November 11, 2020

The Talent War: Mike Sarraille and George Randle

In the modern business landscape, the war for talent is more complex than ever, companies need to attract and retain the best talent for their organization to thrive but without the right strategy or mindset, they’re not able to compete–especially in today’s environment with COVID-19. The lack of leadership exposes all of the fault lines and the difference between strong and weak leadership can be the deciding factor of whether or not many companies survive. In the new book, The Talent War, co-authors Mike Sarraille and George Randle explore how US special operations forces assess, select, and develop world-class talent.

In the book, you learn how to adopt a talent mindset as well as how to hire, train, and develop the right people and put them in the best positions to make decisions that benefit any company or organization. In today’s episode, co-authors Mike Sarraille and George Randle share with us why talent has been overlooked, why companies should hire for character, not skill, and how companies can attract top talent to their organization.

And with decades of Navy SEAL special operations and US Army officer experience, these guys know a thing or two about leadership. Enjoy.

Miles Rote: Mike Sarraille and George Randle, co-authors of The Talent War: How Special Operations and Great Organizations Win on Talent. Mike and George, I’m excited you’re here, welcome to the Author Hour podcast.

George Randle: Miles, thank you for having us, excited.

Mike Sarraille: Yeah, appreciate it a lot, very much.

Miles Rote: Yeah, of course. Before we jump into the book, first, tell us a little bit about each of your backgrounds? It sounds like both of you have had quite a bit of experience leading teams in high-stress environments.

Mike Sarraille: I’ll start off, Mike Sarraille, pretty standard career path, enlisted in the Marine Corps, became a recon marine and scout sniper. God bless the Marine Corps–taught me how to lead, sent me back to school to become an officer, but ultimately, I switched over to the Navy SEALs and served as a CO officer until I hit 20 years. Served alongside the two authors of the New York Times bestseller, Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink, and Leif Babin. Then eventually, spent most of my SEAL career at an organization called the Joint Special Operations Command–which is the top tactical level. And just obsessed, like George, very passionate about how you select the right people in the organization and how you build winning teams.

George Randle: I pre-date Mike by a little bit, we don’t get into the number of years that I pre-date him. I was very fortunate to pay my way through school. I enlisted in the Army, got the leadership bug, went on to be an officer, was very fortunate to serve in a number of great places. One of those was Berlin in 89 through 93. Finished up with two years of company command, and then made the transition, as a lot of veterans have, into the corporate world.

I had an interesting career starting out and had no idea that I was going to get into talent acquisition but for the better part of 20 plus years, I now have been in talent acquisition and a talent acquisition executive. You know, it’s just one of those career fields and I didn’t think I’d find anything as much as I liked the Army. But I absolutely loved the hunt and the fight in the war for finding the best talent for companies.

Miles Rote: Yeah, let’s talk about that a little bit. After all of your experiences in the military and leading teams, what inspired you guys to write a book on talent acquisition?

Mike Sarraille: Well, first off, the story about how George and I met. George and I met around two years ago. He reached out to me on LinkedIn, not Grindr. We hit it off right away, we shared a passion for talent, we were both in the military, and naturally, we became close, to the point where George actually married my wife and me.

The Biggest Challenge

Mike Sarraille: We totally nerd out–when most guys are drinking beer, talking about sports, we’re talking about talent acquisition and the fact that this is such a vast area. And even despite the fact that George, who has been a talent acquisition executive, the fact that we still get it wrong. We talk about our errors probably more than our successes and what in particular we missed.

I think at the end of the day, Miles. Actually, the data shows, there is a pool of 800 CEOs in 2019. What is their biggest challenge? And overwhelmingly, our number one challenge is finding, hiring, and retaining the right talent.

We don’t blame business leaders for that. When you’re so busy trying to run a business, focused on developing your technology, or leading sales, you just don’t have the time to build competency. And this is really what we do for a living and the reason we wrote the book is to help these executives have a conversation about creating a hiring system that works for them to find the right leaders and bring them into the organization.

George Randle: The word serendipitous comes to mind a lot, meeting Mike. And there is a part of me that always wanted to write about all the crazy things that happen in the world of talent because you’re living in a world where the product that you have is the one that has a vote in everything that goes on. But you know, there is always so much missing. Then Mike and I met and have that mutual love for talent and assessment.

