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Exctreme Ownership in a different culture  

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Max
 Max
(@max-w)
New Member

Hello everyone!
I’m a mid-level manager in relatively small company (~200) in one of Eastern European countries. I have huge experience in leading different teams for almost 10 years and I have found that it’s unusually challenging to apply extreme ownership principles in my culture. I’ll do my best to explain all the details, but English is not my native language, so some misunderstanding is possible. Please, fill free to correct me, criticize my text and request additional details if needed.
First off all, I think that Extreme Ownership is an excellent and obligatory mindset for any adult society. May be for you guys as the US citizens it’s not so obvious but for us foreigners it’s clear that the US power in its culture of everyone’s responsibility for everything they could influence. Yeah, all cultures have similar problems like narcissism, luck of responsibility, ect. But overall, your society has visibly higher level of leadership culture. I had a lot of business and non-business communication with Americans and it’s very noticeable cultural trait.
First, let me share some my experience.
I have found “Extreme Ownership” 2 years ago and it was very interesting and refreshing reading experience. I tried hard to apply all the Principles from the book and was happy to see positive results in productivity of my team. In a critical for company period with almost no resources poor product management and strict deadlines we achieved almost all planned goals. It was impossible to achieve everything because management always planned impossible goals every year. My team became the one of main company forces. But top- and product- management hadn’t changed, so we did great but useless things for business.
And here is the problem:
If you say “I’m responsible for… Next time I will …” You became the only guilty in all company’s problems. Even if you resolve all the problems you took responsibility. Bosses keep you, but you never will be promoted. You never will be trusted by your subordinates. Because say “I’m responsible” “I fail” is a weakness in my culture. There are a lot of business training for leaders which develops mindsets like “If you are boss you are always right”, “never confess you did the mistake”, “never apologize”, “fear is the mandatory leadership tool”. Okay, it sounds dramatic I have made some exaggeration to show the principle, the difference of our culture. In the reality everything is slight better, there are a lot of new companies with modern cultures, which took the best principles from modern leadership and management, but in common everything is like I said.
The reason why it happens lays deep in our culture and history.
In the US leader is a person who serve values and principles. You have the Constitution, you have corporate values and rules, team values. Tell me, what happens to officer who violate the Constitution’s values in the US Army? I heard nothing good happens to that officer. Yeah there are always exceptions, but common principles are about serving values, not the leader desire to rule.
In my culture, leader is above principles, rules, values. Once you became leader you got the right to violate rules. The higher the leader’s position, the more rules leader could violate without having responsibility. And usually there is a bloody fight for leadership position. The average leader is an abusive narcissist. Your subordinates appreciate you took responsibility and protect them, but once they have opportunity to take you place, they will do everything to destroy your reputation. You could fight that only by been aggressive and merciless person. When you constantly show who is king here, everything became stable. Being toxic is prime standard of effective leadership. It’s common practice here to blame your subordinates in front of a bigger boss to show your effectiveness.
And again, it’s exaggeration. I’m trying to show extreme examples to highlight the idea, to show difference in culture. Of course, almost every boss wants his/her subordinated to be effective to get some success for company, but our bad habits and traits too often overweight good intentions.

I believe it’s my mission to develop and protect these good culture and principles of Extreme Ownership in my society’s culture. My dear brothers and sisters deserve better. My fellow citizens could achieve much more with the good culture and right principles.
From my experience, everything in my team culture was good until some upper bosses decided to show his power and spread some toxicity. I had less authority, I couldn’t just say “Shut up and go away, don’t touch my people.” Privat meetings always was about what an asshole I am and how I lost everything. And I should fire “this guy because I(boss) said”.
I see solution in becoming the biggest boss. I’m starting my own business right now, and I believe executing Extreme Ownership principles as main authority will change the culture of all company. As I saw many times before, the culture of company is almost always developed exclusively by the CEO. It’s CEO’s behavior affects everything. If the big boss is toxic – everyone in company is toxic. So, being the CEO who take Extreme Ownership should be ok. It’s about me being good leader. Is that correct?
But I have doubts about saying “It was my mistake”.
So, my question is – what is a right strategy to apply Extreme Ownership principles in such circumstances? How to overcome the problems of my society’s culture?

I hope you guys got the idea. And sorry for my English.

