Chris Fussell: Leading Trust-Based, Hybrid or Remote Teams
- 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 the McChrystal Group, an elite advisory services firm that improves the performance of organizations by building 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 an agile and powerful team of teams completely aligned and moving towards the same goal.
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 counter-terrorism.
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 team that made the Special Operations community’s transformation into a successful, agile network possible.
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 in order to create a force that shared information and collaborated cross-functionally, breaking down the silos and tribal culture that previously existed. In his role as Aide-de-Camp, Fussell was responsible for executing this new system on a daily basis. 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 in Iraq. Fussell went on to study Irregular Warfare from the Naval Postgraduate School, earning a Master’s Degree and receiving the Pat Tillman Award for 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, coupled with 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 began his time at McChrystal Group working directly with clients, implementing the system he learned overseas in Fortune-500 companies. He then became Chief Growth Officer, where he identified the need for a dedicated McChrystal Group Leadership Institute. Fussell now runs the Leadership Institute—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 a number of outlets, to include 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 hosts 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 authority 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 your 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 the way their own company communicates and operates.
Conversation with the McChrystal Group: Practical Advice for Leadership During Crisis. A four-star general, Stanley McChrystal is widely credited with revolutionizing warfare by fusing intelligence and operations - leading more than 150,000 troops through a virtual command base. Serving on McChrystal’s senior staff, former U.S. Navy Seal Chris Fussell observed leading through crisis first-hand, leveraging digital platforms to drive effective action across the globe. Together, they now lead the leadership consulting group McChrystal Group and are offering a pre-recorded webinar talk on practical tactics for leading through a crisis – that you can distribute to your audience to watch at their convenience. You can then book a 30-45 minute live, virtual discussion with General McChrystal or Chris Fussell for your group to discuss the material and how they can apply these insights to leadership challenges in their own operating environments.
Leading Through Times of Crisis
Times of crisis require leaders to energize, focus, and equip their teams with practical and actionable guidance on how to lead through crisis. Partner with McChrystal Group subject matter experts to leverage a tailored, remote webinar solution that will provide advice from McChrystal Group leaders with experience in crisis management, the opportunity to reinforce your organizations cultural values, and help for your leaders to navigate their “new normal.”
- Webinar 1: Leading in Crisis - General (ret.) Stan McChrystal reflects on practical leadership tactics in crisis from his experience commanding the US Counter-terrorist forces while facing a failing fight against Al Qaeda in Iraq.
- Webinar 2: Bridging the Organization - How to identify communication gaps and create effective channels and forums.
- Webinar 3: Motivating Remote Teams - How to energize and motivate remote teams by utilizing a strategic combination of language, story-telling, and consistent leadership behaviors.
- Webinar 4: Develop a Prioritized Plan - How to identify and prioritize critical objectives and activities, coordinate with agencies involved, and build robust contingency plans.
- Webinar 5: Pressure-Testing the Plan - How to test the critical assumptions inherent in any plan. This is an essential step before empowering individuals to execute.
- Webinar 6: Leadership for a New World - General (ret.) Stan McChrystal reflects on the requirement for new disciplined processes, an in-depth understanding of how your organization actually functions, and a different approach to leadership as we lose the human dynamics of in-office collaboration
Team of Teams. Organizations of all kinds are struggling to stay afloat in today’s turbulent and rapidly-changing environment. 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 the 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, Fussell takes 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 inspired to change the way their own company communicates and operates.
Themes discussed include:
- Creating a team of teams
- Leading strategically in a complex world
- Developing personal leadership and the importance of humility
- Managing networks of communications
- Building “fusion centers”
“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.”