There's an important, common thread between all great organizations today: extreme ownership. It's the idea that you take full responsibility, both for yourself and for whoever is on your left and right. Doing this requires that what you want to achieve and what you tolerate are aligned. It's one of the best skills you can learn for your organization and your general life for five major reasons.
1. You stay in the driver's seat.
People like to feel in charge of their lives. However, if you don't step up and say exactly what you think or feel, or if you don't advocate or take responsibility for yourself, other people are going to make decisions for you and direct your future. By taking extreme ownership, you stop this from happening. Instead of being pushed around, you get to create your own path and future.
2. Things aren't always simple.
We've all had monster projects or tried to juggle a million things. If you don't communicate or nail down your priorities well through everything, those situations only get more complex and harder to deal with. Taking extreme ownership on a 24/7 basis ensures you can look even at the most chaotic situations without stressing out. It cuts out the noise so you can focus on what counts and create effective, step-by-step solutions.
3. Relationships are everything, and they're built on communication and trust.
Money and equipment are never your organization's best resources. People are. And those people need to know how they fit into the grand scheme of things and how they add value. Extreme ownership makes this happen by encouraging the clear, consistent communication and trust on which solid relationships are built. By defining everybody's swim lanes and then trusting people to get the job done well, you can make work more enjoyable for everyone. Everyone knows that they're all on the same team, so they feel comfortable holding themselves and each other accountable and talking through problems directly.
4. You can't do it all alone.
If you have a lot of experience--especially if you are an old hand--you know just how complex business and life can get, and that there's just no way you can manage everything by yourself. Trying to do so is a recipe for burnout. Because extreme ownership involves trusting other people to be just as responsible as you are and taking care of one another, it's a safety valve against stress and overwork. It supports amazing efficiency because everyone knows what they're individually and collectively supposed to do. At the same time, when you get good two-way communication going and everybody feels safe, extreme ownership can help you recognize your blind spots, strengths, and weaknesses. That additional clarity is a huge help when you're trying to develop yourself and make decisions.
5. Culture counts.
Modern businesses and societies hum like well-tuned engines only when everybody's on the same page and playing for the same goals. Egotism gums up the works like sand in an engine, souring the entire culture. Extreme ownership gets people to check their egos at the door. By making it standard practice in your community or organization, you build a culture where people feel more welcome, valued, and capable.
As the old saying goes, no person is an island. We are all connected in many ways, and the positive side of that is that we can do amazing things when we all play as a team and have good accountability. This is true not only for individual organizations but also for the communities we live in. Extreme ownership is a guiding principle that can drive us to those positive results. Foster it in yourself and your groups and remember that you really can be the change you want to see in the world.
Grateful acknowledgments to Jocko Willink and Leif Babin for their book, Extreme Ownership.