I became a fan of Jocko Willink after reading his Discipline Equals Freedom field manual. It’s hard hitting, provides little room for procrastination and demands action. In a world full of options, freedom eludes many. Willink’s core principle is that all freedom we seek, requires discipline. Despite freedom’s elusive nature, Jocko encourages us to take control, our mental and physical shortcomings the real obstacles. Jocko encourages us to believe that all of this is in our control. You want financial freedom; you just need to practice monetary discipline. Physical freedom, the ability we want to move, have fun and have adventure, requires discipline in how we look after our bodies on a daily basis. It all requires what Jocko terms, extreme ownership. This is all yours to own. No one else.
When a friend of mine decided that he wanted to cycle from the top of the UK to the bottom, over 10 days, from Lands End to John o’ Groats, he came to me for advice. “How should I do that? What’s your advice?” I had cycled from the west coast of Australia to the east coast with a group of friends, so I had some experience of the challenge. I asked him three questions. “How far is it?” “Over how many days?” “How long have you got to be ready? ” 1,400km, 10 days, in 8 weeks. “Nearly, I’m leaving in 4 weeks for a 4-week holiday in the UK with my family”. “Ok so that’s 140 km a day back-to-back for 10 days. How many kilometres can you cycle in a day today?” None . OK so we get draw a graph from 0 to 140km on the y axis and 0-8 weeks on the y. You get a week off before the ride and you train like a MOFO to get there. Oh and by the way, here, read this book – Discipline Equals Freedom. Hats off to him, he got it done!
In these uncertain times, a lot of us are being overwhelmed and facing a lot of uncertainty. Certainly, it appears that much of the heat is coming off but there is a lot to play out. For many of us, whether we’re leading at home or leading at work, there is no doubt in my mind that having tried and tested systems to plan and respond to situations like these are way better than reacting and hoping. When we plan, we can measure, test, learn, pivot and keep going. It builds confidence, provides certainty, removes anxiety and allows us to grow.
Jocko’s 4 phase approach to dealing with overwhelming situations like these, come from the US SEAL’s laws of combat and are:
1) Cover and Move
3) Prioritize and Execute
4) Decentralized Command
Cover and Move involves the team. Get across your people, finding out where everyone is, solve any immediate crises, let everyone know you have this, that everyone has a role to play in the mission
Simple involves the age-old adage of KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid. Any more than that, people will get confused and misunderstand their role and contribution to the success of the mission. Define the mission in clear and simple terms that everyone understands.
Prioritize and Execute. “taking on too many problems simultaneously will likely lead to failure at them all.” List the top issues, identify the greatest threat, deal with it, confirm its either dealt with or is being dealt with, check the priorities are still valid and then move onto the next one. Rinse and repeat till done.
Decentralized Command is about delegating responsibility. This builds ownership and feelings of importance as well as giving you scale. Distributing leadership and responsibilities through the team, ensuring everyone knows what they need to do, and why they are doing it allows you to get shit done and grows people along the way, making them and the team stronger. Senior leaders maintain “situational awareness” by constantly communicating and back them up even when bad decisions are made, allowing everyone to fail and learn.
It’s a pretty good approach. As Moroku faced the last weeks I have used this framework and have been pretty happy to see how we have come out the back of it , positioned to go forward and win.