When you’re associated with Mike, that was one of the things I think we both gravitated towards–we’re both very driven, whatever game we’re playing, whatever thing we’re doing, we’re doing it full-tilt. We both had this idea, we both have so much in our heads, we need to get this down, so people can approach talent in a way that they don’t go through all the trials and tribulations that Mike and I have had to go through.

We were really looking, like Mike said, to figure out how we could get the point across. Talent is the single most important competitive advantage that any company could have and that it’s an ongoing battle. We put our two heads together and have been working on this for two years together and it’s just been a great experience. Tough, but great.

Mike Sarraille: I have to add. We had a main contributor who we consider a brother, his name is Dr. Josh Cotton. Josh Cotton is an IO psychologist, industrial-organizational psychologist, and the reason he was such a good fit–when you get the three of us on a phone it is even more of a nerdfest.

The Navy SEALs hired him out of his doctorate to assess how they assess and select future SEALs. He took what he observed there, which basically, it’s a community of high performers. And he took that to the business world. Right now, he’s the director of talent assessments for Honeywell. If there is an organization that utilizes assessments or wants to do a profile on an individual, this guy’s one of the foremost experts in the nation and I’ll stand by that.

Miles Rote: Wow, yeah, it seems like such an amazing intersection between the need for companies to find talent and it is the greatest need that they have. There are so many different complexities and moving parts when it comes to running a company that, for a CEO, to then be the right person to find talent and understanding even what that looks like can be really difficult. But the intersection of the experience that y’all have with leadership and talent, it can make the difference between life and death.

For you, to be able to provide the insights and take care of that for businesses and CEOs is valuable. Let’s define talent a little bit and what it means to have a talent mindset?

Mike Sarraille: That’s a great question. The reason we focused on the special operations community. I think that’s the best way to start with this answer–is the special operations community.

I think when I make this statement, it’s a fair statement, the business world is fascinated with special operations and how they became one of the most effective, innovative, adaptive, and agile organizations in the world. The funny thing about the special operations community is they don’t hire for industry experience. Not at all. We can’t go to a high school and say, “Hey, we’re recruiting for the Army Special Forces, who here has special operations experience?”

We would literally have zero people in our special operations community. Albeit, they can’t hire for industry experience, so they have become very good at assessing for character. Because at the end of the day, the most important thing is hiring for character, training for skill. You cannot create character where none exists. And I think COVID is a perfect example. A lot of companies realized that they didn’t select people that had the innate attributes and character to deal with crisis and deliver through a challenge.

Now, when you say, what is the definition of a talent mindset, I’m actually taking this directly from the book. This is the core of what makes special operations is that they have one of the foremost talent mindsets in the world. A talent mindset is a deep belief that human capital is the single most important competitive advantage your company can ever have. When a company has the talent mindset, assessing, selecting, and developing the best talent is a top priority.

The Talent Mindset

George Randle: Yeah, you know, that definition is really important to us because we talk about our experience coming together. Mike and I both had been in those situations. It is all about the people. It doesn’t matter what equipment you have on your back, whether you have the latest nods, whether you have the greatest equipment and planes, tanks, fighting vehicles, whatever. It’s the people that make the difference. And when you get into the corporate world, everybody says the talent’s important, everybody says it’s the most important thing. But if you try to marry the actions that would back up that statement, you don’t find them.

It’s that mindset for winning companies that makes the difference, the people that lead their companies, and know it is about talent first, foremost, and always.

Mike Sarraille: It’s funny George, that you bring that up. It’s not when a CEO says, “Of course our company has a talent mindset,” that they’re being duplicitous or they’re lying.

George Randle: Yeah.

Mike Sarraille: Of course, you’re going to say that. You do believe that but are you actually allocating resources to develop that capability within your organization? Again, we empathize with corporate leaders that are dealing with a thousand different fires on a daily basis, and sometimes developing a world-class talent acquisition process and development of your talent just falls low in the priority list.

