a you have to have a relationship. That’s true. And so you have to figure out what that is. But like I said, coaching is not it’s not drinking coffee and smoking cigars. That’s what you know, that’s what friends do. Coaching is about looking yourself in the eye and having somebody to look at you and help you look at yourself. Because only when we stretch our comfort zone do we develop. So that’s good. That’s good. I help people do

Aaron Spatz  53:33

love it. Love it. Well, Tom again, I just I just want to thank you. This has been it’s been a blast. appreciate you making time this morning to be on the show.

Tom Connally  53:42

And it’s been my pleasure and hopefully I provided you some entertainment in some some takeaways for for your audience here in Dallas Fort Worth. It’s great to be part of this discrete Metroplex area

Aaron Spatz  53:56

100% And we’re glad you’re here, Tom. Thank you once again.

Tom Connally  54:00


AE Podcast

Never Miss an Episode!

Get episodes and other news delivered straight to your inbox!

You have Successfully Subscribed!