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Navy SEAL to Shop Owners at Vision: 'Take Extreme Ownership'

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The speaker.

Leif Babin. Babin is a former U.S. Navy SEAL officer, decorated Iraq War veteran, and co-author of the New York Times bestselling book “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win” with fellow SEAL turned entrepreneur and influencer Jocko Willink. 


The message.

Leadership is the solution to your problems; take extreme ownership of the work in your sphere. Babin opened by telling the room that as an officer, he’s made “every mistake you can possibly make on the battlefield” and that’s why he can talk about leadership. That leading isn’t a lack of making mistakes, but making mistakes and recovering quickly, as well as learning from the mistakes of others and applying the lessons learned.

“Leadership is a skill you learn, and when we made mistakes, we took ownership of those mistakes,” said Babin. “We listened to recommendations and implemented them, and we got better and better.”

Babin made four points, all gleaned from his time in combat in Ramadi (Iraq). Dubbing these the Laws of Combat, Babin’s points included:

  • Cover and move. Form the strongest relationships you can with members of your team and support one another. He stressed collaboration and warned against individuals working within their own silos instead of within the team to achieve the goal together. “It's not about you, it's about the mission. In cover and move, I'm going to do what I need to make sure we're successful and win. The opposite of cover and move is, 'It's not my job,’” he said.
  • Simple. The way for leaders to communicate is to keep it simple.Babin said people in the shop need to do read-backs with those in their charge. When a teammate is given a duty, responding ‘OK’ isn’t enough. Have them tell you their understanding of the task at hand. Clarity cuts down on mistakes and shows that the leader effectively communicated the message. “The readback isn't a test for them, it's a test for me to make sure I communicated it clearly. If they don’t understand, there's probably others who don't understand, but when you understand you can execute."
  • Prioritize and execute. Leaders need to be strong in taking a step back and assessing situations. “Relax, look around, make a call,” was Babin’s charge. He stressed seeing the big picture and not being target fixated, which leads to tunnel vision.
  • Decentralize command. Leaders produce other leaders. Babin said the time he was proudest during gunfights in Iraq was when he didn’t have to give orders. His men knew the why and they embraced the mission. He encouraged attendees to not wait for orders, but lead from the floor. For those running businesses, he said, “Everybody leads. If you’re trying to do everything, you’ll be sucked into the details and won’t be able to do anything.”


Preparing the mind.

In closing, Babin left the room with his mindset for victory. They were:

  • Default: aggressive. Have an action bias. Problems don’t solve themselves. Have tough conversations in a constructive way.
  • Innovate and adapt. Everything changes. The battlefield, the enemy, tactics, technology, you. Always improve your effectiveness.
  • Humility: check the ego. When you aren’t humble you can’t evolve or adapt; you don’t respect the enemy; you’re complacent; you can’t self-assess. If you operate with humility, you can learn from others. You should want your team to win.
  • Take extreme ownership. Don’t make excuses, point fingers, or deny problems. “You lead in  every area that impacts your mission. Own everything,” he said.


Memorable quote.

"If you aren't going to take ownership of everything that impacts the mission, who's going to do it?"


Reactions

“It was motivating and very well spoken. Teamwork principles were the best. I think we all at times don’t take enough ownership. In that format he presented it in, it makes it easier to take ownership. It’s a leadership quality.” – Tim Tuckfield, manager, The Auto Clinic


“We loved it. We have a company book club, and we’re reading Extreme Ownership. Getting to see him speak was impactful. Leadership starts with you. Extreme ownership starts with you. Can’t blame others. Have to have self accountability before anything happens. If you don’t have it, you can’t expect it from others.” – Aaron Woods, X-tra Mile Auto Care


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