How to Get Your Crew to Take Extreme Ownership


When you’re managing a crew, you have a lot on your plate. And you just want your crew to take responsibility for what’s on theirs. You want them to take more ownership of the project, their roles, the jobsite, all of it.

So, how do you cultivate an ownership mentality among your crew members? Leadership expert Jocko Willink says ownership starts with you.

Take ownership yourself

According to Jocko, getting your crew to take ownership is simple: “You start to take ownership yourself, and then other people start to take ownership as well.”

He does advise leaders to be prepared for good results—and a few holdouts. “Will every single person take ownership? Nope. There's going to be a couple knuckleheads that don't,” he says, “but the vast majority of people will start to take ownership as well. And the reason I know that is because I’ve seen it over and over and over again.”

When you start to take ownership, your team changes. When your team changes, the business changes.

Examples from Jocko's clients

Jocko’s leadership training firm, Echelon Front, worked with a massive global company. He recalls, “Their worst business unit in America brought us on board, and the next year, they were the number one business unit in America.”

The incredible thing is, Jocko and his team didn’t teach that business unit anything about their process. They didn't talk about their technical business, because Jocko’s team didn’t know their technical business. They didn't look at finances, reassign, or bring in a troop of new leaders.

“What we taught them fundamentally was to start taking ownership of what was going on, and they went from the worst to the best,” Jocko says.

 Another company that Jocko’s team worked with had almost the exact same story: the worst business unit learned to take ownership, and then they became the best for two straight years.

While some companies have these incredible turnarounds, Jocko notes that, “Most of the companies that we work with are doing well, and they just want to do better.”

And they do better once they learn the principles of leadership, how to put their egos in check, how to follow the laws of combat, and how to take ownership of what's going on.

Stop saying there’s nothing you can do

Leaders and crew members alike make excuses for why they aren’t succeeding.

“You walk into these companies, and it's like, ‘Corporate doesn't give us the support we need, so therefore there's nothing we can do.’ Or ‘We've got this person over here, and they're not a good leader. There's nothing we can do.’ Or ‘This is a union shop, and we have a bad relationship with union. There's nothing we can do,’” Jocko says.

Maybe you’ve said things like that. Maybe you’ve blamed things on the bad market. Maybe you’ve made the excuse that your area is super competitive, so there’s nothing you can do.

But there's always something you can do.

You could help that person become a better leader. You could form a better relationship with the union and with corporate so that they can actually help support you. You can explain why you need this support from them. You can take ownership of your marketing and your craftsmanship to overcome the market.

“You look up, and all of a sudden, you start getting support. And the union relationship develops. And the people that weren't leading well are starting to lead well,” Jocko says.

Why? Because you stopped saying there’s nothing you can do and you started doing what you could.


If you want your crew to take extreme ownership, you just have to do two simple things:

  • Take ownership yourself
  • Stop saying there’s nothing you can do

When you take ownership and you look for ways that you can do something about the problems your having, you can turn your team—and your business—around.

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