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Winning the War Within

In this chapter, the author uses a “blue-on-blue" encounter as an example of extreme ownership. A “blue-on-blue” encounter is when there's friendly fire, fratricide. The author was the commander of a complicated mission in which several branches of the military were fighting together. During the battle, due to many errors from multiple sources, US military soldiers ended up firing on one another. While no US soldier was KIA, the fact that it occurred was extremely troubling. Instead of blaming those responsible for the errors, the commander took full responsibility. As a result, he earned more trust from his superiors and subordinates.


The business application that the author relates to this experience is one that many people have encountered. In this case, the company implemented a major initiative but did not get the expected results. The person in charge, a VP, who would seem to be responsible had nothing but excuses for the failure. However, this particular company brought in the author and he worked with the VP who then took full responsibility.


This chapter reminds me of two sayings that I adhere to. First, leaders always take the blame for failures while giving praise to their staff for successes. Second, confusion is always the fault of the leader. I have found that in many cases when there is a failure a lack of communication is often the culprit. A lack of communication results in confusion, or worse yet, giving someone a false sense of reality. Often, when information is not communicated, people use their own beliefs and understandings to try and make sense of a situation. Often, their perception of the situation differs from reality. In some cases, people will realize that they are missing information and reach out to others for clarification. Often this will not occur.


As leaders, we need to ensure we communicate in a clear and concise manner. Additionally, we need to ensure that people understand what is communicated. Just because you say it, does not mean it’s heard/understood. It might feel like your over-communicating, but clarity is worth the extra effort. Providing accurate information on a consistent basis prevents confusion. This is important because confusion often contributes to failure. When failures do occur, placing blame on others will only decrease their trust in you. People need to feel safe and protected in order for them to do their jobs effectively. In education, we are constantly trying to improve our effectiveness. This means that we need to take calculated chances. That is, what worked yesterday might not work today. Kids change on a daily basis. For people to be at their best, they need to feel confident enough to take risks and look at failure as an opportunity for learning. Failure is a great teacher and provides the opportunity to ask "ok, what did we learn from this?" John Maxwell has a great book on this subject called Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones for Success.


Thanks for reading!

Erik Bentzel

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© 2019 by Erik Bentzel. 

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