Thank you,
Max

Quote
Posted : 16/04/2020 9:40 pm
Spas Vutov
(@kamigawa1234)
Active Member Customer

I live in the same part of the world as you and in my country the companies owned and operated by countryman and women have more or less the same mentality and level of toxicity. I believe it is remnant from the "old regime". To this day I'm having hard time explaining to my father (ex-military 75 years old) a lot of the concepts behind "free market" for example. It is just something he is not used to, even tho it's been 25 years or more already. Thankfully I'm in an industry that is very much influenced by "western practices" and such examples are very rare. That been said I try to stay clear out of such environment.

ReplyQuote
Posted : 17/04/2020 3:30 pm
Spas Vutov
(@kamigawa1234)
Active Member Customer

I live in the same part of the world as you and in my country the companies owned and operated by countryman and women have more or less the same mentality and level of toxicity. I believe it is remnant from the "old regime". To this day I'm having hard time explaining to my father (ex-military 75 years old) a lot of the concepts behind "free market" for example. It is just something he is not used to, even tho it's been 25 years or more already. Thankfully I'm in an industry that is very much influenced by "western practices" and such examples are very rare. That been said I try to stay clear out of such environment.

ReplyQuote
Posted : 17/04/2020 3:33 pm
Nicholas Ritter
(@nicholas-ritter)
New Member

Hey Max!

I completely understand what you are saying about cultural differences, different histories definitely make different situations. However I think American culture is very similar to yours in that taking responsibility can very easily be mistaken for weakness; which is absolutely a struggle we all have with Extreme Ownership - even in the US. I also understand that it may still be a uniquely difficult situation where you are, so I'll try to provide some pieces of advice I have picked up from Jocko and Leif.
First, Extreme Ownership should not be taken so far that you become the blame-sponge for the company, but rather that it is a tool to build relationships and trust up and down the chain of command. Values may change with culture, but relationships are universal
Second, being the only one practicing extreme ownership does mean it will catch on slowly, but until more people do it is important to remember a few things in the mean time:
-Taking responsibility may show weakness, but no one can argue with success
-The success of your team/company should come before your own glory
In some cases you may have to massage the ego of your superiors, make them feel like they are still in control (maybe even let them take credit for some success) while you continue to benefit the company. Through this your superiors and subordinates will trust and value you more, and as this trust and value increases, and when trust and value increases, your ability to influence the company increases with it.

I hope this was clear and helpful!

p.s: your English is impressive! I was able to understand what you wrote very well

ReplyQuote
Posted : 17/04/2020 10:42 pm
Max
 Max
(@max-w)
New Member

@nicholas-ritter
Thank you for response.

Posted by: @nicholas-ritter

However I think American culture is very similar to your

I think people are same, but the culture is different. The worst part is upper leadership heavily affets mid and low level workers. Both in business and army. You could grow your team for months, but all your authority and reputation could be easily destroyed buy biger boss in a minute. Unless you are preparing something against your boss before his "attack". But such things are against mission and goals, and companies ofter disappear only because of internal management wars.

Posted by: @nicholas-ritter

Taking responsibility may show weakness, but no one can argue with success

Success for many leaders here is to dominate over people under you and not the company's achievements.
Hopefully, we are slowly moving towards good principles.

I'm not sying you have no same things in the US. But your culture, from what I saw, have more protective traits againts such kind of toxic leadership.

And thank you for advices. The only thing I'm still concerned about is the part about saying you have made a mistake. May be in my culture it would be better to take ownership siletly unless people here are not prepared. Mission has more importance than nuances of execution I guess.

ReplyQuote
Posted : 19/04/2020 11:55 pm
Jared White
(@jared-white)
New Member

Hey, Max. Your English is solid. No need to apologize on that front.

That sounds maddening, and I'm assuming it's like that across many industries and employers based on your description. If you have the resources to start your own business, as you were mentioning, that would be a path to build the culture within the organization that you want. I'm assuming you'd have the ability to hire and fire who you want without outside intervention, and that would let you set the tone from day 1 for everyone that would want to work for you.

There are plenty of people that get stuck in less than ideal jobs because they have to support their family and kids, which makes taking the risk of starting a business harder. If you can take some risks now, though, and try to start your own business or find some of the few progressive companies that may be out there and practice business differently, you'll probably be happiest if you try and go after it.

You may be able to protect the people under you, but it sounds like that will come at the expense of your career. Ultimately, it's hard to shift the culture layers above you.

ReplyQuote
Posted : 09/05/2020 4:26 am
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