3 Ways to Use Extreme Ownership Principles • Financially Simple


Have you ever wondered why some leaders are more effective than others? The extreme ownership principles taught by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, both in their book and consulting firm, shine a light on the necessary traits of effective leaders. But how do you take battle-tested (literally) leadership principles and apply them to your business with the most efficiency? With this entry, I’m going to explore 3 ways you can quickly apply extreme ownership to your team and your business.

Follow Along With The Financially Simple Podcast!

This week on The Financially Simple Podcast:

  • (2:02) What is Extreme Ownership?
  • (4:52) Accepting Criticism and Deflecting Praise
  • (7:17) Self Evaluation
  • (7:59) Implementing Extreme Ownership in Your Team
  • (10:44) No Bad Teams, Only Bad Leaders
  • (11:56) Transforming Leaders
  • (16:26) Cover and Move
  • (20:09) Steps to Break Down Silos

Extreme Ownership Principles: Battle-Tested Leadership for Business

Former Navy SEALs, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin introduce the concept of Extreme Ownership in their book, Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win. Put simply, extreme ownership (E.O.) is how great leaders take responsibility for every aspect of their team and its mission. Taking E.O. requires you to put aside your ego and take absolute responsibility for the outcome.

Willink demonstrated this during a mission in Ramadi when SEALs were pinned down by friendly fire. He managed to stop the attack before losing any U.S. assets but knew such a blunder could never happen again. Though the investigation found many mistakes by those involved in planning the operation, Willink took full responsibility and vowed that he would never let it happen again. In doing so, he earned the trust of his superiors and those serving under him. Similarly, he learned to incorporate additional measures to ensure they never repeated the error.

You must be willing to accept criticism while building processes and winning the hearts and minds of your team. Likewise, you must be willing to defer praise for successes to your team. True leaders look for solutions and ways to create success. When a team member is struggling, the leader will make efforts to mentor and develop them to have the skills necessary to be an effective part of the team. As you demand extreme ownership of yourself and others, people will begin to emulate your behaviors.

Implementing Extreme Ownership in Your Team

The quickest way to implement extreme ownership principles in your team is to lead by example. It starts with you. If you want your team to truly understand and embrace extreme ownership, you must exhibit it yourself. But what does that look like?

Extreme ownership means you’re taking total ownership of everything in your domain. Therefore, when things break down (and you know they will), don’t look to assign blame. Instead, look for ways you can improve and simplify the process so your team can succeed. Owning up to our failures makes us better leaders and promotes a culture of productivity and progress. It will also allow your team to feel safe to own their own shortcomings.

There Are No Bad Teams, Only Bad Leaders

With great leadership, any team can succeed. However, bad leaders will cause even the most exceptional teams to fail. In fact, a recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 84 percent of workers say poorly trained managers create unnecessary work and stress. Similarly, the study concluded that 50 percent of workers believed their own performance would improve if they had better leadership. Folks, if that doesn’t tell you the importance of great leadership in the workplace, perhaps this will.

To prove that great leaders can change the outcome for any team, Leif Babin switched team leaders during a competitive Navy SEAL training exercise. He took the leader from the team that was winning the competition and placed them in charge of the losing team. At the same time, he had the leader from the losing team take over the winning team. The losing team immediately began winning the competition while the formerly best team remained competitive but fell behind, taking second place in the drill.

So, it’s apparent that great leaders can define the outcomes for their teams. But how do you implement the idea of No Bad Teams, Only Bad Leaders in your organization?

“With Great Leadership, Any Team Can Succeed.”

Once again, great leadership begins with you. It’s kind of like the famous quote often attributed (accurately or not) to Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Therefore, you must meet regularly with your team leaders to discuss your mission and address potential problems in execution. These meetings can also provide greater clarity to your plans, which is another principle of E.O.

Make these meetings productive, collectively thinking through solutions. Remember, blame doesn’t solve problems. However, attitude can equal success or failure. Remind your leaders of this quote from E.O., “Leadership is the single greatest factor in any team’s performance. Whether a team succeeds or fails is all up to the leader. The leader’s attitude sets the tone for the entire team. The leader drives performance—or doesn’t. And this applies not just to the most senior leader of an overall team, but to the junior leaders of teams within the team.”

Make your leadership team aware that, in terms of setting and enforcing standards and expectations, “it’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.” If substandard performance is accepted, and no one is held accountable—if there are no consequences—that poor performance becomes the new standard.

Cover and Move

In the military, Cover and Move means that teammates protect each other, taking turns providing covering fire as they move forward. However, this principle can also be used in business. By having smaller groups working on different areas of a project, you can divide and conquer large tasks. Studies indicate that working in smaller groups also enables your leaders to lead more effectively. The average manager does best with 5-9 direct reports.

Be sure to coordinate with the leadership of each department, reminding them that each group is one part of a greater team, so they can support each other and avoid infighting.

Friends, I know some of you are going to struggle with this next part of it. However, this is a crucial step for you, your team, and the business as a whole. Allow your group leaders to lead. Micro-managing their efforts displays a lack of trust and is not conducive to successful operations. You can build trust within your ranks by delegating the authority to make tactical decisions. Doing so, empowers individual team members to take extreme ownership of their circumstances and decentralizes command (yet another E.O. principle).

Steps to Promote a Cover and Move Mentality in Your Team

A common situation in business is the “siloing” of departments. Cover and Move seeks to destroy this mindset and foster a symbiotic relationship across all teams in your organization. You can implement the Cover and Move principle in your company by:

  • Communicating a clear and unified vision. A unified vision that is broadly communicated among employees helps individuals to understand that individual and team goals are secondary to organizational vision.
  • Creating Shared Accountability. Teams can benefit from having shared goals that pull them together rather than divide them.
  • Having Leaders Set the Tone. Company leaders must be the example, demonstrating that they expect inter-departmental teamwork and information sharing from their teams.

When you have a team operating under a unified vision, holding one another accountable, and benefitting from great leadership, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish.

Great Leaders Make Hard Decisions

Finally, you must remember that nothing is more important than the mission. Great leaders must be willing to listen. They use empathy but realize that the overarching mission is paramount. If a department is struggling to meet its objectives, you must look at its leadership first. You must assess whether the group is being led effectively. If not, you’ll need to make a change quickly. As a leader, you’re going to have to make some difficult and unpopular decisions.

Keeping a missional mindset can help you separate emotions from your decision-making process. This is a skill that all leaders must develop. By keeping the mission as the highest priority, you can make decisions that, while difficult in the short-term, can help the organization achieve its goals.

Wrapping Up…

These Extreme Ownership principles have been battle tested. They work in the U.S. military, the board room, and in your everyday life. If you’ve found yourself or your team struggling to complete directives successfully, maybe it’s time to implement a culture of extreme ownership. Begin with yourself. Start examining areas where you can create the successful outcomes you desire. As you demand E.O. from yourself, your team will take notice. Over time, these principles will permeate the culture of your organization from the top down.

Friends, I know life is hard. But life is good! You woke up this morning. So, make the most of the opportunity this day presents. Mistakes happen. Looking for others to blame won’t solve the issue, as frustrating as it might be. However, by taking extreme ownership, we can make things at least, financially simple. Let’s go out and make it a great day!

Sometimes taking extreme ownership means identifying trouble areas that you need help with. If you’ve found areas of your business that could use a fresh perspective, reach out to our team. We have advisors across the nation who are ready and able to help you reach your goals.

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