Succeeding In A Post Military Career

Drive On Podcast With Scott DeLuzio
Drive On Podcast
Succeeding In A Post Military Career

Renita Kalhorn talks to us about her experience coaching high achieving executives at Fortune 500 companies as well as those in Special Operations.

She talks about the ways that many of these "alpha" personalities get in their own way when they become too mission driven and don't focus on the big picture. To be successful you need to be agile and be able to switch between a hard hitting approach and a softer touch.

We talked about some of the parallels between entrepreneurs and special forces operators, who tend to be resourceful, resilient, not fragile, and look at the challenges they face as a way to get stronger.

For leaders and managers, one of the keys to success is managing your ego and being open to feedback.

We talk about all of this and more in the episode. Give it a listen!

Links & Resources


Scott DeLuzio:    00:00:03    Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast, where we talk about issues affecting veterans after they get out of the military. Before we get started, I'd like to ask a favor if you haven't done so already, please rate and review the show on Apple podcast. If you've already done that, thank you. These ratings help the show get discovered so it can reach a wider audience. And while you're there click the subscribe button so that you get notified of new episodes. As soon as they come out. If you don't use Apple podcasts, you can visit to find other ways of subscribing, including our email list. I'm your host, Scott DeLuzio and now let's get on with the show. Hey everyone. Today, my guest is Ranita Kalhorn who is a leadership coach and mental trainer who works with fortune 500 executives and Navy Seals.  Today I'm going to talk with her about how she helps those high achieving individuals succeed. So, Ranita welcome to the show. Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

Renita Kalhorn:    00:01:06    Sure. Well, I've been coaching for over 10 years now and in the beginning I was working more with corporate professionals at the fortune 500 organizations, but as time went on, I  went back to my previous life, which was working in dot com or more entrepreneurial organizations. And I started shifting my coaching more towards the entrepreneurs and CEOs who are starting new companies. So, I basically had experienced across the whole spectrum from the large fortune 500 global multinationals to the tiny startups just beginning. And then as you mentioned, I also work with Special Forces. So, I'm working with future Navy Seals, over probably 500 Navy Seal candidates at this point. And I've also worked with active duty Green Berets. So, I often talk about the parallels between the Special Forces and entrepreneurs, because both very much have to be agile, have to be nimble, especially in the world that we live in now, which is so uncertain and so turbulent and just  looking for the best practices to share across both groups.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:02:21    Yeah, that's great.  That's a good background and a lot of stuff that you are doing certainly pertains to more than just the Special Forces; probably could pertain to a good deal of people who are coming out of the military and the reason why I wanted to have you on the show is because of your experience working with these high performing individuals, whether it's people in the military or the corporate world.  The people you work with tend to be the alpha personality types. And I think a lot of the people who are in the military, a larger percentage anyway, of the people who are in the military will have those alpha characteristics versus the bulk of the typical population as a percentage. So, I figured this would be a pretty good fit for the audience that we have here on the show.  One of the things that you talk about with these people is how they sometimes end up getting in their own way, tripping over their own features, or becoming their own roadblock in a way.  What are some of the things that those alpha personalities do to get in their own way?

Renita Kalhorn:    00:03:34     Well, the first one that comes to mind is that they are too mission-driven, which might sound funny to someone in the military. Who's very much all about accomplishing the mission. And so, what I've noticed is that, of course the mission is important, but sometimes the quickest way to accomplish the mission isn't just to go from point A to point B. What I mean by that is increasingly what I'm seeing in the world in general and in the military world is where it's not just about going in and taking out the target. There's a lot more emotional intelligence involved. There's a lot more diplomatic conversation negotiations, actually having conversations with people or it could be internal where you're trying to get resources from someone up above you who manages those resources. And so, what I've seen is people who have this sort of alpha personality are very focused on achieving the goal. They're just so laser focused on the goal that they're forgetting the human connection side, and if they could make that human connection first, then they would reach their goal much more easily, much quicker in many cases because they’re so mission-focused, that don't achieve their goal.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:04:59    And one of the things that I noticed when I was deployed to Afghanistan  back in 2010, one of the things that we were told was we were given this information about a counterinsurgency strategy, which was all about going out and meeting with the people the local people, the residents in the area of our operations and  trying to win them over, win over the hearts and minds and things like that. And I'll be perfectly honest as an infantry man, our job that we trained for, it was kicking in doors, shooting bad guys. That's what we trained for. And then you started coming out with all of this; to us, it sounded like some froo froo nonsense.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:05:49    We have to go and talk to these people and try to win them over and not kick the doors in and things like that. It just didn't quite sit right with us. And I think that's what you're talking about here, where we felt like our job was to go and kick the doors in and shoot the bad guys and do all that heavy lifting stuff and not deal with the softer side of things. But, as it turns out, that's actually the right way to achieve that goal of going against these insurgents that we were trying to fight against was we really needed to gain the support of that local population. So it sounds like that's sort of what you're talking about here

