Truth bombs from a morning with Simon Sinek

Truth bombs from a morning with Simon Sinek
March 8, 2017 Sharon McClafferty

Last Friday in Melbourne, along with ~1500 of my nearest and dearest, I was incredibly fortunate to spend the morning listening to Simon Sinek. We all know he has a wildly popular TED talk and more recently a not to be missed clip regarding millennials in the workplace. So popular in fact that one of my LinkedIn connections made a New Year’s resolution that he would ‘unfollow’ anyone that posted about Simon Sinek in 2017… I hope you appreciate I’m risking this to document the five top ideas as voted by me:

It’s not about the people, it’s about the bus

I’d be surprised if many of my connections haven’t heard the phrase ‘getting the right people on the bus’ (Jim Collins, I think). Simon made an incredible case to show that it’s not about the people but about the bus. And you as the leader of the ‘bus’ need to create a circle of safety so that the people in your care: wake up inspired; go to work and feel safe; and go home fulfilled.


Leadership is not about being in charge but
taking care of the people in your charge


Great leaders bestow trust and people live up to it! So what happens if you have an idiot on your team? Take accountability for hiring a good person, in the wrong role. Be pro-people!

Consistency beats intensity every time

Two great examples of this in play. The first was spending 3 or so hours listening to Simon Sinek. It was indeed intense, he barely wasted a word. Each and every phrase could have been a ‘quote’ with a canva background. However without putting the content into practice, consistently, then it’s largely useless. The second was simple, if you brush your teeth for 15 minutes it’s not going to do anything, the magic is in brushing your teeth twice a day, for a lifetime.

I see this when I speak with firms about the peaks and troughs of their year: having an exceptional billing quarter does not make for a great year. When we can manage intensity and achieve consistency then it gets exciting. In fact, we have a firm who was having intense billing weeks at the end of each month… a separate blog on how this was fixed next month and the outcomes of doing so.

The biology of metrics

Dopamine is the chemical that is released when we have a sense of accomplishment. It motivates us to achieve incremental goals. Dopamine is why we sometimes complete a task then write it on a list just to cross it out. This process is no good with abstract concepts.

I speak to plenty of firms who are frustrated that their team are not performing as the owner would like but often there is no clarity on what success looks like. It is like saying ‘I’ll give you a bonus when you achieve more,’ How much more?

Measurable metrics, communicated with the team are so important. Some of these metrics should be measured not individually but as a team, that’s where Serotonin lives. Serotonin is the social chemical, it drives us to seek the recognition of others. If individuals are motivated to ‘do it for the team’ then you are building a culture of leadership, allegiance and cohesion. It’s not us against each other, it’s not even us against the competition… it’s together we are going to make an impact in the lives of those we seek to serve.

The owner of the business is not responsible for the clients

This shouldn’t have been such a revelation to me but I think it’s worth spending some time thinking about where your focus is as the leader in your business. The owner is responsible for the people, who are responsible for the people, who are responsible for the people (you might need to add or subtract some layers), who are responsible for the clients. Certainly there are some boutique businesses where this is not the case but by and large, if you are seeking to create some leverage now or in the future, question what portion of your focus is on the clients vs your team.

The Why is often an origin story

If you are, or have, struggled with your ‘why’ you are not alone. We have created a couple of step by step paths to uncover the why for firms we work with. Some have struggled with the concept for five years so it’s a massive relief when it clicks. To help a person in the crowd Simon added that the Why is often an origin story:


What was so important to you to go up
against the overwhelming risk of failure and
start this company?


The story could be independent of your product or industry.

Quickfire bonus gems for making it this far

  • Value is not an equation, it is only something the receiver can calculate
  • Be the leader you wish you had
  • Some insightful and alarming discussion on shareholder supremacy (the equivalent of the coach prioritising the wants of the fans over the needs of the players)
  • Regarding values: if you have to write ‘honesty’ on the wall you’ve got bigger problems
  • A vision without execution is an hallucination

And finally for those that were there ‘a shout out to my peeps’.