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Truly to The Best Companyin the World

I have found it challenging to describe my life in retirement, considering that I took a mere six days between my last day in the Army and my first day at Amazon. There was little time to settle into what it felt like to have no daily routine. In less than a week, I had

replaced my old regimen with a new one.

Twenty-eight years of leadership took me from platoon to one of the world’s largest installations; my transition to Amazon was only my second major job ever—a shift from commanding thousands to the responsibility of managing the workflow of 50 associates. My peers and former subordinates would balk at the assertion that I could be challenged and even overwhelmed by my responsibilities, but I absolutely have been at times. While I often draw similarities between the military and Amazon, there are also stark differences. I joined the business A-team, where the pressure to perform, innovate, and improve is a way of life. It’s challenging. But as a transitioning leader, it can also be uncomfortable.

I quickly discovered that Amazon is a crucible of leadership and production. Just a week before I started at Amazon, not only did people call me Sir, but they stood when I entered a room. Respect was demonstrated visually and audibly. Rank and position were what soldiers responded to predominantly, although I would hope that, at some point, I earned their respect. The respect you are afforded is signaled by your uniform. Any other military person can tell who you are on sight and have a pretty good guess at what you have done. There are no such visual indicators in the corporate world. As a manager with Amazon, no one stands when you walk into a meeting. And the respect you gain is earned through your daily interactions with associates, managers, and work teams that you are a part of. Issues referred to as barriers must be met with viable solutions and communication to earn the trust of those who are more likely to implement the changes that you propose. Every day is different, presents unique challenges, and requires me to be both adaptive and thoughtful.

I would be remiss if I did not highlight that I absolutely love it. It speaks to who I am as a person. Bringing a team together around a mission is certainly a military-honed trait. But I’d like to think it has always been a part of who I am and helped make my transition from the military to Amazon a successful one.

I learned some important things on that first day. Chief among them is that Amazon is a Day 1 company. It never rests on its laurels, but this was no shock to my system. Neither did the military.

The more pragmatic consequences of my first month at Amazon included a cool eight-pound weight loss. Some facilities can be as large as a million square feet. The product or person you need to reach might be near you or 75 yards away. Walking is just par for the course.

Along with walking enough to make your trainer smile comes the sore feet. Foot care will need to become a part of your health regimen. An Army base can be massive too, but I lamented the loss of the umbilical cord of an Army work phone that I have carried for almost two decades and that saved me a few steps here and there.

During that first transition month, I learned to balance work and home. Although additional work at home is not required, I found myself analyzing numbers, looking for ways to better support the associates on my team, and combing through the endless data and internal pages of this chameleon of a company. Old habits die hard, so I still rise early and arrive before my shift to conduct my inspections to ensure that we have the best chance to succeed or at least fail less than we would have otherwise. I started this as an area manager and have kept up the same routine as the general manager.


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