Renita Kalhorn:    00:06:35    It is. And I can sympathize because if you're not trained for that, dealing with humans from a different culture, strangers, you don't know what could happen, and so it's natural to default to what you've been trained for, what you know works.  I think what people are going to have to learn now, this is in the military and there is a certain agility to go into a situation and know when do I need to be decisive and just be target focused. And when do I need to be able to relax, focus on building rapport, connecting with this person, because what if you connect with someone in that village and they give you this valuable Intel, because they trust you because they want to help you and you wouldn't have gotten that otherwise.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:07:27    Yeah, exactly and that's what people ended up finding out is that's the type of thing that ended up happening.  They would find out that, “Hey, these Americans are treating us pretty well here that we were safe, relatively safe, or getting the things that we need to fix up our village and maybe even building a school to educate our children and that type of stuff. And you know, they would attend to start to provide some information to the Americans.

Renita Kalhorn:    00:08:04    And there's an example that I like to give that just demonstrates an emotional intelligence. So, let's call them the Special Forces guy goes in, he's got his gun, he's got his sunglasses on, he's standing tall and he's talking to the villagers. You can imagine how intimidating that is. The other Special Forces guy goes in. He takes off his sunglasses. He kneels down maybe to be at the same height. He puts his gun down. Just these little physical gestures, they communicate, I want to connect with you. You can trust me. And so that's the  emotional intelligence, emotional agility that people are going to need to develop to be successful.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:08:51    Yeah. I remember the first time we went into a village and we walked in one of the houses; we were invited in, but it was set up a meeting where we were going to go talk to one of the villages, the people in the village that was near our base. And when we walked in, we all took off our helmets, which was weird in and of itself. And then we had a place outside where we had somebody  standing over us, standing guard over our weapons. So we didn't even have our weapons with us. And that was just, to me, a nervous thing.  But we did it to show we trust you; you can trust us. Like we're not here to cause this type of chaos that you might have experienced in the past with other people who might have come through here, including the Russians back years ago and things like that. So, you can trust us and that's sort of what we wanted to get across and it ended up developing a pretty good relationship.

Renita Kalhorn:    00:09:56    Oh, I'm sure. I love that. Because you put aside your own comfort, you probably would have been more comfortable with your helmet, with your weapons.  Right?

Scott DeLuzio:    00:10:03    Yup. For sure.

Renita Kalhorn:    00:10:06    That's a great demonstration of just putting aside your own comfort to create trust.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:10:12    So, let's talk about it transitioning people who might have already transitioned out of the military, who might be carrying some of their leadership experiences into the corporate world, or people who are thinking about transitioning soon.  How can they translate some of this stuff?  I know all the examples that we've been giving so far have been military focused, but how can they translate this stuff into a career focus where they can apply this to their career?

Renita Kalhorn:    00:10:45    It seems to be a big challenge for the military as a translator transitioning out of active duty.  I've helped quite a few clients make that transition because everything the military personnel does is very useful in a corporate environment. It's just a matter of changing the language. So I've seen many resumes that are full of military acronyms and terminology. And yet I know that what they're doing is very valuable in a workplace. So that would be the first step, really just understanding what the essence is of what I did. I managed resources, I made decisions under high stakes pressure.  I dealt with difficult personalities, whether they're in your own team or on the enemy side. So all of these skills are very relevant. It's just a matter of framing them because we can say that there's people in the business world they're a little bit intimidated, or as soon they see something that they don't understand, they're just going to shut down all that this person doesn't have what we need. And so, the burden is on you, the military person to make your experience relevant to the HR person that you are speaking with.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:12:10    I was actually listening to a podcast earlier this week. It was the Jocko Podcast, which I'm not sure if any of the audience is familiar with, but he's a former Navy Seal who has started a consulting business and he has other things going on as well. But one of the things that they were talking about on this particular episode was about how companies hire people. And a lot of times they go out and they're looking to hire people who have certain experience or they worked for a competitor and things like that. And then they go out and they're looking for things like that, but that's not really what is going to make these people successful in the organization. It's going to be things like,  their character and are they willing to go the extra mile and be a team player and things like that.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:13:10    And that's sort of like what you were talking about when you're talking about people who are looking to transition out of the military. They have a lot of this experience of being a team player and thinking outside the box and all that stuff. And if you don't lean into that and use that to your advantage on your applications, resume, whatever the case may be, you're probably doing yourself a disservice I would think.

