“(Millennials) Often Seek a Cause Bigger Than Themselves…” Military Leadership Lesson For Business With Christopher Manske

I had the pleasure of interviewing Christopher R. Manske who leads a disciplined and well-credentialed team providing sophisticated wealth…


I had the pleasure of interviewing Christopher R. Manske who leads a disciplined and well-credentialed team providing sophisticated wealth management and individualized investment advice. I learned he’s actively working to find representation for his book, Wartime Investing, which describes how society invests very predictably when faced with acts of war and offers many interesting vignettes about the intersection of America’s military history and investors’ appetite for stock market risk. Once published, this will be another accolade on Manske’s long list which includes: he helped train over 1,600 financial advisors across the United States; he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and ran with the bulls in Pamplona; and he’s most proud of almost twenty years of marriage to Jessica who helps him raise their four daughters.

Chris: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”? Can you tell us about your military background?

After graduating from The United States Military Academy at West Point and serving overseas, I resigned my commission as an Army Captain in the year 2000. When I’d left the service, I’d either trained, was stationed, or deployed to Brazil, Bosnia, Germany, and a variety of bases in the United States. I was offered a job at Merrill Lynch, where I served as a Financial Advisor expecting that, as an office worker, my life would be quite different than the muddy boots world I was leaving.

I was pleasantly surprised that my values not only didn’t change, but rather, my professional military culture served me very well. During my tenure at Merrill, I earned a constant upward movement on their corporate ladder until I was in the corner office on the top floor of the Houston’s Galleria Financial District. I’d been recognized in various ways in the top 1% across the firm and had been selected to mentor other Financial Advisors all over the United States on how to build and maintain a world-class investment advisory practice.

Now, almost twenty years after leaving the service, I still rely on my military experience to help guide my transition from being a client-facing advisor to serving as a leader of financial advisors. At the boutique investment firm which I founded in 2012, there are six accomplished financial advisors running their practices and, with the help of a few other key teammates, they manage almost $300 million.

Chris: What, from your time in the military, do you think most prepared you for business?

With almost a decade in the military, I entered the civilian workforce with these values: an excellent definition of long hours, putting the needs of my co-workers above my own, living the example I expected of those around me, a practical understanding of both integrity and loyalty, and the importance of doing “the harder right over the easier wrong.” But what I think most prepared me for business was the mission-focused aspect of military culture.

Because I had to regularly define and describe different missions to those around me, I was exceptionally well-prepared for how to communicate and accomplish objectives in the business world. Further, I could easily translate my mission-focused approach in the military to the everyday work I did as a financial advisor because they had such clear similarities. For example, it used to be that I prepared soldiers to be able to “take the hill” and I made decisions that could put their lives at risk.

As a Financial Advisor, I prepared clients to take their own hills — usually retirement — and I made decisions that managed risk in their financial lives. Both in the Army and as a financial advisor, I had to honestly assess people’s strengths and weaknesses to determine how best to identify and then overcome obstacles so that they’d accomplish the objective with as little risk as possible. Frankly, I often saw more worry and concern about money and people’s financial lives than I did people’s actual lives when I was in the service.

Chris: How would you define your leadership style?

I’d define my leadership style as a combination of four roles: visionary; operator; processor; and synergist. As a visionary, I seek opportunities in the marketplace and alter my company’s offerings to fill those needs. I constantly seek improvement and adore thoughtful debate. I trust my own judgment and am proud to offer my vision to my team in as clear and consistent a format as I can. As an operator, I’m focused on getting things done and I often work very long hours and expect the same from those around me. I lead by example and tend to push myself as hard as I do everyone else. I do not enjoy being micromanaged and try to give my team the same latitude that I prefer for myself.

Being an operator means I am usually more forgiving of my staff who try and fail than I am of those who don’t try at all. As a processor, I value routine, I examine and easily trust data, and I often rely on consistently applying successful formulas to help the company grow. As a synergist, I try to employ a high degree of emotional intelligence, read people well, and build consensus for my ideas. I listen to my employees and try to keep everyone working together toward the same goals.

Chris: What are your “6 Leadership Lessons Businesses can learn from military experience?” Please share a story or example for each.

The six military leadership lessons I feel strongly help businesses are divided into two categories: definitions and values. The first three are definitions so that teams can make more productive comparisons and the last three are values that help the team to excel.

