Thursday, March 6, 2014

Damn XO: Give every order as if it were your own

When I was at the Naval Academy we were taught a lesson called Damn XO (Section 2.9 on page 11 of this PDF).

In a nutshell, orders and directives should be stated as if they are your own and not as originating from someone else (and particularly from someone senior).

From the Damn XO leadership guide:

There is a natural tendency, when faced with implementing directions that may encounter “push back” (objection or disagreement) from subordinates or peers, to phrase them as coming from someone else and thereby mitigate the situation for oneself. Responsibility for the directive is deflected to the originator rather than taking personal ownership. Sometimes characterized as “lazy orders” or “Damn Exec” syndrome (i.e., “Damn XO says ___________”). Giving orders to subordinates and attaching the originator’s name to them does not support the chain of command and has long term adverse effects on attitude, performance and unit integrity.

Issues with the “Damn Exec” approach:

– Demonstrates lack of ownership and “buy-in” to organizational goals.

– Subordinates may see you as only a puppet or mouthpiece of higher authority, lacking personal authority and responsibility.

– Subordinates may question decisions you make/ orders you originate.

Personal ownership of orders/directives is a fundamental responsibility at each level in the chain of command. “Damning the Exec” may be subverting your leadership role through loss of respect and support of your crew.

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