Renita Kalhorn:    00:13:40    Exactly. I would think that you have as a military person, all this experience, getting people to do something they may not inherently want to do. That's a hard life in the military. And yet you got all these people to do these things synchronized or to focus on one target. And so that's a very valuable skill to bring to the business environment. So, it's your job to tell the stories that illustrate that skill. You can't just tell somebody, “I can do this.” You need to tell the stories. And that's really where I've seen clients succeed is when they're able to go from just saying, “here's what I did or here's my job description. And then here's what I actually did in terms of, here was a situation, here was the challenge we had. Here's what I did, or my team did. And then here are the results that we produced.”

Scott DeLuzio:    00:14:38    I think that's the key takeaway here is you can fill out your resume and put in all the technical things that you did on the paper, what your job description was, but that doesn't fill in the blanks to the person who's hiring you, who's reading that resume, that doesn't fill in those blanks for them. And you're basically assuming that they know what you're talking about and that they've done those things too and they weren't in your shoes necessarily unless they happened to do that same job in the military at one point in the past. But do you really want to bet on that? That's what they had, that type of experience. So, you know, you're absolutely right. You do want to tell the story of what it is that you did and how that applies to this job. That makes a ton of sense. You talked a little bit earlier about some of the parallels between entrepreneurs and Special Forces and military personnel. What are some of those parallels between those two groups of people?

Renita Kalhorn:    00:16:02    So the ability to go in knowing that the plan is not going to survive first contact, and that's just what's going to happen. So you try something, it doesn't work. So, you try something else that doesn't work, you try something else that doesn't work. So, entrepreneurs really need to hone that ability to be resourceful and bounce back quickly. That's what I've seen in the military is that they're just trained to do that. They're not even saying, “Oh, shoot, it didn't work.” They're just like, “okay, that didn't work now.” The best entrepreneurs naturally have that. And then I help the ones who don't naturally have it to develop it, to develop that mindset.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:16:47    Yeah, for sure. And I think as an entrepreneur myself and coming out of the military, I know that sometimes, in my business, I'll try to launch a new product and maybe that product launch didn't go quite as well as I thought it would. And then it's like, okay, well, I can sit here and I can continue doing the same thing over and over again. And it's still not going to work, or I can try to figure out what went wrong and I can try to adjust course and try something new.  That is certainly a way to think about resourcefulness, but it's also a little bit of resiliency, where people are able to bounce back from setbacks and I think that super.

Renita Kalhorn:    00:17:36    I would add on that is, sorry I spoke over you. So, the piece I would add onto resilience is being even anti fragile where not only are you bouncing back from challenges, you're actually using them to get stronger.  I think the next phase that we're in now in this world, that's going to have so many challenges where it's not about, can you survive this challenge? It's how can you use this challenge to be even stronger for the next challenge that is guaranteed going to come? It's just a totally different mindset.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:18:13    Yeah. And that is actually a good segue into the next topic that I wanted to talk with you about a little bit here. You've talked about some of the traits that leaders need to have in order to succeed in what you call a volatile, uncertain, complex ambiguous world, which this year certainly has been full of a lot of uncertainty and volatility with COVID and businesses getting shut down.  And actually, the day that I have this episode scheduled to be aired is going to be election day. So, there's more uncertainty there as well. So, what do leaders and teams need to do to be able to adapt to this fast changing and uncertain world that we're living in?