Miles Rote: Yeah, I think you touch on an important point. So why is it, do you think, that the companies have missed the mark so much on this? Where they do really focus their attention on resumes and industry experience, whereas anything you’re saying now, it’s like, those things really don’t matter as much as talent. Is it that they have too many fires? Is it that they have the wrong definition of talent in their minds? What is it, where companies have really missed the mark on this?

George Randle: I think it’s the easy thing to do. Meaning something that becomes mechanical, anything that you can make mechanical, people tend to default to. You know, it’s very easy to say, “Okay, talent’s the most important thing, let’s list out 15 objective requirements that we can easily see on a resume and we can move forward and we can fill that position and move on.”

It takes a concerted effort to sit down and think through what you need, and it’s time-consuming. It requires hard work, it requires teamwork, and a lot of people just aren’t prepared to do that.

Mike Sarraille: The other thing too, Miles, is who is the one behind that resume? Who is the one leading that regularly? What we talk about in the book, and this seems harsh at face-value, but when George and I have been raised in the military and often in war-time environments, sometimes harsh advice is the best advice you can get.

In the book, we talk about it is critical that your A players be in charge of hiring and assessing talent. Because A players actually select people that are better than them. They have the humility to say “Hey, you know what? That young man or woman, they have the potential to be better than I am. And they’re going to push me to elevate my game on a daily basis.”

A players recognize A level talent. And let’s be honest, this isn’t a hit on modern HR departments, but HR, in fact, has not been structured to be successful. You look at simple data, CHROs, are statistically paid three times less than their C-suite counterparts. When that’s the fact, what the company is really saying is, your role is not as important as the COO or the CFO.

What George and I talk about is, if that was the approach that special operations took, then we’d have mediocre talent. We actually put our best leaders–and it’s hard to take somebody off the battlefield, a hardcore special forces leader wants to be on the battlefield, a SEAL wants to be on the battlefield. But we have to look at our great leaders and say hey, “We’re taking you off the battlefield because we need you to select the next generation of talent.”

CHROs are actually, we could argue, the most strategically important position next to the CEO. It’s the gatekeeper of talent into that organization.

George Randle: Mike and I have looked at that and it’s one of those ‘aha’ moments. And then you ask, “Why is that the case?” Most companies are going to treat financial capital as the most important thing. And they’re going to view that so much more importantly than their human capital but it’s your human capital that determines the financial capital.

Having those the wrong way around is very difficult. One of the great things, since Mike and I come from the backgrounds of the military, who we pick had to have our back. They had to be A players–you do not want to go into the environments that we’ve been in if you don’t have A players. You are absolutely reliant on the people to your left, your right, your front, your rear. And we’re trying to bring that mindset to corporate America that those hires, each one of them counts.

Miles Rote: Yes, you know, as far as hiring for that, it can be hard. Especially if they haven’t been looking for these things before or if they haven’t read something like your book where it talks so much about talent. Let’s provide our listeners with a little bit of actionable advice with this. You talked about hiring for character and training for skill. What does that look like as far as actually hiring someone for their character and then teaching them the skills?

A Strong Leadership Foundation

Mike Sarraille: You can’t just jump into the hiring process. Actually, you have to take a step back, and believe it or not, you have to have a rock-solid leadership foundation within your company before you can start bringing in high-level talent. Because I’m going to tell you, A-level talent will not put up with bad leadership.

Before you create a world-class talent acquisition process, you actually have to make sure that you’ve got a world-class leadership foundation within your company, that’s step one. The next is really a composition. I’d love to say there’s a prescriptive way of hiring but it’s going to be different for every industry, it’s going to be different for every company.

How Army Special Forces selects their soldiers into their community is different from how SEALs select future SEALs into their community. Really, you have to have a conversation and that conversation has to revolve around, “What are we looking for at every level of our organization? What makes a great C-suite leader?”

Next level down, what makes a great VP of operations, and a great VP of operations is going to be drastically different from a great VP of supply chain management. Each role within your company shows you the massive amount of work that goes into creating a world-class talent acquisition process.

You have to create a talent profile. You have to look at what makes your exceptional talent exceptional and contrast that to what makes a bad performer in that same role. As you identify the talent profile for every role and level within your organization, you now start to understand what you’re looking for.

