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How to create a fantastic work culture: “We grow, as individuals and a society, by responding to hardships the right way.” with Ambassador Hank Crumpton and Chaya Weiner

The broader challenge, which impacts the workforce, runs deep in our growing culture of complaint and victimization. There is gross injustice, no doubt, and we must deal with it head-on, but the sense of victimization should not define our dialog, drive our lives, and contribute to our identity. We grow, as individuals and a society, […]



The broader challenge, which impacts the workforce, runs deep in our growing culture of complaint and victimization. There is gross injustice, no doubt, and we must deal with it head-on, but the sense of victimization should not define our dialog, drive our lives, and contribute to our identity. We grow, as individuals and a society, by responding to hardships the right way. We grow by confronting and solving hard injustice, by helping others in this regard, while rejecting the notion that we suffer and, therefore, we are entitled to enduring reparations or reward. In our society and our workforce, we have a duty to serve in exchange for reasonable benefits and a degree of justice, but we are not entitled to a job — we must create or seize those employment opportunities.


As a part of my series about about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ambassador Henry A. (“Hank”) Crumpton, the founder and CEO of Crumpton Group (CG) LLC, an international research, advisory and business development firm. Established in 2008, CG serves the Fortune 500 leadership and the global business elite. He is also the CEO of Crumpton Ventures, with investments in manufacturing, cyber-security, training/education, and robotics with an emphasis on unmanned aerial systems. He served as an independent director of Argan Inc. (NYSE: AGX) for eight years. He was on the advisory boards of AECOM, DC Capital Partners, and The Coca Cola Company. He currently serves on the advisory board of Stone Canyon Industries, a global industrial holding company. A 24-year veteran of the CIA’s Clandestine Service, he operated mostly in the foreign field, including tours as Chief of Station. From 2003–2005 he was the Chief of the CIA’s National Resource Division, responsible for all Clandestine Service operations in the United States. In 2005 President George W. Bush appointed him the U.S. Coordinator for Counterterrorism, with the rank of Ambassador-at-Large. Among his several honors: the Sherman Kent Award for an outstanding contribution to the literature of intelligence and the Distinguished Intelligence Medal — the CIA’s highest award for achievement. Ambassador Crumpton is the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Art of Intelligence. A graduate of the University of New Mexico and Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, he is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations and the OSS Society.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

After 26 years of U.S. government service, deep in debt with more college tuition payments looming for my children’s education, I retired at age 50 to generate more income. I also wanted more flexibility and time to be with my spouse, our three sons, and our aging parents — all had loved and supported me without reservation. Instead of taking the usual government contracting path, or working with a large corporation, I opted for something more creative and rewarding: starting a company that would provide intelligence-driven advice to the C-suite and board, across global markets. With the essential help of wonderful mentors and strategic partners, plus terrific employees, we bootstrapped our business. After 11 years, we continue to enjoy success though our clients’ success.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

The most interesting story continues to unfold, the growing value we provide our clients in a marketplace more complex and challenging by the day. Whether navigating the digital, regulatory, or geopolitical landscape, we apply the intelligence discipline to inform decisions and solve hard problems in hard places. Over the last 40 years, I’ve found that endlessly fascinating — whether serving the President of the United States or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

All of our projects are exciting. We have saved the lives of our clients and, in a couple of cases, rescued companies from existential crisis. We have worked with foreign judiciaries to indict and imprison criminals who have cheated our clients. We open up new foreign markets, gain advantage in negotiations/transactions, validate supply chains, thwart corrupt officials, recover assets, and manage digital risks. Each project is a worthy adventure. By helping business grow, we create jobs, bring capital, and support ethical business standards in different, risky regions around the globe.

Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?

A large percentage of the U.S. workforce is unhappy because they lack a sense of mission, a way to contribute to society, and a purpose larger than themselves. They labor for money, nothing else, which is boring and unrewarding. The need for meaning — that’s basic part of human nature — and that’s what motivates us individually and as team members. A specific and laudable mission is something that should be part of any employer’s creed. As an example, when I led the CIA’s paramilitary campaign in Afghanistan after 9/11, I taped a sign on my door that quoted the great Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton: “Men Wanted: For hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.”

Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?

An unhappy workforce can manifest their dissatisfaction in many ways, across all aspects of risk for the enterprise. At the most basic level, productivity and therefore profitability can lag. Since emotions are contagious, unhappy workers may influence others in negative ways and thereby undermine the exponential power of a team. Depending on the extent of dismay, health and well-being can also suffer. Unhappy people, or anybody dealing with emotional burdens, can be distracted from the task at hand — increasing the risk of mistakes and accidents. At the most extreme level, employee dissatisfaction can lead to outright subversion, sabotage, theft, and worse. Competitors, criminals, and even hostile intelligence services exploit disaffected employees every day, sometimes with catastrophic consequences. Imagine the potential loss for a company when a disgruntled IT systems administrator accepts the overtures from a nefarious competitor, opening the cyber door for theft or destruction. We see examples of this insider-threat all too often — and it’s usually driven by a combination of emotional stress and greed.

Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?

There aren’t really five separate things, it all stems from this very simple idea: Managers and executives need to lead. That’s the key to improving work culture. Leading demands many things, including keen self-awareness along with the humility to acknowledge and embrace your own ignorance — followed by the intellectual rigor and discipline to frame the right problem, the right way. This often includes the acceptance and identification of great people who can contribute in their own creative, individual ways while forging interdependent bonds demanded of a team. And it’s that creative team that defines the right questions, seeks the right answers, and solves the hard problems for a purpose beyond cold revenue. That’s why I started our firm, because I alone lacked the knowledge and experience to achieve my goals, and I wanted to be part of a team. An interdisciplinary team is not only the best way to contribute, it’s a fun way to experiment, learn, and grow.

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?

The broader challenge, which impacts the workforce, runs deep in our growing culture of complaint and victimization. There is gross injustice, no doubt, and we must deal with it head-on, but the sense of victimization should not define our dialog, drive our lives, and contribute to our identity. We grow, as individuals and a society, by responding to hardships the right way. We grow by confronting and solving hard injustice, by helping others in this regard, while rejecting the notion that we suffer and, therefore, we are entitled to enduring reparations or reward. In our society and our workforce, we have a duty to serve in exchange for reasonable benefits and a degree of justice, but we are not entitled to a job — we must create or seize those employment opportunities. That is capitalism, which for all its imperfections, works in a liberal democratic society. The challenge of fair opportunities in a capitalist society, of course, is monumental and, again, requires real leaders and effective institutions at all levels. I believe that public and private sector partnerships, to include education in local communities, is an essential part of addressing this issue; there is nothing like success to dispel attitudes of apathy, despair, entitlement, and anger.

How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?

I reject the notion of “style” to describe leadership or management. What matters is principle, and that only works if you live and work by the right example.

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?

One of the most important abilities of a leader, in government or business, is recognizing the need for help and accepting it from the right people at the right time. For me, I’ll be forever grateful to Jim Langdon who understood and explained the business concept and practice of my imagined firm far better than I could. His intellectual mentorship, combined with his confidence in me, with some great introductions and endorsements — all of that was essential to launching our company. There are several other great mentors, also, who took a leap of faith with me. In so many ways, they afforded me the opportunity of entrepreneurship — but I had to recognize, grab, hold, and develop each bit of correct guidance, while rejecting dumb stuff from so many others who wanted to advise, influence, and perhaps exploit my inexperience in the private sector. My trusted mentors are still essential to my daily decision-making.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Our firm’s mission is to contribute to the greater good and we do it every day, as described above. But, here are two unique examples, each beyond the call of business duty. We accepted a small one-off project that did not conform to our business strategy and may not even cover our costs, but it was an important request from a trusted party that could have profound, long-term, positive consequences for our nation. The other case, from last year, was also out of normal business bounds: a non-profit wanted our guidance on how to deploy their resources in a disaster area. In 48 hours, we assembled an interdisciplinary team (a retired U.S. Navy Admiral, psychiatrist, security executive, linguist/analyst, and a team leader who had earned the Intelligence Cross — the CIA’s version of the Medal of Honor) I’m proud that we said yes, because we employed our intelligence discipline to identify areas in greatest need, well beyond the eyes of FEMA, which led to fast, specific, impactful deployment of essential aid. In sharp contrast, we just rejected a large project, with the potential for a huge margin, because the ultimate client was, simply, a bad guy. I want nothing to do with him, much less to help him succeed.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson quote: “The truth shall set you free,” The Bible, John 8:32.

I cherish freedom, so I must embrace the truth, whether at the strategic-policy level or in the deep, perplexing tangle of thoughts and emotions we call self-knowledge. If we don’t know ouselves, how can we forge the loving, trusted, lasting relationships that matter? How can we build and lead a team? This is nothing new. Even before the Bible, ancient philosophers expounded on the value of truth and self-knowledge, which serves as the cornerstone of liberal education, liberal institutions, worthy capitalist companies, and democratic society.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

By employing the intelligence discipline, I spent 26 years seeking to build global alliances, to identify and defeat our nation’s enemies, and to bring our policymakers — especially the President of the United States — the best information possible so they could make the best decisions possible. Today, I hope that our work as intelligence-driven advisors contributes to greater intellectual integrity in business, philanthropy, and education. That is what we do, at the most fundamental level, we educate. And the truth, with all its complexities and nuances and interpretations, is a fundamental, worthy, and transformative goal for all of us.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!

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About the author:

Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.

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