Renita Kalhorn:    00:18:57    So what they really need to develop is, I mean, there's so many ways to answer this question. Basically, they need to be able to be more open to feedback. Now, everybody hearing that as like going to be nodding their head. But what that really means is they're going to have to manage their ego because it's really ego that keeps us from taking feedback and doing something with it. And the quicker we can take feedback and incorporate it into our behavior, change direction, maybe give up something we put already a lot of effort into make those changes quickly in an agile way.  That's what's going to be really important for leaders and then to develop that in their teams as well.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:19:46    Yeah, for sure. One of the things that I've seen lately in society, in general, not necessarily in any particular class, but just in general in society is a lot of a victim mentality that people have and something doesn't go right.  I was talking about how a product launch doesn't go right  and sometimes people, instead of trying to figure out what went wrong and focusing on that,  on how to make that situation better, they whine and moan about how it didn't go right. And it's really a counterproductive mentality. It's like, “Oh, I tried everything. I did everything I thought I should.” Well, there's obviously something else out there. There are very successful product launches out there and it just so happened to be that yours didn't hit the mark. So, there's something else that you need to try. So, yeah, but I haven't seen a lot of that going on lately where people just don't take ownership and responsibility to try to figure out what went wrong.

Renita Kalhorn:    00:20:55    Yeah. I think, there's just all kinds of factors that are coming into play, but our society in general is just very much about instant gratification. We just want things yesterday. I mean, look how fast we expect things. And so, we expect that to happen in our projects, in our work as well. And so, we've  developed this muscle, this reflex, where we need it instantly, and that's not going to serve people who really want to do big things because big things are not going to happen instantly.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:21:28    No, for sure. They take time. And I think that's a problem too, that people have is exactly what you said that they expect this thing to happen right now.  You see people who,  seemingly are overnight successes and it's like, well, why can't I be like that? Why can't I be an overnight success, but what they don't see is that the overnight success took decades sometimes to become an overnight success. So, you just haven't seen all of the work that went into it; sometimes it's their time in the military or whatever,

Renita Kalhorn:    00:22:00    You're a magazine cover about somebody who's just still struggling, right. Or a podcast where somebody hasn't made it yet. All that activity is the iceberg under the water. And you don't see that until somebody has what others consider a noteworthy success.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:22:18    Yeah. And I shared this on this podcast a while back, probably a few months ago, but there was a talk that I gave a few years ago where we're talking about success in this overnight success type of phenomenon. And I equated it to a bamboo tree. When someone first plants a seed for a bamboo tree, they have to water that seed almost daily for about five years for the seed to start growing and start to take root. And after that five years, the seeds finally start to break ground and after it breaks ground within about a month and a half or so, the tree will have grown about 80 or 90 feet.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:23:15    And so it seems that that's in my mind, the overnight success where the first time you're actually seeing this tree is when it's breaking ground, when it's coming up out of the earth. And then next thing you know, a few weeks later, it's towering high above you.  What you don't see is all the work and effort that went into weeding the area around it and watering and all the other things that people would need to do to make sure that this tree had an opportunity to grow in that scenario. So I like to equate the bamboo tree to that overnight success phenomenon. It's really not an overnight success. It really does require a lot of effort to be put into it, to get to that point.

Renita Kalhorn:    00:24:00    Yeah. And there's another trait that the military people have is that they're used to training. They're used to doing things that are “boring” in the name of training, in the name of habituation. They know that repetition done right, is very important. You don't want to go out and be shooting weapons after one or two times. I just want to mention this to the audience listening that that is a trait that you have that is quite uncommon or often uncommon in the workplace. And so that's something to really notice that you do well and to show people how that will serve them, but just as this ability to do what's “boring”, it  goes along with that instant gratification. I don't want to do anything that's boring. I only want to do new stuff, whereas Instagram, and I want it now.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:24:57    Yeah, for sure. Let's see the Amazon order it today and have it on your doorstep tomorrow morning or something like that. It's that instant gratification. It's like, I want it now type of thing you mentioned earlier that leaders need to be open to feedback and manage their egos.  What do leaders or managers of people get wrong about feedback when they receive feedback? What do they do wrong with that feedback?

Renita Kalhorn:    00:25:30    Well, I talk a lot about our biology.  It really comes back to basic survival instincts. Our brain is just focused on survival even though in the world today, especially once you're out of active duty, there are very few threats to your physical survival. And yet all of us are seeing potential threats in our social environment. And one of those threats is to our status, our standing, either in the group or whoever we're talking to or interacting with. And so if somebody is telling us we didn't do it right, we could have done it better. We did it wrong. We made a mistake. Those all get translated by the brain as a threat to our survival because hundreds of thousands of years ago, if we made a mistake, that very much was a question of survival. And so, I think we're just still wired that way to see any sort of questioning of our ability to do something right as a threat. And so that's why people just react and they don't actually go past the reaction to be rational and think about the actual information they are getting.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:26:45    And so how can these people, these leaders get more learning out of their mistakes. How can they learn from these mistakes if they're always in that defensive survival mode that you were talking about? How they can learn more from this?