George Randle: Yeah, you know, Mike’s got it right, it’s about defining success in that role. Most people are looking for objective requirements and they list out, “Okay, you have to have five years of this experience, they have to have worked in this industry.” They’re putting weight on the wrong things, Mike and I go into this, each service has their own general things that they’re looking for but we came up with nine foundational attributes that people should be looking for on top of what defined success for that role.

We go into drive, resiliency, adaptability, humility, integrity, effective intelligence — meaning, intelligence in the situation where you could immediately apply it to the situations. Team ability, curiosity, and emotional strength. I almost challenge anybody listening to this, you’ll not find one of those things in any job description if you go into any job port.

But those are the things that make somebody successful in their role. Now, are you going to need all those attributes, absolutely not. To Mike’s point, you have to determine once you get down to each position, what does the top performer look like, what did your previous best performer look like, and then more importantly, how do you have a feedback loop after you hired to know that you’ve done it right and where you should improve? Where you should adjust. Where you should course-correct.

Mike Sarraille: That feedback loop is what the military calls the ‘after-action process’. After a young soldier makes it into the special forces, special forces tracks them in this performance throughout his career. Now, let’s say that special forces soldier does something unethical or a Navy SEAL does something unethical, they go back to the process and say, what did we miss?

That after-action process is how you improve, in the military again, we call it the ‘assessment selection process’, the business world calls it the hiring process. With special operations, this has been five decades of evolution of what they’re looking for, what they were looking for in a Vietnam special operations soldier is very different from what they look for in a special operations soldier today.

They are drastically different. Some things are still common, but you know, our special operations soldiers not only have to be competent at war, but you can find them in a state department office in Pakistan, liaising with foreign nationals or government officials. And then the feedback loop, if you don’t have it, you’re wasting your time. That’s the process through which you improve, you learn, and evolve your hiring process.

The Feedback Loop

Miles Rote: How consistently when you work with different companies or organizations do you find that they have that feedback loop implemented? I ask that question because of all the places I have worked, it’s been so rare when something like that has been in place. And you talk about how important it is, how often do you see that in companies?

George Randle: It is very, very, very rare but you know we had the opportunity to interview Tracy Keogh, the CHRO of Hewlett-Packard. And she is one of the people that really emphasizes the importance of the feedback loop–where they track people and they are constantly trying to improve that feedback loop. But it is a rarity amongst companies. They look at somebody who has not done well or somebody that has done well and that never comes back to the actual hiring process.

It just sticks in the performance evaluation system and that’s as far as it goes. So, a talent acquisition team rarely, if ever understands. They will hear about somebody knocking it out of the park, but it won’t be attributed to how that process went with that individual recruiter, that hiring manager, and that hiring panel. It’s very rare.

Mike Sarraille: The cost of getting this wrong, Miles, is what sinks companies. If you don’t have a feedback loop, you just sort of shrug your shoulders and move onto the next hire.

Attrition, attrition, and employee disengagement are so costly to companies and they don’t even know it. Why? Because it is hard to identify. I saw an estimate of the cost of attrition, and one-third could be attributed to the training of that individual. One you had to find that individual and pay for the interview process. But two-thirds of the cost of attrition are the indirect costs that you can’t see. Did that person poison the culture? Did they impact your sales?

Because of that, we have seen estimates that, at the most senior levels, a senior executive can cost the organization as much as 15 times their salary. Or as little as two times their salary. Wherever you fall within, that range that can be very costly, and that can be bleeding millions if not billions for certain organizations.

George Randle: You know Miles, there was something really crazy, and when people hear it, you know they listen to Mike and I. Do you know that most recruiting, staffing, talent acquisition teams, they’re evaluated by how quickly they fill and how cheaply they do it? They are measured on time and cost per hire. Because of the lack of a feedback loop, they are measured on the quality of the hire and the impact that hire makes on the company. That is part of the talent mindset if you are measuring the wrong things, to begin with.

Now, don’t get me wrong. You need to look at the efficiency of all of your processes across the company, absolutely. But those can’t be the key performance indicators, the KPIs of your talent acquisition team. It has to be quality. If you are measuring for quality and the impact of top talent, then it is just mechanics. It is just an overhead cost.

