Chris Fussell: Uniting Teams Around One Mission
- Former Aide-de-Camp to Gen. Stanley McChrystal during his final year leading JSOC
- Former member of Seal Team Six (Naval Special Warfare Development Group)
- Senior Fellow for National Security at bi-partisan think tank New America
- Lays out a blueprint for breaking down silos and promoting cross-team collaboration
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Chris Fussell is a former Navy SEAL Officer and President of McChrystal Group, an advisory services firm that improves the performance of organizations by building highly adaptable teams capable of solving the world’s most complex leadership challenges. In addition to being a bestselling author, he regularly does media interviews, gives keynote speeches, and presents to business leaders at roundtables and panels. Chris is the author of the Wall Street Journal best-selling book One Mission: How Leaders Build a Team of Teams, a follow-up to the New York Times best-seller, Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement in a Complex World, which he co-authored alongside General McChrystal. One Mission aims to equip organizations with a game plan for building agile and powerful team of teams that are completely aligned and moving toward the same goals.
Special Operations background. Fussell was commissioned as a Naval Officer in 1997 and spent the next 15 years on US Navy SEAL Teams, leading SEAL elements in combat zones around the globe. From war-torn Kosovo to counter-terrorism operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to highly specialized efforts in the troubled areas of the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa, Fussell experienced the modern evolution of the US military’s Special Operations community from a siloed bureaucracy struggling to keep up in a turbulent environment into an agile and effective network for counterterrorism.
In his career as a Navy SEAL, Fussell served first on SEAL Teams Two and Eight, then in the Naval Special Warfare Development Group. During his time on the SEAL teams, he conducted and planned hundreds of operations against high-value targets all around the world. He was then selected to serve as Aide-de-Camp to then-Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal during General McChrystal’s final year commanding the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), where they served a year together in Iraq. As McChrystal’s right-hand man, Fussell was an integral part of a team that made possible the Special Operations community’s transformation into a successful, agile network.
To combat Al Qaeda in Iraq, McChrystal, and his team set out to create a flexible organization that could adapt to threats on the ground in real-time, much like its highly networked foe. McChrystal’s approach was to blend operations with intelligence to create a force that shared information and collaborated cross-functionally, breaking down the silos and tribal culture that previously existed. As Aide-de-Camp, Fussell was responsible for executing this new system daily. He set up and ran Special Operations’ new communication and leadership systems, such as the daily Operations & Intelligence meeting that involved thousands of participants sharing information and experiences in real-time, across the world.
Network theory expert. In running JSOC’s new communication forums, Fussell developed his expertise in building fusion cells and knowledge centers. After returning from Iraq, he wanted to explore the academic angle underpinning this shift he had witnessed in warfare in order to understand the theory behind what he and his colleagues had done in practice. Fussell went on to study Irregular Warfare from the Naval Postgraduate School, earning a master's degree and receiving the Pat Tillman Award as the highest peer-rated Special Operations Officer in the program. His thesis work expanded upon his JSOC experience with fusion cells, focusing on the interagency collaboration and intelligence sharing processes that drove effective, cross-silo collaboration during the peak of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Advising the private sector. In 2012, Fussell left the Naval Special Warfare Development Group in order to join McChrystal Group, an advisory services firm founded by General McChrystal. Fussell’s experiences as General McChrystal’s right-hand man at JSOC, his intensive academic study of network theory and practical experiences running fusion cells made him the ideal fit for driving the company’s efforts to bring their operating model to clients. Fussell now leads McChrystal Group — leveraging a staff of former special operators, military officers, business practitioners, and leadership development experts — to train leaders and teams to adapt and succeed in complex operating environments.
Non-profits and boards. Outside of McChrystal Group, Fussell serves as a Senior Fellow for National Security at New America, a Washington, D.C.-based non-partisan think tank dedicated to understanding the next generation of challenges facing the United States. He is also actively involved in several non-profits dedicated to helping veterans and their families and holds a seat on the Board of Directors for the Navy SEAL Foundation. Fussell is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Media appearances, articles, and podcast. Fussell has been interviewed by several of the most prestigious outlets and publications, including MSNBC, FastCompany, and Big Think. He also has contributed articles to Harvard Business Review, Fortune Magazine’s Leadership Network, The Atlantic, and The New York Times, and hosted the “No Turning Back” podcast alongside General McChrystal — exploring the future of leadership and teams with the world’s most consequential leaders.
