Everyone Owns the Mission

By | October 7, 2019

[October 7, 2019]  My brother was about 10-years old and didn’t understand when our dad said that the “yard needed mowing” and he owned it.  To him that meant belonged to him – literally – but of course that was not the case.  Dad meant that my brother’s job was to mow the yard anytime the grass got too high, and he was to mow it without being told to and without supervision.

In the military, we say the same thing.  The parallels are striking between a military mission and my brother taking care of our yard.  My dad understood, as do military leaders, that if everyone is not on-board with the mission, then the leader (my dad) has failed.  When everyone owns the mission, each person has an investment in the outcome.  This drives internal motivation right down to the newest member of the team.

Leaders who own the mission and do not take the appropriate steps to ensure everyone else does too will ultimately fail.  When this occurs, everyone loses.  I remember a time when a senior U.S. Army Sergeant told me that I was not sufficiently involved in our mission.  I had, to use his terms, “no stake in the game.”  Therefore, if anything were to go wrong, I would not be the one to steer the unit back onto the right mission path.  I would be failing my soldiers.

I learned a great deal from First Sergeant “Spooky” McHugh’s guidance.  This would not be the only time he provided much-needed guidance to a junior Lieutenant.  Years later, he would help train many of my Infantry Company’s soldiers before going into combat.  To “own” the mission doesn’t mean sitting back and letting others do the work; it means having a bias for action and shouldering responsibility.

My brother was also required to pick-up any trash, trim the weeds near the fence line, report any problems to dad, and oversee the condition of the grass and grounds.  Such responsibility was significant, and my brother struggled for a whole year to carry out dad’s task for him.  For this, my brother got paid 25 cents per week.  After some time had passed, my brother finally understood, and for that he has been grateful.  This was a time of personal growth as children; something no one should forego.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

23 thoughts on “Everyone Owns the Mission

  1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    Agree! This is why, also, that in baseball they say you “gotta have heart.” If the person is not all in on where the group is going, there is a lack of commitment or desire.

  2. Jerome Smith

    I’m not that old but I also remember having my dad give me the job of mowing the grass and taking care of the yard. That meant any trash (blown by the wind, etc.) had to be picked up and thrown away properly. It meant weeding, fertilizing, and so on. Now I live in a condo but still remember those lessons of childhood and teach my kids about responsibility.

    1. Bryan Lee

      This is the same as ‘cleaning your room’ every single day. Keep some order in your life, even if it is just a little bit of order.

  3. Albert Ayer

    Thank you Gen Satterfield. Appropriate article. I’ll be printing it and giving it to my son-in-law. Ha Ha Ha. The little bugger will get a chance to learn something useful.

  4. Jerry C. Jones

    I like the story of your brother getting extra work and his learning about what the meaning of the family must be all in on its success. The issue that I find often unresolved at the family level is what exactly is the mission and what exactly is the measures of success. That is where maturity comes in with the parents. How do they define – and agree to define – what is good for their family?

    1. Eric Coda

      Jerry, this is an excellent point and why social interaction should never be sacrificed. But those who spend too much time playing computer games and watching tv will have a harder time in their lives. Keep you life simple, that is my motto.

      1. Wilson Cox

        Yep, sell your television and spend more time with the family, reading, and going places to see things and other people. Your life will be far better.

      2. Tony Custer

        An overlooked (purposefully or not) idea. In the past, you had no choice but to interact with others. Or you were a hermit. Now, there are “acceptable” ways to NOT interact with others. This will be the downfall of many communities.

  5. Yusaf from Texas

    Thanks, Gen. Satterfield for another positive start to the week. This idea that everyone must own the mission applies not just to business and the military but to ALL walks of life. It applies to the family, friends, and even going shopping. The family, for example, must all be engaged to make things better. Everyone of them and not just the parents. That way, every one has a stake in the outcome.

    1. JT Patterson

      Hi Yusaf. I must agree fully with you on this. I do think, however, regarding the family, that is why the article including info on his brother. The family is an excellent example where everybody must have buy-in or things go to hell in a handbasket.

      1. Doc Blackshear

        JT, I was going to make the same comment. The idea that everyone must be IN on the idea/mission/task is an old one and anyone who thinks they can change it will not do well for themselves or for others.

  6. Gil Johnson

    Well, another early morning as I get ready to go to work; I’m now reading a few things on my computer and decided that I’d pull up Gen Satterfield’s leadership blog. Good thing I did. Today at work, I’ll be going over some new tasks for my management team. Of course, now I’ll begin with this idea that everyone must own the mission in order to ensure success. Another reason folks should be reading this blog.

    1. Shawn C. Stolarz

      Go get ’em, GIl. Yes, this is an important but you would think obvious idea. But no! Many don’t believe it. Those are often, I think, the narcissists who think everything revolves around them.

      1. ZB22

        ….. and it also includes the snowflakes in college. Just wait until they graduate and try to get a real job.

      2. Crazy Dude

        I also agree but it’s more than narcissists. Just call me crazy but this is another example of why I keep coming back to this leadership website. Oh, I am crazy then.

  7. Army Captain

    When every Soldier “owns” the mission, things go well. When only the leader owns the mission, all goes poorly. This is, therefore, the basis of good leadership (or bad).

    1. Ronny Fisher

      “If only” … I’ve seen too many leaders fail during my lifetime. Many it was just lack of experience and intelligence. In others it was malfeasance. Regardless, it was due to not getting others to own the mission. Thank you, Gen. Satterfield, for another article to learn from. 👍

      1. Dale Paul Fox

        You got that right. Me too. There should be more mentoring of leaders to ensure they know things like this. Many have it inborn (I know this is counter to this websites themes) but I do believe it. They might need less mentoring but the majority need it.

    2. Joe the Aussie

      Thanks for what you do, Army Captain. Good to hear that you support this idea also. Cheers!

      1. Drew Dill

        Good to see you back on the “system” Joe the Aussie. Hope you’ve been well. I missed your humor. Welcome back to gen. satterfield’s blog. Great to have you on again and poking us to learn more.

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