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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Speaking Frankly with Frank Figliuzzi: The FBI Way

Feb 26, 2021 06:35PM ● By Suzie Agrillo
Frank Figliuzzi is more than an FBI special agent—he has earned the status as an FBI legend. Figliuzzi served 25 years in the FBI, rising up the ranks to the top echelon. His assignments included the high-level position of Assistant Director charged with leading the Bureau’s famed Counterintelligence Division, and he’s an expert on domestic and foreign terrorism.
We caught up with Figliuzzi and talked about his venturesome life, the tenets of his new best-seller, The FBI Way, and what he’s doing to make a difference. “My life has been quite an adventure,” says Figliuzzi. Fortunately, he has written a riveting book which memorializes his life at the FBI, sharing this unique adventure for the reader to enjoy vicariously.

Figliuzzi is a first-rate storyteller, and The FBI Way is a book that is exactly right for this moment in history. It is a memoir that demonstrates how to incorporate the essential FBI values he is so passionate about into our own lives.

Figliuzzi’s unique role in the FBI gave him an ideal opportunity to study patterns of conduct among high-achieving, ethical individuals. Using his experience, he can draw conclusions about why, when and how good people sometimes do bad things.

As Keeper of the Code, appointed the FBI’s Chief Inspector by then-Director Robert Mueller, Figliuzzi was charged with overseeing sensitive internal inquiries, shooting reviews and performance audits. It was his responsibility to ensure each employee met the Bureau’s exacting standards of performance, integrity and conduct.

According to Figliuzzi, all good codes of conduct have one common trait: they reflect the core values of an organization. Individuals, companies, schools, teams or any group seeking to codify their rules to live by must first establish core values. The emphasis is on humanity, the way to treat others, and how one should always offer the best they’ve got.

His book has condensed the Bureau’s process of preserving and protecting its core values into what he calls “The Seven Cs”. Figliuzzi posits that, “If you can adapt the concepts of Code, Conservancy, Clarity, Consequences, Compassion, Credibility and Consistency, you can instill and preserve your values against all threats, internal and external.”

A sought-after speaker, analyst and instructor on topics including leadership, violence prevention and risk management, Figliuzzi earned a Juris Doctorate cum laude from the University of Connecticut School of Law, and a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Fairfield University.

FBI stands for Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity. What three words describe you best?
Well, I know that I try to live those three words of the FBI motto as best I can, but since we’re all human, that motto is often more aspirational than reality. More personally, if I may play on the FBI theme, I guess I’d say that I’m Funny, Blessed and Intense.

Can you name someone who has had a big impact on you as a leader?
This gets interesting, because most people might respond to this question with someone who served as a positive leadership role model, while others might cite someone who exemplified how not to lead people. But I had a boss once who was both. He was incredibly experienced, taught me how to anticipate all aspects of decision-making, or as we say, to “see around corners”, and his command of the details and his insistence on accountability caused me to be a better manager and leader. Yet, because he did not suffer fools, this same person could exhibit extremely harsh treatment and disdain of anyone who didn’t meet his standards. His lack of the softer skills served as a reminder that a great leader needs to be multifaceted and compassionate.

How do you deal with difficult people?
I’ve been through multiple assessments and coaching both in the FBI and in my corporate career after I retired from the Bureau. The FBI assessments taught me a lot about myself, but the corporate coaching taught me how to understand others—what motivates them, how to interact with people that you find difficult. This involves attempting to “read” and classify others into certain “types” so that you can better understand how best to successfully work together.
Most people are a combination of classifications—such as “Driver/Analytical” (that’s me). That means they push hard and demand data and updates; so the best way to keep that person happy is to feed them details and regular progress milestones before they ask. Others might be “Creative/Emotive”—that person may consistently come up with ideas that are so off-the-charts that their ideas consistently get rejected, which causes them to inject drama into the office. When dealing with that person, you need to listen carefully, respect their ideas, then ask a lot of questions about how they envision each step of implementing their idea. For example, “Bob, thanks for the creative idea. Help me to see this vision through to completion. How might we all learn to safely roller-blade around the office?”

What is the most significant change you brought about in an organization?
The chance to have some greater impact beyond what’s right in front of you is perhaps the strongest reason for leaders to pursue the next level up from their current role. I give a couple of examples of this in my book. One is the role I played behind the scenes in helping get Congress to pass the Federal Trade Secrets Act.
Before that happened, there was no law that adequately addressed the financial impact on a business or industry that had its intellectual property stolen. On the “people” side of things, I was instrumental in changing the Bureau policy on how the complexity of death benefits were communicated to family members after an FBI agent passed away. It had been relatively cold and impersonal, and largely a paper game. Now it is in person by a benefits specialist who travels from FBIHQ.

What suggestions do you have to help unify our country?
I wrote a whole column on that! I write a regular column for MSNBC Daily—their digital platform. You can read that column at

Where is your book available to purchase?
The FBI Way is on sale anywhere you buy books. Online, you can order it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and others. It’s also available in eBook and in Audible versions.

Do you have any projects on the horizon that you’d like to share?
I have a podcast in the works that will be unprecedented in its nature.

What is your favorite quote?
The first line in my book, a quote by Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” It has governed my career and my life.

Suzie Agrillo is a freelance writer in Tucson and a frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings Magazine. She focuses on writing about the arts, inspirational people and the human connection. Connect at [email protected].