Miles Rote: Yeah if anything, it sounds like instead of measuring for quality they are measuring for convenience. And if you were to focus on nutrition, what is best for your body, it wouldn’t necessarily be going to the convenience store because it’s the quickest and the easiest thing to do. Obviously, it would be terrible advice to do that so you’re right, it is really surprising that they’re valued on that. That’s the case.

George Randle: It is funny that you bring that up because Mike and I have talked about that. You know most hiring plans are like going to the grocery store hungry. They end up with a lot of things that look like food and that you think is going to be good for you and turns out to be the opposite of that. Because you didn’t plan for what success looks like in the first place.

Mike Sarraille: Often, and George refers to this as a lot of companies get, what we call a ‘butts in seats mentality.’ Hurry up and hire the next person. There is a reactive approach to hiring, which will cost your company a lot of money. It is not an order taking service. We run a company called EF Overwatch, which is an executive search firm and talent advisory. And if a client comes to us and says, “You know, I need a critical hire and I need it now,” we’re going to have to pass because the mindset is already off.

Finding talent is not a quick venture. It is a strategic long-term decision and sometimes you have to wait to find the right leader to put into certain roles. Or, if you’re really that good, if you are leaning-forward as a company, you engage in opportunistic hire. If you find somebody that is just exceptional, even though you don’t have an open role, guess what? Hire them, create a role, that person will bring value and it will work itself out. They will eventually either climb within the organization or bring value in a different way.

Miles Rote: What a different way of orienting towards hiring, just by that single thing alone. I think no company that I have ever worked for has taken on something like that or taken that perspective. One thing that I think is really important that you brought up, Mike, a little bit earlier is bringing someone into your culture or your tribe that isn’t the right fit and then them poisoning that and how much that can negatively affect the business itself.

So, what about being a culture fit, how important is that, or is that really just a buzzword that’s being thrown around these days?

Hire for Character

George Randle: I generally think it’s a buzzword. Do they fit within the team? Do they fit that success profile is first and foremost? Now, I know there’s a certain question you’re going to ask, “Hey, is this person going to desire and thrive in this particular environment?” That’s as far as I would go from the fit–but do they align with our culture? I don’t know that there is anything that can be more nebulous when you are looking for a talent, you know?

“Well, I think they fit really well. Yeah, I can have a beer with so and so.” That is not drive. That is not integrity. That is not adaptability. That’s not team ability. That is a personality trait. It is not a characteristic and that’s the key to talent is hiring for character and training for skill. Now Mike and I make a point in the book. If you’ve got skill and character, then you’ve got a winning combination. So, we’re not telling you to ignore skill completely but when you can hire both absolutely do.

But in the absence of that, don’t go for the culture. You go for the attributes, you go for the character because when times get tough, when things get difficult, when you have market pressures, when you have time pressures, when you have product services pressures, it is the character of the people that make the difference and they deliver every time where others cannot.

Mike Sarraille: You know culture fit, it is almost a buzzword now. Because I think people use it as an easy button, so to speak. It is basically through my bias, and I am interpreting this as, “Oh you want somebody that thinks like you.” When George talks about culture fit and it goes back to attributes, really, what I need to know is do their values align with ours? I don’t want somebody that thinks like me. I don’t, and Dr. Cotton talks a lot about how likeability is one of the worst things to hire for.

Look at it this way, people think well, it’s the SEAL teams, did I like all the SEALs I worked with? Absolutely not, I didn’t even want to have a beer with some of the SEALs that I worked with. But certain SEALs that I didn’t like when you put him and me on the battlefield, we were highly effective because one, we’re professional. I call this a healthy disrespect for authority. What makes a lot of special operation soldiers so good is that we promote a healthy disrespect for authority. We want to be challenged in our thought process and that is what really makes the dynamic so great.

Again, this goes back to attributes and we beat this to death in the book. We interviewed some amazing military leaders and CHRO. And the most common thing is character, we can’t be creative, where none exists. It is only at one’s limits, one’s thresholds, that true character reveals itself. And at that threshold, skills degrade, and that is why character is so important.

Again, we’ve seen it during COVID. I know a lot of business leaders are going to pick this up because COVID has lifted up the kimono. They’ve seen that we do not select people that have character. We also do leadership consulting on the Echelon front side and a lot of leaders have contacted us saying, “We don’t know what to do,” or people are panicking, and they don’t know how to lead during a crisis. There is a deficit in leadership.

