Battle tested approach when being overwhelmed

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. The core principle is that all types of freedom that we seek, requires discipline. In a world that for most of us is full of options, freedom eludes many. This is because freedom is not just the opportunity to do or have something but the ability. Thus it is our mental and physical shortcomings that become our 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 two questions. “How far is it ?” , “How long have you got to be ready? ” 1,400km and 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 kilometers can you cycle in a day today?” 0 . OK so we get draw a graph from 0 to 140km each day. 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

2) Simple

3) Prioritize and Execute

4) Decentralized Command

Cover and Move involves the team. Getting across your people, finding out where everyone is , letting them know you have this, that everyone has a role to play and to get focused on 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

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.

Kia Kaha

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