Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Extreme Ownership: Get After it!

Leif Babin, George Risko, Carlos Climent, and Jocko Willink
(Leif Babin, George Risko, Carlos Climent, and Jocko Willink; photo credit: George Risko)
What is Extreme Ownership? Well, first, it’s a philosophy of leadership. It is also a book, the full title of which is Extreme Ownership: How Navy SEALs Lead and Win, written by a couple of former Navy SEALs, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. Jocko and Leif decided to share what they’ve learned about leadership, teamwork and relationships with the world. I am of the opinion that the principles in the book also qualify it as a lifestyle—and certainly, for me, a life changer.

So how did Extreme Ownership change my life and allow me to “dominate my battlefield”? As a former Marine, I was familiar with many of the principles discussed in the book. But what hooked me is the way the Jocko and Leif related the information to everyday life. I found it just brilliant and, best of all, simple—which makes it really effective. Extreme Ownership advises us to: cover and move, to keep it simple, to prioritize and execute, and use decentralized command. And, nope, I am not going to further explain. The explanations are in the book, and I absolutely do want you to read it— particularly if you want to master the art of teamwork. Or learn how to empower your subordinates for optimum performance. The book also covers how to break things down so everyone understands your intent as well as how to effectively prioritize parts of critical missions and projects.

After I read the book, I began implementing the principles in my work and home life. It took some effort to identify all the places I could apply my new philosophy, but I got a great response from both my colleagues and my family. In fact, in regards to encouraging my team, I immediately saw how utilizing the core principles created common ground and language, and the knowledge we are all pushing hard to “get after it” as a unit. That is an invaluable part of being a team. So I began recommending the book. I started passing out the book at work (support from my supervisor was huge), and making new Extreme Ownership fans—fans I could engage in conversation with about what they were getting from the book.

My interest, and my team’s response, soon had me tuning in to Jocko Willink’s Jocko Podcast (available on YouTube, iTunes most digital media outlets). It was on the podcast I first heard they were having a Muster in San Diego. I started thinking the Muster would be an excellent opportunity to achieve a deeper understanding of the principles, which I could then bring back to the agency. So I wrote a proposal.

I explained to my chain of command, with the assistance of my supervisor, the costs and the intended outcome, and up the chain it went. Everyone was most patient with the bombardment of video clips and conversations about “the plan.” But, more importantly, they were supportive. We were fortunate enough to facilitate a presentation to our agency leadership, and presented each of them with their own copy of Extreme Ownership, and that did the trick.

Soon we were up at zero dark 30 for a flight to San Diego. As soon as we checked in, I let my curiosity take over; and we did a little recon on the facility. We ended up being caught by none other than Jocko and Leif. They were great about our snooping, thankfully, and seemed eager to get started.

Jocko Willink and George Risko
(Jocko Willink and George Risko; photo credit: George Risko)
The Muster was top notch. Each morning was PT at 0430. Day one we met more of the team and cadre (JP, Echo Charles, and Ms. Lynn are awesome folks) and got our classroom learning started. We spent the next two days in class taking a deeper dive into the laws of combat, which I mentioned earlier:
  • Cover and Move
  • Simple
  • Prioritize and Execute
  • Decentralized Command
Q&A sessions both days introduced more of my fellow Extreme Ownership troopers and allowed us all to see how different folks had interpreted and applied the key principles. Meal times were spent with our hosts, Jocko, Leif and their team, and more great discussions were had about how the principles in Extreme Ownership are geared to improve our relationships with the people we live and work with. The interaction with fellow participants was invaluable, as was the opportunity to talk with other folks that worked with the authors previously in the SEAL Teams. After a jujitsu lesson from Jocko at Victory MMA and Fitness, and an extra voluntary PT session with JP later, we were homeward bound.

I have been very blessed, personally, and professionally, since starting this journey into the world of Extreme Ownership, and as much as the book Extreme Ownership has changed my way of thinking, the Muster was really the kicker that changed my life. Now, without spoiling the book, let me tell you what I learned:
  • It really is about relationships. The fact that Jocko and his team are still teammates long after their military careers speaks volumes. The team at Echelon Front (Leif and Jocko’s company) is genuine; they are a family, they are real people using the principles of Extreme Ownership to solve real problems. Their principles are applicable in every situation because taking ownership in your relationship opens communication and builds trust. That’s the foundation upon which great relationships are built.
  • The team at Echelon Front remain available. You can interact with them on social media, at events and during the podcast (the books covered on the podcast alone make up an awesome reading list—especially on leadership), and I cannot express enough the value of the podcast. Extreme Ownership is the textbook, if you will, and all the other contact opportunities dive deeper into different aspects which bring you right back to those laws of combat.
  • Challenges, there are a few. Some folks deride the book as being too military. Not so. Sure, the principles were learned there; but the value and effectiveness of the book go far beyond their military application. I believe if those detractors took time to actually read the book, they’d find it’s full of plain common sense and personal responsibility.
Personally, this book came at just the right time for me. My wife gifted me the book on Christmas in 2015 just after some major life changes. Turns out the Extreme Ownership philosophies were able to help me thrive during a transition in my career. The ideas presented in the book Extreme Ownership, opened my eyes to my own shortcomings, and improved my personal life and my relationships at home and at work. It’s made me a better leader, and also a better follower! I suggest you also read it, learn it, and live it! And I believe that’s all I’ve got…

Respectfully Submitted,
George Risko
Proud Plank Owner Muster Class 001

George Risko is the Fire Training Officer for the Florida Forest Service and a member of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee. All expressions are that of the author.

Carlos Climent is the Training Coordinator for the Florida Forest Service.

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