Renita Kalhorn:    00:27:03    Good question? I think one way to  trick your brain is to ask for it actively. So, if you ask, I was just talking to Dave Cooper, a former Navy Seal. He used to put out the plan and say, all right, what did I miss? There's sort of this presumptive question. Have I missed something? What is it? So, leaders could be doing the same thing, just ask, “what did I miss?” or “what did I get wrong here?”  or telling them proactively, “okay, I screwed up. Here's what I did. Here's what I'm going to do differently going forward.” And so in a way you're just owning that mistake. And I think by doing that, it's a way of maintaining that sense of status and still opening up a safe space for people to give you feedback.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:27:59    And I think that ownership mentality where you take ownership of mistakes that were made or negative feedback that you've received, things like that when you have that mentality, and it combines itself with that survival mentality that you had talked about just a little while ago, you don't want those mistakes to happen again. And so, you're going to come up with ways to make sure that those things don't happen again as opposed to getting defensive about it and trying to stop  that negativity and that harsh feedback from coming to you. I was talking about this the other day.  Years ago, our house got broken into and a lot of people will be like, “Oh, I feel bad for you” and all that  stuff.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:28:56    They feel sorry for all the things that they lost and they're just sad and upset about all of that. But instead, one of the things that we did was we made sure that we had a security alarm and that we made sure all of our doors were locked at night. And we made sure that there were lights on and all the things that you're supposed to do. We just were lackadaisical with some of that stuff beforehand. And it bit us in the butt and that was our fault.

Renita Kalhorn:    00:29:28    Way to use the mistake, that's what a business leader can be doing as well.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:29:33    Exactly. You know, I think that it illustrates that you can use that same mentality for really anything.  If you're in your business and let's go back to a failed product launch, okay. Instead of crying about it, let's figure out what went wrong and what else could we do to make this better?  Look at all the things.

Renita Kalhorn:    00:29:56    Really good mindset to develop it. This is just information. So if you were playing basketball, you went to shoot the basket, it just bounced off the back board. You don't get mad at the back board, right? It's just information. You didn't get it in the basket. And yet, somehow when we're dealing with people, we take it personally, like we create a lot more of a story around it. And so if you can just get into the habit of just saying, this is just information, maybe you don't like the way it was delivered. Maybe it was a little harsh, it's still valuable information and it's way better than nothing

Scott DeLuzio:    00:30:36    It is for sure. And taking that information and using that information is only going to help you. And if you dismiss it or you get angry about it or whatever the case may be, it's not going to help you. It's there; you're spot on with all of this.

Renita Kalhorn:    00:30:59    You do that if you do get mad. So, if you show people that if they give you feedback, they're not going to be rewarded for it, or they're going to be punished for it. Then you've just killed your information source.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:31:12    Exactly. Yeah, that was a good point there. The next time that there is something going on that someone sees a problem they're not going to raise the red flags about whatever that problem is, because they know that you're going to fly off the handle. And they're not going to want to give that information to you. They don't want to be on the receiving end of whatever the backlash is for that.

Renita Kalhorn:    00:31:36    So just to add some nuance to this, sometimes there are leaders who will say, don't bring me problems, bring me solutions because they get tired of people just whining about problems, but there's a middle ground between that because you don't want people to just not tell you when there's a problem that maybe needs your attention. So you need to bring some nuance around it. Here's the kinds of problems to bring, here's what I'm looking for from you in terms of when you bring me a problem, get as far as you can in solving the problem before you bring it to me, tell me what you tried, tell me what didn't work, what did, right? So, there's a lot of nuance that I think leaders could also be bringing into their communications instead of this all or nothing approach.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:32:19    And I think another thing too, that leaders can do to help mitigate some of these potential problems, where people are coming to them with this negative feedback, is to trust in their employees and trusting their teams more. Allow them to make decisions on their own. And that way they can own those decisions. What I was talking about before is when you own something and it doesn't quite go right, you want to make sure that it doesn't happen again. So, you're going to make sure that the process or whatever the thing is that you're doing, you're going to make sure that it's right on track. And so, if you're giving some responsibility to your subordinates and you're allowing them to make the decisions without necessarily getting the buy in or the feedback from the whole organization or from their bosses and things like that, it allows them to try things. Sometimes they're going to fail. Sometimes they'll make mistakes and it's not going to quite work out. But when they do that, they'll be able to learn from those mistakes and get better over time. And so they'll be invested in making sure that the problem doesn't happen again, as opposed to being able to just point the finger up the chain of command, if you will, to someone else because, “Oh, well, he told me to do it that way.”

