36 From the Bureau to the Boardroom
functional importance, although the FBI has done a good job of
it. Certainly fidelity is something every organization wants of its
employees, and vice versa. Bravery is a virtue that only momen-
tarily seems inappropriate for most businesses, but it is precisely
what is needed for one’s employees to enable the company to
prevail on the competitive battlefield of the marketplace. And
of course integrity is critical to retaining public and internal
trust. All three attributes can be cultivated, the FBI way.
Cultivating Fidelity in the Workplace
The FBI cultivates fidelity to the organization on an institutional
level and on an interpersonal level.
Institutionally, the Bureau creates a strong desire to belong,
while simultaneously instilling a credible doubt that member-
ship is achievable. The prospective agents are put through an
intense twenty-two-week training program that becomes a rite
of passage. The candidates, for all their impressive civilian cre-
dentials, are not entirely confident they will make it through the
Academy; many, in fact, will fail soon into the program. Until
graduation, the ‘‘survivors’’ are uncredentialed agents in training
who must walk around wearing plastic guns. The desire to be-
come a member of the world’s most respected law enforcement
agency increases with each grueling day, giving new meaning to
‘‘sweat equity.’’ All in it together, the prospective agents reach
out to each other, helping wherever and whenever they can, and
the bonds of friendship forged in this crucible can last a lifetime.
When the graduation day finally comes, the presentation of the
coveted FBI credential and badge is so meaningful that many
choke up with emotion while taking the oath of allegiance.
Managing the Brand 37
Some of these goose bumps can be created, institutionally,
in private enterprise.
While few companies can sustain or have practical need for
a prolonged basic-training program, it is certainly possible to cre-
ate a sense of gratitude and pride on the part of the employee
for belonging to the organization. The key to accomplishing this
is to make the entrance into the organization an achievement
rather than a ‘‘done deal.’’ This can be done through a serious
interview process, an intense basic-training and/or orientation
program, frequent team-building exercises, and a probationary
period. FBI agents are on probation for two years, even after the
best training in the world, and it is not a formality; there are
some who do not make it through. Those agents who do eventu-
ally complete the two-year and twenty-two-week process are
doubtless proud and relieved. After working so hard to become
a member of the organization, an agent is not likely to treat his
employment lightly.
Fidelity to the Bureau is also engendered on a much less for-
mal, interpersonal level. Although the customs within the cul-
ture of the FBI are not thought of as managerial practices, the
influence on the agent’s view of the Bureau is undeniably pow-
The FBI is a family. The degree of emotional and moral sup-
port freely and routinely exchanged by the agents and their sup-
port personnel in the Bureau will be difficult for many of us to
relate to, including those of us who work for companies that
proudly refer to themselves as ‘‘families.’’ But this may be the
key to the FBI’s ability to engender faithfulness. During the in-
terview process, I heard so many examples of the Bureau’s sup-
port network in action that I became inured to the stories—until
I realized how difficult it might be to match them, story for
story, with examples from the normal workplace.

Get From the Bureau to the Boardroom: 30 Management Lessons from the FBI now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.