There has been for a long time, it’s just that we had the largest economic boom in US history and now that we are back to crisis, people are picking away that pain and they are seeing the cracks in the structure.

George Randle: Now they are asking questions. Companies are actually coming up with little videos, little vignettes, and all kinds of instruction about how to lead remotely. Leadership is leadership. Character is character. Imagine if you are just hiring off the resume and you’re hiring all of the objective requirements and then COVID hits. That is why you’re in the spot. If you hired leaders with the character attributes that we talk about in the book, you don’t worry when COVID comes.

You actually say, “Okay that’s my time to take the market share, that’s my time to jump ahead, that’s my time to thrive. Hey, I have been waiting for this, I have been waiting for this moment, we’re going to dig in, we’re going to grind. We’re going to make it through.” And you see the difference in an environment just like this with COVID where you have talent. It’s all the difference in the world.

Miles Rote: Yeah, it is amazing working with a company where the leadership is wonderful and when something like this hits, you can see the difference between a company that has strong leadership and who doesn’t. The fault lines are all exposed. I think you bring up such a good point when it comes to hiring and not hiring for likeability. We have a cognitive bias as human beings to want to hire someone who is like us. That is a natural thing for us.

So, what you are prescribing is essential to protect us from making these mistakes that are really just hardwired in us to try to get people around us that are just like us that really isn’t going to serve the company at all.

George Randle: Yeah, we talk about a number of those biases. The one you just mentioned is kind of the mini-me-bias and it comes with a lot of forms, “Oh they went to the same school, oh they were in the same company. Hey, yeah, I know they’re going to thrive here.” Or, “Yeah, I need to hire this person.”

You’ve got to be looking at the attributes time and time and time again because, also, one of the fallacies about hiring for experience is just because somebody is in your industry, just because they have the experience, they were in a completely different environment. If you haven’t defined success for your own environment and you are hiring off objective requirements, you’re going to miss out.

Mike Sarraille: You know what Miles? A good example of that, and this is a very baseline level, but when I enlisted in the Marine Corps, I came from the Bay area, and I had never fired a weapon before in my life. Which means I didn’t come in with any bad habits. But when they had people raise their hand to go to sniper school, they didn’t say, “Hey, well actually, you have to be from Texas or Kentucky or pretend to have significant firearms experience.”

No, actually, the Marine Corps says, “Great, you have no rifle experience?” I scored expert my first time on the range because I listened to what the Marine Corps taught me. But again, skills can be taught, and what you are looking for is people with high learning agility. They have curiosity and if there is drive, they will learn the skills at any trade in a matter of months, if not a year or two.

Skills Can Be Taught

Miles Rote: I think that is such a good example. I know I have talked to you guys both about this already but to listeners, I was also a Marine and also had never fired a weapon before being on the range and shooting the M16. Then I also shot expert, and it’s that same thing. It is such a good way of demonstrating the idea that you can teach these skills. In fact, it is much easier to teach skills than it is to try to unlearn bad habits. I think that your book is so important to really address these things.

You have really done such a good job already on this podcast, building the foundation about why talent is so important. So how do companies now actually attract that top talent? Not only going out and looking for it but being a company or a business that a leader would actually want to join, what do they have to do to really distinguish themselves?

George Randle: Well you know, when we talk about the talent mindset and when you grow and encourage that talent mindset in your company, your leaders are your best talent scouts, first and foremost. A players like to work with A players but they also attract A players as well. You need to make sure that your talent brand is about leadership, it’s about talent. Everything from your employee value proposition to everything that you put out in the marketplace.

As a matter of fact, I am going to digress a little bit. You know companies spend so much money on advertising their product or advertising their service, what they do, or how they’re the market leader. How many companies do you know that say, “We’re number one in town.” Can you imagine marketing that? Well, it starts with your people first and foremost.