Renita Kalhorn:    00:33:42    Right. And another phenomenon I see is sort of the CEO, is hero, or the leader's hero, where they feel like they need to rush in and rescue their team. And so they don't really allow their team to develop the skills of handling problems on their own. So, I love the idea of extreme ownership that Jocko talks about where everyone on the team takes ownership of a problem and when you do that, you just raise the tide for everyone. And now your ability to handle problems is just at a much higher level.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:34:17    And when everybody is taking ownership of the things that they're responsible for, it will make the end result be so much better because they don't want to fail and it goes back to that survival mode where they don't want to end up losing their job because they are screwing up all the time. They're going to make sure that, okay, is this really the best decision? Is this really the best move to make? Let's make sure that it is. And we'll dive into it from there, but when you don't have that survival instinct where you want to protect your job or your position; if you just didn't care because you're passing the buck off to somebody else; well, that's the type of work that you're going to end up producing.

Renita Kalhorn:    00:35:05    Well, I would add some nuance to that as well. So when I work with high performers, it's not about coming from a place of fear. So a fear of losing something of making a mistake, it's more about moving towards something. So, my clients want to develop this inherent desire to perform at their best, just for the inherent joy of performing at their best. And then, you take the fear out of it. It's just like, I want to figure out the best solution to this problem, or this problem is going to help me become a better performer, a better decision maker, a better whatever. Otherwise your people are focused on self-protection, and once you take away the thing that they're not afraid of losing, then you lose their desire for progress. So, I would love to see more people develop this inherent love of the process, love of growth for its own sake, because that's really where we are in the world. Now we have this luxury of being able to express ourselves to our full human potential. You don't have to worry about survival.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:36:19    And that growth mentality too, especially like you're saying these people are not necessarily worried about the failure aspect of it; they're looking to grow. And that includes the people who are on your team.  I know in the military, we all tried to build each other up and help each other out. It's not like you want to go into combat with a suboptimal team. You don't want to have someone who is not as good of a shot as it could be, or who hasn't had the amount of practice and exposure to the real- life scenarios.  You don't want those types of people on your team. You want the best and the fastest and the strongest and all the other things that you could throw at it.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:37:10    You want the absolute best on your team while you're going into these potentially life and death situations.  It makes a lot of sense to do the same thing in a business scenario where you want to have an A+ team. You want to have the best people supporting you on your journey through whatever it is that you're doing.  If there's infighting and there's all of that corporate politics that sometimes goes on that's not helping anybody except for the one individual who might get ahead because they stepped on somebody's toes or whatever.

Renita Kalhorn:    00:37:52    Very shortsighted because nobody can get anywhere today without a team. And so, I have seen A+ players who together do not make an A+ team. And so that's the challenge I'm focused on now is how you get A+ players to be an A+ team where they really do see that by lifting the others, they're just going to lift the level of performance for everyone. And it can be hard because of the egos because of the need for personal recognition.  But those who have been on an A+ team, as you know in the military, there's nothing like that. And that's just exhilarating.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:38:33    And so how do get these A+ players to work together to form that A+ team? How do you go about doing that?

