Throughout my columns, I’ve tried to tilt the frame of reference for my readers - from warehouse and counter help to the CEO, so they might approach their jobs with an alternative or a fresh outlook on how to improve their performance. I have found that a common ingredient among people who are good at what they do is the element of self-improvement. More frequently than not, these changes don’t occur because of a thunderbolt, but rather due to steady, incremental changes that accumulate into a distinct advantage. There’s much to be said about being the turtle in business. I’m certainly no business guru, but I believe that I’ve had some modest success in finding experts who are particularly insightful on how to improve oneself. I’m fascinated by different approaches in behavior that affect us because that is the first step in any change, whether it’s individually or institutionally.
I recently listened to the audiobook, “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALS Lead and Win,” a business book by two ex-Seals who took what they learned in the military and applied it to the business world. Coincidentally, I was having lunch with a friend who is responsible for almost 40,000 workers. I like this fellow so much, I told him that I was going to send him the book. He replied: “I finished reading it recently.”
Because I had a sense of the authors’ verbal skills, given that I listened to them for hours on the audiobook, I mentioned to my friend that I considered sending their names to Emily Savings, vice president of HARDI, as possible speakers for a HARDI event. They would be a perfect fit for a keynote address some day or working with HARDI’s emerging leadership program. My friend again beat me to the punch. He thought about hiring the duo for his own major “conference” and balked at their speaking fee. He told me what it was, and I had an open-mouth expression for about 10 seconds. (Emily, I’d still like to see what you might be able to negotiate).
These authors are former military officers and are very tough, smart and analytical about how to get results. Their approach was taking lessons from their combat experience and applying them to the business world. Apparently, many name-dropping corporations book them for speaking and training programs.
What is their most salient message? This is not a spoiler. They are seemingly famous for maintaining that when you’re in charge, you’re in charge. That means, everything that happens on the job, a program, how you manage people, the quality of your work, the deadlines you must accept, all come down to a simple premise: It’s your responsibility and no one else’s.
When it doesn’t work out as planned, you take responsibility, because the buck stops with you. You are responsible even if there is an error committed by subordinates.
Some people with high character, confidence and a built-in sense of leadership and understanding take this high road. (I recently completed a project for a client, and there was some murkiness about whether an error was mine or his. I answered to him but he answered to a higher authority. I said, “Blame me, I’m not an employee, I’m the consultant.” He said, “No. The buck stops here.” I was impressed, and it told me volumes about his character).
The benefit of “Extreme Ownership” is that it makes you assess your conduct and workplace philosophy.
I would recommend:
Read the book. Take a look yourself and see if you meet the high standards these experts set;
Give a copy to several executives who seem to be losing their edge or to a person coming up the ranks to inspire him or her. Everyone needs a boost and all of us need to know how we compare against others; and
If you have a whiner or someone who makes excuses all the time, “Extreme Ownership” is the book for them.
Arguably, there might be a little too much macho and military language and viewpoint in their approach. As you might expect when someone projects a personal philosophy, it's often a matter of preference, style and philosophy. Some might even find their approach a bit jarring.
And that’s a good thing, because as most of us know, being complacent is seldom an ideal approach in the business world, but being pre-emptive often leads to better results and an improved you.