Three For Thursday – Blayne Smith


Tell it Like it Is

I first met Blayne when he took over as President of what was then a small not-for-profit known as Team Red, White and Blue. Team RWB is a veterans’ service organization that Blayne was the driving force behind during its years of mega growth. I had the privilege of working closely with Blayne from about 2011-2016, as we put together the Old Glory Relay to benefit Team RWB.  Team RWB was also one of two charitable partners of my main business at that time, The American Odyssey Relay.

Prior to his tenure at Team RWB, Blayne spent a few years in sales and marketing for a major medical laboratory. Before that, he served almost nine years as an officer in the US Army. Graduating from West Point in 2001, Blayne began his career as a scout platoon leader in the vaunted 1st Cavalry Division. After a deployment to Iraq in 2004, he transitioned to the Special Operations community, commanding a detachment in the 3rd Special Forces Group and leading multinational and inter-agency forces on a deployment to Afghanistan in 2009.

Since departing Team RWB, Blayne has served as President of GORUCK and currently provides coaching, strategy, and development services to a variety of fast-growing organizations.

Blayne’s Three For Thursday follow.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what makes organizations and leaders successful. The common thread is trust. Regardless of the organization’s size, mission, or maturity, trust is always at the core of their success. I’ve learned that teams that trust each other can have almost everything go wrong and still find a way to rally together and succeed. Conversely, in the absence of trust, teams can do almost everything right and still manage to fail. The difference lies in the way adversity is dealt with. When we have trust, adversity helps us learn and grow stronger. Where there’s no trust, adversity tends to breed doubt, blame, and disengagement.

The same holds true in personal relationships. Maybe even more so. Trust is critical in all our relationships, personal and professional.

Reliability is really underappreciated these days. We are finally starting to hear words like authenticity and empathy talked about in the leadership context, and that is great. However, I think reliability has been lost in the shuffle. When you think about what you want in a friend, a partner, a colleague, or a vendor, you absolutely want consistency and reliability. Reliability is a foundational building block of trust. If you’re the most reliable person in your office, it earns you the right to have an opinion, to make a suggestion, or to have a hard conversation. It also removes so much strain from your relationships. Just do what you say you’re going to do, all the time, and watch how much it improves your work and life.

Unlike reliability, candor is starting to pick up some steam, but I feel as though the concept is largely misunderstood. First off, candor is more than honesty. Essentially, it’s a proactive version of honesty. Candor requires you to have uncomfortable conversations, to say what needs to be said, not just to tell the truth when asked. It can be tough, but it saves time and energy in the long run. As the saying goes, “bad news doesn’t get better with time.” Candor is also often mistaken for bluntness. Saying you are “just being candid” doesn’t give you license to be a jerk. Right now, in Silicon Valley, a lot of people are talking about radical candor or “RadCan”. But, to truly be beneficial, candor can’t just be your unedited thoughts spilling out. It must be thoughtful and come from a place of respect and a desire for improvement. You can skip a lot of crap by dealing with situations early and transparently. In the long term, candor strengthens relationships and it creates confidence, because there is no need to read between the lines to know what people actually think.

These are skills that can be built. Some people may be inherently stronger in these areas, but trust, reliability, and candor are all competencies that can be improved upon. I originally came to this via self-reflection. You can’t just snap your fingers and have these qualities, you need to build and work on them. But, like most things, improvement comes with practice.

One for the Road
Empathy.  Your ability to employ candor is predicated on empathy. Can you take the perspective of another? If I were in X situation, I’d want someone to tell me Y. Empathy allows you to use candor meaningfully and with respect. The same holds true with reliability. If you first think about how others would wish to be treated, you’ll be candid and reliable…and those two qualities naturally build trust.

How About You?
What are your Three For Thursday? I’m looking for people who are willing to share their life wisdom.  Please email me at if you’d like to be interviewed for a future Three For Thursday blog.