Life and Leadership Lessons I Learned In The Military: “When communicating with your team, the “why” is infinitely more important than the “how.”” with Josh Glover and Marco Dehry
When communicating with your team, the “why” is infinitely more important than the “how.” On the battlefield, and in a startup, change is the norm. The best way to ensure that an organization is adaptable and resilient during times of rapid change is to rally around the Big Vision and empower the team to change tactics and strategies as the situation evolves.
As a part of my series about “Life and Leadership Lessons Learned In The Military”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Josh Glover, Major United States Marine Corps (retired) from nCino, Inc. Josh Glover currently serves as Chief Revenue Officer for nCino, the worldwide leader in cloud banking. Josh joined nCino in 2012 shortly after the firm was founded. Before joining nCino, Josh served for ten years as a Marine Corps Special Operations and Infantry Officer. He led Marines during four combat deployments, including three deployments to Iraq with 5th Marine Regiment and one deployment to Afghanistan with MARSOC ‘s 2d Marine Raider Battalion. He was medically retired as a Major in 2011 due to wounds from his fourth deployment. Josh’s personal military awards include the Silver Star Medal, the Bronze Star Medal for valor, three Purple Heart Medals and the Major General Edwin B. Wheeler Infantry Excellence Award. Josh is a 2001 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and received an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Born and raised in Texas, he now lives in Wilmington, North Carolina with his wife and three children.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
I was raised in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas. While growing up, most of my energy went to sports and to academics. As a high school sophomore, I read a book called Fields of Fire by Jim Webb, a legendary Marine officer, Vietnam veteran, and public servant. Webb’s story about Marines in combat drove my desire to be a Marine officer. After high school I was fortunate to be granted admission to the United States Naval Academy — that was my route to the service.
And what are you doing today? Can you share a story that exemplifies the unique work that you are doing?
I am the Chief Revenue Officer at nCino, the worldwide leader in cloud-banking. In this role I’m lucky to lead a rapidly growing team that tells the nCino story to financial institutions around the world.
Our Bank Operating System improves employee efficiency while enhancing the customer experience for onboarding, loans and deposits. We currently work with over 250 financial institutions and my job is to ensure we are strategically partnering with these clients and prospective clients to provide the tools they need to serve their customers well and to compete in an increasingly competitive market.
An example of this would be our recent partnership with Navy Federal Credit Union; they recently adopted nCino’s Bank Operating System to increase the quality of service they provide to their members who own businesses. This financial institution is near and dear to me — I joined Navy Federal when I was a freshman at the Naval Academy (just 22 short years ago!) and during my service I saw first hand the tremendous commitment that Navy Federal demonstrates while providing first-class service to its members. As an entrepreneur with a military background, I’m incredibly proud to know that nCino is helping NFCU onboard and serve its business members well as they seek capital to facilitate the growth of their businesses.
Can you tell us a bit about your military background?
Following high school, I spent 4 years as a student at the US Naval Academy and graduated from the Academy in May 2001. Upon graduation I was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps.
After completing my initial officer training and the Infantry Officer Course in Quantico, Virginia, I joined 1st Battalion, 5th Marines (1/5) at Camp Pendleton, CA. During my tour with 1/5, I had the opportunity to lead Marines in combat during three deployments to Iraq. In 2003 I served as the 1st Platoon Commander in Company C during the invasion of Iraq. In 2004 I served as a Mobile Assault Platoon Commander during counterinsurgency operations in Al Anbar Province and during the first battle of Fallujah. In 2005 I served as the Executive Officer of Company A in Ar Ramadi.
As a Captain, I was assigned to Marine Barracks Washington DC from 2005 to 2008. During this tour I served as the commander of the United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon and also spent a year on the Barracks’ headquarters staff.
In 2008 I completed Selection and Assessment for United States Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command. After joining 2d Marine Special Operations Battalion at Camp Lejeune, NC, I served as a Team Commander in 2d Marine Raider Battalion. After being wounded during my team’s deployment to Afghanistan, I was medically retired as a Major in 2011.
Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “take away” did you learn from that story?
I saw our Marines, sailors, and soldiers do some amazing things, but one story illustrates the kind of selfless act I was blessed to witness as a leader of Marines in combat.
In April 2004, during the first battle of Fallujah, my infantry platoon had an extremely challenging day while recovering a downed helicopter south of the city of Fallujah. During a series of engagements, approximately 25% of my platoon was wounded and one Marine was killed. At the end of that day, we finally returned to our firebase to reload our ammunition and refit our damaged equipment before returning to the fight in the city.
While my platoon was leaving the firebase, I noticed one Marine moving toward our rear vehicle on crutches. Closer inspection revealed that this was a member of my platoon who had been medically evacuated earlier that day due to significant shrapnel injuries. Though the doctors had told him that he needed to stay back and heal for several weeks, my Marine was trying to sneak back into the platoon! He told me that though he was “banged up”, he belonged with the platoon. “Sir, they need me. I’m hurt but there’s still lots I can do to help.”
