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“Many of the life’s greatest lessons are learned on the battlefield”. – Anonymous

How Very True! And probably the biggest lesson one learns in a combat zone is the importance of leadership and teamwork. You can’t survive on your own, let alone conquering the enemy. Business is no different. You need the highest level of teamwork to succeed. Remote teams are more efficient, more productive, and more cost-effective. However, remote work comes with its own challenges. I had to face these challenges when I started building a team for my business.

Then, I discovered an approach that changed how I look at things. This one approach has helped me take care of all these challenges. As of today, we are a team of 31 members from 9 different countries. And we are still growing. Do you want to know how you can increase employee satisfaction, minimize communication, and make the most of your remote teams? Give them the ownership…extreme ownership.

WHAT IS EXTREME OWNERSHIP?

I picked up this concept from the NYT bestseller “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win.” The book is authored by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, two Navy SEALs. They learned lessons on the battlefield of Iraq that they later used to help various businesses and fortune 500 companies build teams that delivered. The book talks about Extreme Ownership which is a concept that takes the responsibility from the top man and distributes it to all team members. Here’s an excerpt to help you understand:

“Leadership isn’t one person leading a team. It’s a group of leaders working together, up and down the chain of command, to lead.”

In Other Words, It’s About Empowering Your Team Members By:

  • Giving responsibility
  • Making them accountable

At first, it sounds very simple (and it is simple) but the mindset is not easy to cultivate. As a business owner, you will find it hard to let go of the need to control. But it will make your life much easier.

Let Them Learn From Mistakes

Probably the hardest part of this approach is to allow your team members to fail. Basically, they are failing at your expense. Good thing is, they will improve and learn something new with each failure. And it will directly benefit your business. It’s better than a team that needs constant spoonfeeding. Besides, over controlling can slow down progress.

Communicate – Don’t Dictate

It’s a global world. Businesses have to face new challenges and complications on a daily basis. You cannot create a rule book and expect it to cover all situations. In the recent fiasco at United Airline, we saw that things can go wrong even if the rules are followed to the letter.

The managers cannot be there to provide the answers for all problems. You need problem solvers and decision makers in your team. Creativity plays a crucial role in these situations. Trying to micromanage everything will suppress their creativity. As a result, your team will act like a deer caught in the headlights in tough situations.

Don’t try to control everything. Tell them what you want to achieve but don’t give a task list. They must be aware of the available resources, time, and your business goals. Then, let them find their way. Trust me, they will.

4 Steps to implement Extreme Ownership

Giving them the ownership does not make you redundant. It’s actually the opposite. You will have more time to focus on new and exciting opportunities. You will be able to set new goals and expand your business. And you will still be at the helms of affairs, albeit more tactically. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Set Responsibilities

This is what differentiates Extreme Ownership from Holacracy. Unlike, Holacracy, the team members need to have clear-cut roles and responsibilities. They must know what’s expected of them and they must take complete responsibility for that.

I personally use Trello to assign tasks and responsibilities. These cards clearly state what needs to be done and what is the ultimate goal. Most of the times, it is the team members who come up with a checklist or action plan.

Knowing what you need to do (responsibility) and what you don’t need to do (boundaries) improves productivity.

2. Instill a Sense of Purpose

Research has shown that purpose-driven people earn higher incomes. They are also more satisfied and engaged at work. This is what distinguishes successful businesses from the ordinary ones (as explained by Simon Sinek in his book “start with why”.) As a leader, it’s your job to instill a strong sense of purpose. They must know why they are doing it. At RunRepeat.com, we believe in helping people find the best running shoes. Here’s the first thing all new hirings get to read.

This is what drives our decisions and direction in whatever we do, be it the content, marketing, or design.

3. Encourage

For some people, assuming complete responsibility can be scary. You might have to do some confidence building. This is especially true for sales or marketing teams where the success depends on many external factors. They might need constant inspiration and motivation to achieve the growth targets. I have made it a rule to acknowledge small wins in team channels on slack and our group meetings.

In case of failures, I try to focus on what we need to do differently instead of where they go wrong. Make sure that you are choosing the right horse for the right course. Tell them that you have complete confidence in their abilities. Be easily approachable and treat everyone fairly.

4. Have Trust … Be Patient

New members will take time to adjust and thrive in this environment. Mistakes are bound to happen. But you must treat them with respect. Be patient. The resulting loyalty and high retention rate will make it worth it. At my business, since implementing this philosophy, I have almost zero turnover that saves a lot in terms of training or recruitment costs.

Conclusion

It is not a complete shift of direction. It is more like an upgrade from the formal management structure. When done right, extreme ownership will improve commitment, efficiency, and productivity in your team members.