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Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't Hardcover – January 7, 2014
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About the Author
SIMON SINEK, the bestselling author of START WITH WHY and TOGETHER IS BETTER, is an optimist who believes in a brighter future for humanity. He teaches leaders and organizations how to inspire people and has presented his ideas around the world, from small startups to Fortune 50 corporations, from Hollywood to Congress to the Pentagon. His TED Talk based on START WITH WHY is the third most popular TED video of all time. Learn more about his work and how you can inspire those around you at StartWithWhy.com.
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Sinek begins with biology and outlines the roles of chemicals - specifically Endorphins, Dopamine, Serotonin and Oxytocin - and how evolution has dictated why we generate them and how we respond to them. Endorphins mask pain and help give you a `runner's high' or the intense satisfaction after a tough work out.
Dopamine leads to your `feeling good' upon accomplishing a goal whether that is bringing home dinner while evading sabre-toothed tigers or doing a bang-up job on a major presentation. Think of endorphins and Dopamine as the `individual achievement' chemicals. We need them to excel at what we do.
Serotonin is what gives you a feeling of gratitude and affection for the persons who supported you in your endeavors and the good feeling as they applaud you. Oxytocin is `love' chemical. It gives you the warm fuzzies you get when you hug someone or have a deep meaningful conversation. Think of Serotonin and Oxytocin as the `social' chemicals.
We, as humans, need both the individual achievement and social chemicals to progress. What has happened, unfortunately, in our society is that mores and values have changed to emphasize the former to such an extent that a deadly imbalance has been created. It is truly toxic - your job may be killing you. I used to think this was hyperbole but Sinek presents enough evidence for me to revise this opinion.
Central to Sinek's arguments is the `Circle of Safety'. When a sabre-toothed tiger attacks a herd of buffalos they gather together with their tails touching and horns out. Whichever direction that tiger attacks, it is met with impenetrable defense. This is the circle of safety. We want to feel that there are persons we can trust who will look out for us. Where we can let our guard down and be ourselves.
In such a trusting environment we can focus on doing the best we can and this greatly benefits both us, individually, the company. This feeling of `belonging' is what has disappeared from the corporate workplace to a large extent. It has been replaced by an ethos of `everyone for himself and the Devil take the hindmost'. And, sadly, even the `winners' in this environment are actually losers because of the personal price they pay in terms of insecurity and lack of meaningful relations, not to mention health side effects.
What I found really useful in the book is the way in which Sinek takes concepts from fields such as psychology and shows how they are relevant to what we experience in the workplace. I found these to be penetrating insights and they lead to many `aha' moments as well as to a change in the way I conduct some of my own programs.
For example, take the Milgram experiments. These are some of the best known - and most shocking - experiments in psychology and the implications are truly horrifying. In the early sixties, shortly after the Adolf Eichmann capture, trial and execution, there was a lively debate on whether Nazi collaborators were simply `following orders' or had a sense of responsibility and ownership for what they did.
Yale professor Stanley Milgram devised a series of experiments in which a volunteer was asked to deliver electric shocks to a subject each time he made an `error' in a lesson. Unbeknownst to the volunteer the subject was actually a confederate of the professor and an actor who affected great pain and suffering as the level of electric shocks increased. In reality there were no shocks and no pain but the volunteer did not know this.
When volunteers demurred from administering painful electric shocks the white gowned Milgram told them in various ways that they were required to continue even when they thought that the shocks they were administering were severely harmful to the subject.
The shocking result was that huge numbers of `normal' persons - readily or with mild trepidation - continued to administer potentially lethal shocks to subjects even as they howled with pain and demanded that they be released from the experiment. And this happened simply because they were told to do so by an `authority figure' with no threats or rewards for doing so.
Obviously this has great implications for why dictatorships form and survive and the debate on this continues to this day.
What Sinek points out is that this same experiment is played out in our companies every day at huge human toll. I had never thought of it in these terms before but parallel is exact. Many `managers' willingly take actions that they know will bring hardship and suffering to others - mass layoffs, reductions in benefits, changes in working conditions etc. - simply because they have been directed to do so. Even worse, we have evolved a business `philosophy' where formal directions are no longer necessary - this is simply the way to do things.
Sinek talks about how to bring the balance back in our workplace so both companies and individuals can thrive side by side in a symbiotic relationship. And he gives lots of examples such as the Barry Wehmiller companies where CEO Bob Chapman is dedicated to `building great people who do extraordinary things. And Charlie Kim, CEO of Next Jump who implemented a policy of lifetime employment.
I particularly like his comparison of the results achieved by James Sinegal, CEO of Costco and Jack Welch the much touted former CEO of General Electric. Welch's paradigm of pitting executives against each other created a high stress environment and the gains were short-lived and unsustainable.
In contrast Sinegal built a strong `circle of safety' for his people, paid wages which were nearly double those at Walmart and did many things to engender loyalty and trust. Costco employees are loyal and have built it into the second largest retailer in the country and the growth is both balanced and continuing.
This book will make you think differently about the business systems that prevail in our society and also give you a way to make the workplace more humane.
I hope you join the `Truly Human Leadership" bandwagon set rolling by Bob Chapman, CEO of the Barry Wehmiller companies. Be sure to watch his TEDx talk. Google it to get the URL.
This one started strong with an inspirational intro about Johnny Bravo, a fighter pilot, whose heroic actions saved the lives of several troops caught in a ground battle in Afghanistan in 2002.
Next, we learned about Barry-Wehmiller, a company struggling with a bad culture, that leads us into Sinek’s “Circle of Safety” and people before numbers discussion.
Then, we are educated on the chemicals in our brain and their impact on our decisions.
We learned of the “selfish” chemicals of endorphins and dopamine. We learn about the “selfless” chemicals of serotonin and oxytocin. We then are educated about the serious negative impacts of the “C” chemical, cortisol.
I was hoping for more stories like we heard about in chapters one and two as I read through the rest of the book. I prefer to hear positive stories and I picked up the book seeking stories of inspiration, courage, and strong leadership.
Unfortunately, we wind up hearing about quite a few negative stories and Sinek leans a little on the political side with the second half of his book.
We are reminded how Ronald Reagan fired 11,359 air traffic controllers in 1981. This event is what Sinek believes to have given tacit approval to large corporations and their leaders to treat people like numbers instead of human beings.
We learn about the downward spiral of Goldman Sachs, a once proud company with a rich tradition, that strayed from the original path and wound up putting the bottom line before people.
We hear the same of Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, and there’s a compare and contrast of stock price over an extended period of Jack Welch and his harsh rule at GE compared to a more people-friendly Costco.
While there are some more “feel good” stories along the way, I felt the tone went a little too negative and too political for my liking. I also felt the book lacked actionable items.
I appear to be in the minority on this one with my 3-star rating. Amazon gives it 4.6 stars after 850 reviews. Goodreads gives it 4.12 stars after 10,416 ratings and 883 reviews.
#FridaysFind #MIAGD #LeadersEatLast #SimonSinek
If it wasn't the TED talk that brought you here, go check it out to watch a 45-min "cliff note" version of the book. And then come back and get the book anyway because it can't be thoroughly covered in 45 mins.