Turn the Ship Around! by L. David Marquet
“Leadership should mean giving control rather than taking control and creating leaders rather than forging followers.” David Marquet, an experienced Navy officer, was used to giving orders. As newly appointed captain of the USS Santa Fe, a nuclear-powered submarine, he was responsible for more than a hundred sailors, deep in the sea. In this high-stress environment, where there is no margin for error, it was crucial his men did their job and did it well. However, the ship was dogged by poor morale, poor performance, and the worst retention in the fleet.
Marquet acted like any other captain until, one day, he unknowingly gave an impossible order, and his crew tried to follow it anyway. When he asked why the order was not challenged, the answer was “Because you told me to.” Marquet realized he was leading in a culture of followers, and they were all in danger unless they fundamentally changed the way they did things.
That’s when Marquet took matters into his own hands and pushed for leadership at every level. Turn the Ship Around! is the true story of how the Santa Fe skyrocketed from worst to first in the fleet by challenging the U.S. Navy’s traditional leader-follower approach. Struggling against his own instincts to take control, he instead achieved the vastly more powerful model of giving control.
Leadership should mean giving control rather than taking control and creating leaders rather than forging followers.”
Before long, each member of Marquet’s crew became a leader and assumed responsibility for everything he did, from clerical tasks to crucial combat decisions. The crew became fully engaged, contributing their full intellectual capacity every day, and the Santa Fe started winning awards and promoting a highly disproportionate number of officers to submarine command.
No matter your business or position, you can apply Marquet’s radical guidelines to turn your own ship around. The payoff: a workplace where everyone around you is taking responsibility for their actions, where people are healthier and happier, where everyone is a leader.
PSA Book Club Discussion Part II:
For the Part II of the book club meeting, the dialogue focused on frustrations in organizations, change within organizations, and organizational culture. The PSA book club representatives engaged in some thought provoking discussions and questions, which led to a lively debate on change within an organization and employees attitudes toward change. Here were the key comments and takeaways.
Book Club Members on Organizational Change
I think we always have to be pushing our employees to the next level. We should always be stretching them, and I think we should make it uncomfortable (not in a way where people are fearful of losing their job) but having them learn new things; stretch them in their abilities and cross train about other departments and other jobs.
- Most of our top-level employees desire change and improvement while some low-level employees tend to lean toward being comfortable with their status. The ideal state is a combination of both with everyone acceptable to change. Top line needs to seek change for improvement and push this down at the same time it helps for some lower level employees to remain positive and content at the positions they are currently in.
- It varies from company to company. Most human beings have a fear of change and a fear of the unknown. Making the assumptions that the current level of performance is meeting expectations, most folks would stay with status quo. If they are not meeting expectations there will be that uncomfortable feeling and thus pushing them to want to change. Reflecting on my personal sports experiences – working with other people pushed me, which is much more effective than just pushing myself. I think we always have to be pushing our employees to the next level. We should always be stretching them, and I think we should make it uncomfortable (not in a way where people are fearful of losing their job) but having them learn new things; stretch them in their abilities and cross train about other departments and other jobs.
- It is interesting because we are going through a lot of change especially over the past 2 ½ years. From a dynamic perspective, we have the right amount of people that like change because we want to grow and be better and improve our positions. We also have the right amount of people that do not like change because they like their processes and they think we are moving too quickly.
- What has helped us and it was interesting reading the book; sometimes you do things and do not even realize it until somebody actually verbalizes it. Making our way through the processes of change as an organization, one of the things we have started doing is getting different stakeholders involved and talking through where we want to go, (what do we want to change, why are we changing it, how do we do it, what is the right way to do it). It helps us work out many bugs (not all of the pain points), we understand what we are walking into, and we understand what the result is.
- The second thing that sat with me from the book is doing things deliberately. Therefore, what we are doing has intention to it and we are not growing or changing by accident and without action. Some people in our organization are at least embracing change and some are uncomfortable with it. The people who are uncomfortable with it have been with the organization for a long time and have had to do the best at their job, perform consistently, and establish a reputation in the company; they have moved along with the company and done very well. Part of that change is, how do we blend individual strengths and how do we do things in a way where we have another person on our team that compliments what we do to make us better or stronger?
- Thinking aloud is very challenging for many people; especially when we first started. We had five people in a room talking about the next evolution of XYZ and those five individuals had independent thoughts that have worked very well for five individuals for a very long time. Part of the conversation of first getting over “the way we have always done it” to “how do we look at things differently?” Has our technology changed for us to change the way we do something? Has the environment changed? Has our customer changed? What changes have taken place that is causing us the need for change? Then, how do we take the strong pieces that everyone brings to the table and put them together in a package or process that makes us a better organization, better individuals, better teammates, better co-workers, etc. It has been very uncomfortable for everyone.
What has helped us and it was interesting reading the book; sometimes you do things and do not even realize it until somebody actually verbalizes it. Making our way through the processes of change as an organization, one of the things we have started doing is getting different stakeholders involved and talking through where we want to go, (what do we want to change, why are we changing it, how do we do it, what is the right way to do it). It helps us work out many bugs (not all of the pain points), we understand what we are walking into, and we understand what the result is.
- People are comfortable in their place and like to be content and comfortable every day. Traditionally in our organization, it has always had change driven from the top down. It has worked very well when we have communicated openly about the decisions for change, the reasons for change and the implementation for change. Even if there have been individuals that were comfortable with were they were and were not open to change, as long as they were involved in the process and they understood it, they have at least accepted it, and some have embraced it. As we are evolving, we are very much in the infancy, of evolving to a state where more people are involved in the change and we are having those discussions and being deliberate for identifying the reasons for change and how to embrace and implement the changes that need to occur.
- “…the vast majority of situations do not require immediate decisions. You have time to let the team chew on it, but we still apply the crisis model of issuing rapid-fire orders. RESIST THE URGE TO PROVIDE SOLUTIONS is a mechanism for CONTROL.” (p. 91-92). This quote stuck with me. I’m trying to live that in my own group – resisting that urge to try to fix it and give the team time to chew on it for a little bit.
- When you are in that mode and decisions need to be made, try to let the people make them. Ask a couple questions and let it sit. I have sat in rooms where it has been silent and eventually they break into a mode where they start engaging. Then your team starts changing. When there is an issue, you can ask a question and they will start to come up with the ideas. We hired our people because they are smart (we hope so anyway); they come up with ideas because they know how to fix it. They see the problems and have solutions – they just need to voice it.
The PSA Book Club discussion led to some key takeaways gained from Turn the Ship Around! by Captain L. David Marquet. The group felt strongly about open lines of communication throughout the organization and empowering everyone within the organization to take ownership and pride in the company and the job they perform. Marquet proposes a leader-to-leader mindset rather than the traditional leader-follower style of leadership. “Ultimately, the most important person to have control over is yourself – for it is that self-control that will allow you go ‘give control, create leaders.’ I believe that rejecting the impulse to take control and attract followers will be your greatest challenge and, in time, your most powerful and enduring success.” (p. 216) Stay tuned for Part III of the discussion in the next PSA LEAD Newsletter.
Interested in joining the PSA Leadership Book Club? Contact Julie Rolles at firstname.lastname@example.org
Book summary above was taken from the original book cover.