Humbling yet liberating

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We all fall short of the mark at times. So, you don’t have to pretend. People know you aren’t perfect because no one is perfect. There is no such thing as a flawless performance. People know you don’t have it all figured out because no one has it all figured out. No one has all the answers. All that is required is to recognize your mistakes and failures and accept total responsibility for them.

Leadership Concept:

Everything is Your Fault

“If you haven’t read the book Extreme Ownership,” Dave Berke said, “I’ll save you some time. Here’s a summary: EVERYTHING IS YOUR FAULT. THE END.”

 The audience laughed. As is often the case in comedy, it’s funny because it’s true. To understand Extreme Ownership is to understand that everything is actually your fault. You can’t make excuses or blame anyone or anything else. You have to own everything in your world—every single thing that impacts your mission.

 That is a humbling concept. Extreme Ownership isn’t a hard concept to understand, but it is incredibly difficult to put into practice. The reason: it stings the ego. It’s far easier to blame your team, blame your boss, blame market conditions, blame your spouse—blame everything else but you. It requires ultimate humility not to blame others or circumstances, not to make excuses, but to recognize where we failed and what we can and must do better going forward.

Everyone Makes Mistakes or Falls Short of the Mark

 The good news is that everyone makes mistakes. We all fall short of the mark at times. So you don’t have to pretend. People know you aren’t perfect because no one is perfect. There is no such thing as a flawless performance. People know you don’t have it all figured out because no one has it all figured out. No one has all the answers. All that is required is to recognize your mistakes and failures and accept total responsibility for them.

All That is Required is That We Learn From It and Fix It

But it isn’t enough to just acknowledge mistakes and failures or where you could have done better. You have to analyze and learn from those mistakes. Most importantly, you then have to implement a solution to those mistakes to ensure they don’t happen again. This will enable you to constantly learn, grow and improve. And when Extreme Ownership takes hold within the culture of your team, you will be part of a team that is unstoppable.

Real-World example:

“Do you remember that old U.S. Navy  recruiting commercial from the early 2000s with waves breaking on a sandy beach in the moonlight?” I asked the audience. “All you see is the nighttime beach illuminated by the moon, waves gently breaking, no footprints in the sand. Then, clouds dim the moonlight for a few moments, and it’s too dark to see. As the moon reemerges from behind the clouds, you can clearly see footprints across the sand of the re-illuminated beach. The caption appears: ‘Navy.com/SEALs.’”

Some of the leaders in the audience smiled and nodded, remembering the commercial.

“In the SEAL Teams, that is what we call an OTB or ‘over the beach’ operation. The commercial made it seem like a whole platoon of SEALs always slip quietly across the beach in only a matter of moments, like silent ninjas, and no one knows we were there.”

“But to actual SEALs who know better, that commercial was hilarious. An ‘over the beach’ operation almost never goes down like that. It’s usually total chaos: you get dropped off hundreds of meters further from the beach than planned; swim pairs get separated in the darkness as currents push you off course; waves smash you as you swim through the breakers ripping away gear and scattering wet swimmers and equipment across the beach like a yard sale. That is just the reality. You have to be ready to deal with that reality, quickly gather your people and gear, and get off the beach. If you are expecting to execute flawlessly, you won’t be ready for those contingencies, and you are setting yourself and your team up for failure.”

“It’s the same thing with leadership,” I concluded. “Mistakes and failures are going to happen. But all you have to do is learn from those mistakes, own them, and fix them.”

For Action:

This week, think about where you can take Extreme Ownership of something that went wrong. Analyze the situation, what you might have done to prevent it or improve it, and possible solutions. Then, follow the five steps of Extreme Ownership:

  1. Explain the problem
  2. Describe the impact (to the team or the people involved)
  3. Take ownership
  4. Provide a solution
  5. Facilitate implementation of the solution.

Now, EXECUTE, EXECUTE, EXECUTE.

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