That Marine — named Stephen — had raised his hand to join our country’s all volunteer force. Fallujah wasn’t his first deployment; the prior year he had seen heavy combat in Baghdad during the initial invasion of Iraq. And he had sustained injuries serious enough to easily justify a return to the States.
By most people’s definition, Stephen had done “enough” during his time in the service. But, despite his injuries, Stephen saw his brothers and buddies returning to the fight, and he was going to do everything possible to be by their shoulders when they got there.
That kind of selfless act is what made the opportunity I was given as a young officer — the opportunity to lead young Americans in combat — an honor I’ll never live up to.
I’m interested in fleshing out what a hero is. Did you experience or hear about a story of heroism, during your military experience? Can you share that story with us? Feel free to be as elaborate as you’d like.
Doug Zembiec was a good friend and a mentor. We first met on the battlefield in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004. Doug already had a distinguished career in Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance and infantry before the war, but his leadership during the first battle of Fallujah was legendary. He led with passion, he led from the front, and he demonstrated a deep and unflinching commitment to his Marines. His energy and positivity were infectious — upon Doug’s entry to a conversation or room you could literally feel the tone change for the better. After that deployment, he continued to go in harm’s way, and he continued that trend of aggressive, committed leadership. Even though we weren’t in the same unit, Doug continued to support my growth and development as a leader.
Doug died in combat at the age of 34 on May 11th 2007 during a subsequent deployment to Iraq.
My relationship with Doug left an indelible mark on my life. Since he passed, I’ve encountered numerous other Marines who recount receiving similar mentorship from Doug. It’s been amazing to realize how much time and energy he invested in supporting and developing future leaders in the Marine Corps. That legacy remains; Doug left a long shadow.
Doug was incredibly brave in battle; I will not try to recount all of the stories because there are too many and I could not hope to do his valor justice. Beyond that battlefield bravery, Doug is a hero because he was completely and unflinchingly committed to something bigger than himself. He demonstrated that commitment by dedicating himself to his training, by investing in a future generation of leadership, by never asking his men to do something he wasn’t willing to do personally, and by repeatedly risking his own safety to protect a cause (and people) he was committed to.
Based on that story, how would you define what a “hero” is? Can you explain?
Just like Doug, a hero is someone who is willing to make significant sacrifices for something bigger than themselves.
Does a person need to be facing a life and death situation to do something heroic or to be called a hero?
We do get many incredible examples of heroism on the battlefield, but heroism doesn’t require a life or death situation. A hero can be defined by their willingness to take professional risk, or make personal sacrifice, or by other demonstrations of commitment to their cause or ideals.
Based on your military experience, can you share with our readers 5 Leadership or Life Lessons that you learned from your experience”? (Please share a story or example for each.)
· The more fluid the situation, the more important it is that a team can demonstrate Brilliance in the Basics. There is simply no way for a combat unit to prepare for every possible situation they may encounter in a gunfight or on the battlefield; combat is too chaotic and unpredictable. However, regardless of the situation they are in, the team must be able to shoot accurately. They must be able to coordinate team and individual movement. They must be able to communicate with each other, with adjacent units, and with higher command. And they must be ready to render aid to a wounded person. The best combat units are excellent at the basics — shoot, move, communicate, medicate — and empower team members with the flexibility to adapt to the situation as needed while they execute those basics. While our software company’s employees have much different challenges, our onboarding and enablement should ensure that we quickly and effectively imbue new team members with the fundamental skills they need to succeed — and then we empower them to make decisions and trust their judgment so they can adapt to new and unforeseen challenges.
· Look for work. The best team members show up every day and actively seek out opportunities to make their team and organization better, even if those opportunities are outside of their job description or “swim lane.”
· When communicating with your team, the “why” is infinitely more important than the “how.” On the battlefield, and in a startup, change is the norm. The best way to ensure that an organization is adaptable and resilient during times of rapid change is to rally around the Big Vision and empower the team to change tactics and strategies as the situation evolves.
· Lead from the front. People will hear what you say, but they’ll remember what you do. Your willingness to work hard and uphold the values of your organization is what truly counts.
· A leader is defined by their legacy. You won’t know what mark you left on a unit until after you leave. Did you train your replacement? Does the unit have a cohesive and abiding culture? Are people doing the right thing because they’re the right thing, or because someone is watching over their shoulder? Leadership depth, continued success, strong culture, expectations for excellence — those are the marks a leader leaves on their organization.
Do you think your military helped prepare you for business? Can you explain?
Yes — the military prepared me for entrepreneurship more than I would have expected! My time in the infantry and in special operations helped me develop perseverance, creative problem-solving and the ability to build and thrive on teams. My service also trained me to become adaptable in a fast-paced environment and make thoughtful decisions during periods of high stress. My time at nCino has given me many opportunities to translate those experiences and skills to the private sector.