Engaging speaker. Fussell’s blend of Special Operations experience, deep academic study, and private sector consulting make him a unique speaker and leading voice on building world-class communication systems that foster cross-functional collaboration in any organization.
In an engaging speech that can be tailored to all levels of an organization, Fussell weaves his disparate experiences together and presents a compelling tale for audiences, laying out the blueprint for how any company can break down silos and promote cross-functional collaboration. His experiences setting up cutting-edge communication systems in both the military and in large, globalized private-sector companies demonstrate the universality of the lessons he learned.
Organizations of all kinds all around the world are struggling to stay afloat in today’s turbulent environment, and Fussell’s approach holds the key to success. Listeners will be inspired to change how their company communicates and operates.
The Future of Work: Uniting Teams Around One Mission. In an engaging speech that can be tailored to all levels of an organization, Chris Fussell weaves together incredible stories from his time as a Navy SEAL and his tenure as one of the top executives of McChrystal Group to present a compelling blueprint for companies looking to break down silos, promote cross-functional collaboration, and build an unstoppable company culture rooted in teamwork.
The New York Times best-selling author of the book, Team of Teams® and One Mission, Fussell invites audiences behind the scenes to share how he set up cutting-edge communication systems in the military and in large private-sector companies alike. Grasping the universality of Fussell’s lessons and inspired by his one-of-a-kind stories, listeners will be empowered to change how their own company communicates and operates.
The main themes discussed in his presentation include:
- Building a single aligning narrative, no matter how complicated your org chart
- Defining decision spaces to improve team autonomy and speed
- Creating liaison networks to advance collaboration
- Network analysis for improved information flow
Organizations can create a hybrid, teaming-based model if they communicate with greater speed, inclusion, and transparency – and adjust their culture and leadership behavior in conjunction with these process changes. Fussell’s actionable steps for defining and reinforcing organizational cultural values and uniting teams around One Mission are pivotal in helping leaders align their people to deliver their strategic business objectives, no matter the organization and industry.
Building “Fusion Cell” Integration Teams. In this discussion-based, interactive whiteboard session, Fussell shares his experience building multidisciplinary fusion cells to accelerate time to value and deliver business transformation. A Fusion Cell is a collaborative, cross-functional team intended to rapidly acquire, interpret, and distribute actionable information to organizations, units, or personnel closest to the problem. They are meant to turn raw data into effective action as quickly as possible. Fussell shares how by combining personnel, resources, and information from multiple agencies, the Fusion Cell can achieve far more, at far greater speeds, than its member organizations could accomplish alone. In this highly engaging session, Fussell shares how the military leveraged fusion cells to beat the al-Qaeda network and how organizations can adopt a similar approach for product launches, digital transformation, and crisis response.
Leading Through Times of Crisis. Times of crisis require leaders to energize, focus, and equip their teams with practical guidance on how to lead through crisis. In this talk, Fussell, president at McChrystal Group, former U.S. Navy SEAL officer, and team leadership subject matter expert shares tailored strategies that can be leveraged to navigate organizations during challenging times successfully. Fussell’s actionable steps for defining and reinforcing organizational cultural values and uniting teams around a shared purpose are pivotal in helping leaders align their people to their strategic business objectives.
“Chris’s keynote was very entertaining and I was very impressed with his transparency. Throughout his presentation he highlighted the importance of being able to adapt to many different situations and environments and gave advice that I found to be very much applicable to my personal work and how I can structure my project teams to be more agile. He gave a lot of valuable information on how complex organizations can improve reaction by improving communication and empowering the front line teams to make decisions with the best information.Chris perfectly explained how cultural changes can be used to increase communication in the workplace. Overall a wonderful speaker and a very informative presentation!”
“I am extremely pleased with our speaker, Chris Fussell. He exceeded my expectations for a relevant and captivating talk. Our participants rated Chris extremely high--in fact his overall evaluation was one of the highest scores a speaker has received in the 5 years of this annual meeting.”
“Everything went terrific! Chris did a fantastic job and related well with the physician group. I would definitely recommend Chris as a speaker for any organization who works with teams.”
“Chris was fantastic, and the response from attendees has been only (and enthusiastically) positive. Please pass along my sincere appreciation to him for such a great keynote session. I couldn’t have asked for better…truly. It was an honor to have him there and he brought great value to our event.”