  1. First on the list is an excellent definition of “long hours.” If someone feels they are working a lot of hours, it is true simply because “a lot” is defined by the comparison that person chooses to make. If I compare my twelve hours a day, six days a week to someone who works a regular 40-hour week, I’d feel I was putting in a lot of time. But is that comparison the right one? Military life requires long hours and it was not uncommon that, during a deployment, I’d be working over eighteen hours a day, seven days a week. Coming from that environment to twelve hours a day, six days a week meant I felt comfortable saying, “I used to put in long hours, but not anymore.” It’s easy to be happy when your comparison makes you feel you’ve improved your lot in life. I have heard many people who don’t have military backgrounds express how truly unhappy they are with their work hours even though they work quite a bit less than I do. The difference was almost always related to the fact that their comparison left them unable to say, “I’m in a great situation!” Instead, the comparison they chose had them uniformly thinking, “Man, I work too much.”
  2. Second on the list is an outstanding definition of “hard work.” Is it hard work to sit in a climate-controlled work space, go to meetings with people who generally are nice, do professional reading that helps you improve, use a computer and career specific software, talk on the phone… all in order to complete your list of industry-specific daily tasks? That describes the vast majority of non-military careers yet people generally feel they do hard work simply because they don’t have something truly difficult to compare it to. Army life puts people in harm’s way, requires them to endure whatever outside elements Mother Nature offers, and puts them in conflict with people who generally are not nice. Coming from that military environment, it’s easy to feel, “This isn’t that hard…so of course I can do a little bit more.” If business leaders function better with the support of their families, then the military definition of “long hours and hard work” also helped me a lot in business from that perspective. My wife and I fell in love while I was in the service and she had experienced time periods where I was deployed, completely unavailable and not exactly sure when I’d return. So when we were socializing in the business community and a colleague’s spouse would mention that whoever I was working with wouldn’t come home in time for dinner, my wife would say, “Well, I’m just really happy that he’s home every night. If something bad happens in the middle of the night, I know my husband will be there.” She was making a comparison to our military lifestyle which really helped us be successful both in business and as a couple once I’d transitioned from the Army.
  3. Third on the list is an Army definition of balance that was passed on to me by my first Battalion Commander. He’d said that, because of our regular deployments, it was important that I consider the time frame in which I try to accomplish all the things that make for a well-rounded happy life. For example, is an hour the right time frame? Do we put sleep for fifteen minutes, exercise for five minutes, eat for five minutes, go to church for five minutes, get family time for ten minutes, work for ten minutes and spend quality time with friends for the last ten minutes of every hour? Of course this is ridiculous, but many people do look at the balance of these things within a 24-hour period. Some will take a longer view spreading it over a week and some special few will look at balance in the life over a month. But a soldier cannot do any of that because at any given time, the call to duty is sounded and there is only military obligation in a foreign land for almost a year, maybe more. This is why looking at balance over years, like a tour of duty at a particular post, could be better. Today, I strive to examine balance in my life in terms of decades and I hope that I can broaden my horizon to become generational balance. This positively impacts my business life because I can be much more effective as a business leader and teammate when I know that there’s a time for the non-business parts of my life later down the road.
  4. The fourth leadership lesson businesses can learn from military experience is the value of putting the needs of my co-workers above my own. Something as basic as choosing to eat last so that your soldiers are sure to get a solid meal carries over to the business world as willing to help a colleague with their presentation, even if it means staying a little later than you were planning. It means having a sincere belief in practices like an Open Door Policy as opposed to paying it lip service. Business books often call this value the servant leader approach, but in the Army it was simply living life in a way that proved you cared about your unit.
  5. Fifth on the list is living the example I expected of those around me. If the troops had to be up at five in the morning, so were their leaders. If the unit had to undergo a certain training to get ready for a deployment, the leaders got certified as well. This doesn’t mean military leaders do all the menial tasks that should be delegated. Rather, it means that there’s a real bond between the people setting the strategy and the people accomplishing the tactical objectives. It’s hard for a business leader to establish this bond through a cell phone or email just like it’s hard for an Army officer to establish this bond if he’s just sitting behind his desk all day.
  6. The last lesson is that of personal responsibility and true accountability. I often heard the phrase, “The leader is responsible for all the unit fails to do. The troops are responsible for all the successes.” When things went well, excellent leaders put the spotlight on the individuals who helped to get the job done. Great military officers took the time to properly recognize their soldiers and make sure they got the medals awarded to them as was appropriate. These leaders were truly accountable to the individuals who reported to them and helped them to rise through the ranks and achieve their professional potential. Coming into the business world, this trait sounded a lot like “give them a hand up instead of stepping on them to get ahead.”

Chris: The future of many industries rely heavily on millennials and gen-z in regards to consumers and talent. Can you tell us something you or your company is doing to stay ahead with attracting both?

Almost twenty years after leaving the service, my military work ethic and dedication to the team attracts me to millennials and Gen-Z who have very well-developed morals. They often seek a cause bigger than themselves and prefer to work in groups where they can collaborate and rise together. I enjoy working with my younger teammates and, as I continue to transition from being a client-facing financial advisor to being a leader of financial advisors, I’ve found them to be the most open to change and technological advancement.

At the boutique investment firm which I founded in 2012, one of the things we do to attract younger generations is to seriously submit our big-picture vision in writing for all to examine, critique, and debate. The “why” for our work is very important to them and they know that they have just as much ownership of it as I do. At the moment, there are four accomplished financial advisors under the age of thirty on the team and, with the help of a few other key colleagues, they manage almost $200 million. With (and often in spite of) my guidance, they are a part of a team that I deeply care about and greatly admire. They are both disciplined and highly credentialed as they offer sophisticated wealth management and individualized investment advice to all manner of clients and institutions. My relationship with them and my ability to lead them is largely founded on my experience and training as an Army Officer.

Chris: Can you tell us one person in the world, or in the US whom you would want to sit down and have a drink or cocktail with?

In the past, it was Ernest Hemmingway and Ayn Rand. Today, I’d really like to sit down with Mary Anastasia O’Grady and Peggy Noonan, both excellent columnists with the Wall Street Journal.


Chris Quiocho is a combat veteran and pilot. Millennial leader and CEO of Offland Media, the premier content partner for business aviation. Chris is an insightful and motivational public speaker, and an emerging thought leader for the business aviation industry.

Originally published at medium.com

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