I am surrounded by you and the podcast and people here in this room. When somebody says they’re a Marine, that’s a brand. They know it’s not what they do. It’s who they are and that’s what your company has in common. It is much like the Marine Corps. If you’re from one of the military academies or, use the example, if somebody says, “I am from IBM,” or “I am from McKenzie,” that has a brand to it. And that’s what you have to develop through your leaders, putting it out in the market with your brand and your materials. It is not just about your product. It is about your people. Market that.

Mike Sarraille: Miles, I joined the Marine Corps not because I came from a military lineage, not because I read some books and was fascinated, I met an individual and his name was Staff Sergeant Ben. He was a force recon operating, I won’t use his last name. When I met him at the age of 17, I could not have been more impressed. He’s humbly confident, articulate, the way he stood with pride, the way he was respectful towards people.

As a 17-year old, I said, “I want to be that guy,” and it was the Marine Corps. Now George is absolutely right, the best litmus test for any company is how your alumni introduce themselves. I still introduce myself as a Marine and a SEAL and I no longer serve in those organizations.

Now the talent mindset has to start at the top and it has to filter down to all levels. Everyone is a representative of your company and everyone has to understand that they’re a talent scout.

Right down to the frontline employee, you have to reinforce to them that you are always looking for your future peers within that company and unfortunately, there is no quick fix here. I’d love to tell you there is. This is a decade long fight and if you don’t start now, your company may not be around in a decade to make any progress towards that overall objective of becoming a talent magnet.

George Randle: You know what is interesting, one more thing, and Mike’s got it exactly right, it is a long, long battle. And it’s continuous but it is like investing your money. You know it exponentially grows. That talent mindset, once you get started, it gains momentum and it keeps going and it keeps going and it gives you outsize returns later on for all of the investment, all the sweat equity that you put in the very beginning, and continue through the process.

Miles Rote: It’s so true, these things have such a compounding effect in so many different ways. And thank you guys so much for writing this book. I think it is going to benefit so many companies, and then, of course, the employees within the companies. So, congrats on writing the book because I know that’s a feat in itself. If readers can take away just one or two things from your book, what would it be?

Mike Sarraille: You have to develop a talent mindset. It has got to be a foundational belief, it’s got to be the foundational core of your company that the greatest competitive advantage any organization can ever gain is growth of the people. Not it’s technology, not its things, not its capital, it’s people.

George Randle: Services technology, all of those from a global marketplace, will change and it will change on a dime. And the only thing that gets you through everything is talent. It is the talent mindset. You never settle for mediocrity and you always hire for character every time, all the time, always. And then on top of that, always check how you’re doing. Get that feedback loop in place.

That is the great part about special operations. That continuous feedback loop keeps them getting better and better and better every year. They are always wanting to find a way to do it better and get better people. It is what makes them special.

Mike Sarraille: And lastly, this isn’t easy. There is no manual and you are going to make mistakes. Don’t be too hard on yourself and that is part of the learning process and we’ve all been duped. Somebody interviews extremely well, they dazzle us because, maybe they are tall, dark, and handsome, and when they get in the job, they just don’t even perform. That is part of the process, but as George says, if you have that feedback loop, you learn from that and you learn through your failures more than you do your successes.

Miles Rote: Right and you all make such a good point that things are changing so much. Not only with exponential technology but I think the pandemic is a great example of that. We never know what is coming around the corner. So instead of trying to plan for how things are, you hire for talent, and then no matter what, they will be prepared for anything that comes. So, Mike and George, this has been such a pleasure and I am so excited for people to check out the book.

Everyone, the book is called, The Talent War: How Special Operations and Great Organizations Win on Talent, and you can find it on Amazon. Fellows, besides checking out the book, where can people find you?

Mike Sarraille: They can find us one at and then also for the executive search firm, which is truly a different source of exceptional leaders, if that is what you need in your company or the people for you that is EF Overwatch–so and we are here to help business leaders. That’s what we do. We help take some of the burdens off their plate.

George Randle: Yeah, I mean the idea is we’re here when it comes to consulting to help you learn the lessons that we’ve learned and included them in the action right away to improve your company. If you need exceptional leaders, we have a great way of finding them and making sure that the people that you get are big difference makers immediately.

Miles Rote: Mike and George, thank you so much, and thank you so much for your service as well.

George Randle: Thanks, we appreciate you having us on.

Mike Sarraille: Thanks Miles. Horah.