Renita Kalhorn:    00:38:43    So, you need to create psychological safety, which is basically making people get out of survival mode so that they're not focused on status, or autonomy or getting things done quickly, right? There's always somebody who just wants to do it themselves, because they think they can do it best. So you need to create a place that's safe, where everybody actively wants to find the best solution. And they'll have the patients; they'll be willing to have conflict, to have healthy, productive conflict, because they know it's going to produce the best ideas and solutions. And so you have to create an environment for that. The leader has to create that environment and also not be saying, “well, you missed the deadline! So there has to be a balance between giving them space to have this healthy conflict, try different things, experiment, make a mistake and say, “okay, I made a mistake.” What did you learn from it?  So, there are all these things. All the information is out there. There's no shortage of information. It's how do you actually execute on that? And I would say it starts with the leader. The leader has to actually practice what they preach. So if they want people to make mistakes, they have to make it safe for people to experiment and make mistakes.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:40:04    Yeah, for sure. And showing people how to react because it's inevitable. No one's perfect. Everyone's going to make a mistake at some point; but showing your team and your people how to react when you do make a mistake, is important too, to lead by example, like you just said. I think that's a great way to put it.  Is there anything else that you would tell people who are in the process of transitioning out of the military or just recently got out of the military?  They're looking to get into the civilian world and work, whatever type of job. What type of things would you tell them as advice to help them in this transition period?

Renita Kalhorn:    00:40:53    I think at a mindset level, I would just want to encourage them because I have seen a lot of military people who feel discouraged because their skills don't seem to be recognized in the corporate or business world. And that's just not the case. It's just simply a gap between explaining or telling it, helping people understand what you can do. So, first of all, you have a very valuable transferable relevant skill.  That's the first piece. Then you're now your job is to understand how to communicate, what you can do to the people who, who can hire you. And so just to be very tactical about it, I would sit down and just write down all the stories of what you've done, the times that whether it was a mission and you got people on board and there were all these challenges and you just had to be very resourceful in finding solutions or talk about resources.

Renita Kalhorn:    00:41:57    That's a very valuable skill for the business world. Talk about all the resources you manage, whether it was equipment, whether it was people, whether it was weapons. I had one client who was a Captain who managed basically a town. She was literally the equivalent of a mayor. And so, she was managing all the facilities, all the utilities, all the conflicts. I think what people really need to do is sit down and reflect on all their experience and just write it down as scenarios and one that will help them realize, “wow, I did do a lot.” Plus, they did all of this with all the different cultural aspects, geographic moving, probably weather, there's all these challenges that they overcame that people in the business world don't even have to deal with. So they need to really figure that out for themselves, because what I found is most people don't know their own experience as well as they could, because they're just living it and then they're moving on to the next thing. So I would just create a list of all the situations that you've handled, the results that you produced. And then that's a great thing.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:43:17    Yeah. I think that's a perfect start to that for these people who are either just getting out of the military or have been out for a little bit and I think doing stuff like writing down the times that you maybe you went out on a mission and things didn't go quite as planned, like you said,  your plan is not going to survive the first contact, something is going to go wrong at some point. And what did you do about it? So, to show that you can think outside of the box and adapt to difficult situations that that's certainly valuable. Talk about the people that you've managed, if you were in a leadership role,  you likely had plenty of people reporting to you. Talk about that; how you manage people even on a lower NCO level, you still have a decent number of people who are reporting to you.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:44:15    And at times you may have even been in a position where you had many people. I know, as a Sergeant in the Army, I sometimes had 40 or 50 people that I was responsible for on certain missions where I was in charge of the mission and we'd be out. And we'd have people from our platoon, we'd have civilian contractors, we'd have a bunch of people who would be in this scenario, including local Afghans and things like that, who we were in charge of. So, you keep all of those people in mind and think about what it took to lead that mission and what you needed to do and how that could possibly translate to your civilian career that you're looking for.  This was really great information and, it's really been a pleasure speaking with you. I want to give you a chance to let people know where they can go to find out more about what you do and how to get in touch with you if they're interested in speaking more with you about this type of thing.

Renita Kalhorn:    00:45:28    I think the best place is to find me on LinkedIn. That's where I'm most active. I'm posting daily, talking about leadership, about managing teams, about creating psychological safety.  So, connect with me there, follow me there, engage in some of the posts and, if I can be a support to you or your team feel free to reach out.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:45:55    Yeah, for sure. And I'll have a link to your LinkedIn profile and all your social media profiles and things like that in the show notes. So, people can find it there.  Again, thank you very much for taking the time to share this information with us. I really did enjoy the conversation that we had and hopefully this will help people in their civilian careers as they're transitioning out of the military.

Renita Kalhorn:  Thank you.

Scott DeLuzio: Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website, We're on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @ DriveOnPodcast.


  1. John Strickland on 4 November 2020 at 16:56

    Excellent podcast. I certainly recognized myself in this talk and will listen to it again to learn the changes I need to make and for reinforcement.

    I am now following Retina on LinkedIn.

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