As you know, some people are scarred for life by their experience in the military. How did you struggle after your deployment was over? What have you done to adjust and thrive in civilian life that others may want to emulate?
Many veterans of our country’s ongoing conflicts have returned with invisible wounds — I have close friends and colleagues who encountered those challenges. I was blessed; while I did experience some physical injuries, I didn’t face those invisible wounds.
The primary struggle I faced when leaving the service was that I missed the Marines, soldiers and officers I served with. Those are indescribably tight bonds and the combat units I deployed with were full of camaraderie, fellowship, and a shared sense of purpose. Some of those amazing beings continue to serve, some are now contributing as private citizens, and some gave their life in the service of our country.
Upon joining the private sector, I realized quickly that while I would never directly replicate the brotherhood I enjoyed in USMC, I could find great causes to throw myself into during this chapter of my life.
First, I’ve focused on my role as husband to a wonderful wife and father to three fantastic children.
Second, I’ve thrown myself into entrepreneurship and love the camaraderie we’ve built within the nCino team, with our customers, and with our business partners.
Third, I’m proud to be raising my family on the North Carolina coast and have enjoyed membership in the community we’ve found here.
Finally, though I’ve hung up my uniform, I do my best to live every day as a good representative of my generation of veterans. There are so many preconceptions and misconceptions about veterans today — the best thing I can do to correct the narrative (and to encourage others to give transitioning veterans a chance) is to strive to set a good example in my family life, in the workplace, and in the community.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
nCino’s growth continues to accelerate, and I’m excited to be part of that.
We are expanding internationally and it’s great to see our offices in the UK, Australia and Canada allow nCino to extend our presence to those strategic markets. That presence will allow financial institutions in those regions to operate more efficiently and profitably while providing better experiences for their customers.
The company is also investing very aggressively in innovation to expand the suite of solutions we can provide for our customers; while we started the company in 2012 with a focus on commercial lending, we now offer a cohesive single platform that customers can use across onboarding, all kinds of lending, and deposits.
As we accelerate development and open new offices, we’re creating great jobs for people in several countries. I take a lot of satisfaction in seeing our team develop skills and expertise in cutting-edge cloud technology.
I’ve experienced firsthand how daunting the military-to-civilian transition is. nCino recently partnered with TechQualled, a U.S. military veteran training organization, to help transitioning veterans secure jobs at our firm. I’m so proud of this partnership and the opportunity to hire capable and bright veteran employees. These veterans have given so much to our country and I feel a personal duty to help them transition into and succeed in everyday life.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?
In a fast-growing company like nCino, we’re constantly encountering new and evolving challenges. To prepare for those challenges and to ensure we execute well and preserve our culture while we grow, we are very focused on team and leadership scalability.
Whenever possible we internally promote people with leadership potential and who constantly live the nCino culture. We also conduct in-house leadership training for newly promoted managers to ensure they have the tools and techniques they need to succeed.
If I’m doing my job well right now, I should have several people within that team who could my job someday. And when I review my “family picture” — my team’s leadership depth chart — if I don’t see any of those potential successors, I should take action to ensure I have the right depth my organization will need for growth.
What advice would you give to other leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
The bigger our teams become, the more important it is that we are very consistent in explaining the team’s vision and mission — the “why” — to the full team. A leader shouldn’t, and can’t, be involved in many of the decisions that are made within their organization every day, but if they develop strong leaders within a culture of empowerment and ensure that everyone understands the “why”, great things will happen.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Everyone has a different definition of success. I’m proud of my service and of the contributions I’ve made to nCino’s growth.
However, the first measure of my success is based on my family, and any success in my family life should be directly attributed to my wife Heather. She’s been a fantastic and loyal partner since I was at the Naval Academy and I’m beyond grateful to be sharing life with her. Though I was the one in uniform, she served as well. We dated during three Iraq deployments, were married during one Afghanistan deployment, and she supported me without hesitation during a year-long recovery at Walter Reed after a combat wound.
After my transition to the private sector, Heather has helped me juggle the long hours and travel that have been part of the nCino journey since 2012.
More importantly, however, she provides a positive, joyful environment for our three children and she continues to be the best friend and partner I could imagine sharing my life with.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I frequently return to a quote by an American who set an enduring example of what a “hero” is: Admiral James B. Stockdale. In one of his books the Admiral wrote: “the sine qua non of a leader has lain not in his chesslike grasp of issues and the options they portend, not in his style of management, not in his skill at processing information, but in his having the character, the heart, to deal spontaneously, honorably, and candidly with people, perplexities, and principles.” I have worked with some amazing leaders, but I rarely remember the memos they wrote or the catchy phrases they hung on the walls. What I do remember is the way they treated the people around them during fluid situations, the way they made difficult ethical decisions, and the personal example they set in good times and bad times alike.
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was truly uplifting.