Leaders Eat Last

"Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first."

- Leaders Eat Last, page 177

Think of a company you love to do business with. Do the employees love their jobs? I bet they do. Sadly only about 2 out of 10 people in the USA can say: “I love my job!” Simon Sinek teaches us that leaders who create environments that help the people love their jobs are rewarded with the most stable, innovative and high-performing companies in their industries.

So how do we help them love their jobs? Simply create environments in which they can thrive Sinek says. This begs the question: in what type of environments do we thrive? Sinek looked to biology and anthropology for the answers. But I bet you can figure them out yourself. Think about it, you thrive when you:

    • Feel trusted and have autonomy
    • Trust those around you
    • Feel that you belong
    • Don’t fear losing your job
    • Feel connected to the meaning in your work

Ironically, few leaders nurture these things. In fact, it is far more common for company leaders to see people as commodities to be managed to help grow the numbers. He shows us that leaders who look after their people have people who look after the numbers. Leadership, he says, is about taking responsibility for lives and not numbers.

You may already know of Simon Sinek. After all, his TED talk was very popular – the second most viewed talk in fact. His book Start With Why was fabulous and so I was anxious for his next book. Leaders Eat Last did not disappoint. I had a hard time writing this summary, because my plate was too full! I had so many notes and dog-eared pages, it was hard to pick just three bites to share. But here is your amuse-bouche below; three ways to help your people love their jobs.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Leader = parent?

"Everything about being a leader is like being a parent."
- Leaders Eat Last, page 215

What does he mean when he says everything about being a leader is like being a parent? Simon shares a story of a CEO watching a wedding ceremony who equated a father handing his daughter to her new husband to parents handing their children to their new boss. It sounded a bit patriarchal to me but the message stuck. There is an awesome responsibility that comes with leading a team.

Great leaders sacrifice their own comfort for the good of others. They commit to the wellbeing of those in their care and have a willingness to make sacrifices. And importantly, great leaders truly care about those entrusted to them. People feel that care and it helps them love their job!

He shares five leadership lessons including:

1) So goes the culture, so goes the company – create a Circle of Safety in your culture
2) So goes the leader, so goes the company – inspire rather than dictate
3) Integrity matters – leaders who tell the truth create a culture of people who tell the truth
4) Friends matter – a social animals we are most productive when we trust and cooperate
5) Lead the people, not the numbers – and the numbers will appear

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Meet the people you help

"Human beings have thrived for fifty thousand years not because we are driven to serve ourselves, but because we are inspired to serve others."
- Leaders Eat Last, page 213

Biologically speaking, we are naturally cooperative animals that are more inspired and motivated when we feel like we are helping others. You may remember the studies Adam Grant shared on this in his book, Give and Take. Unfortunately, only one percent of executives in a survey of thousands said they should bother showing employees the difference their work makes.

What a loss! As social animals we all want to see the positive impact from our time and effort. Have you ever had a product fail before launch, but you had invested a whole year getting it ready? When this happened to me I was left with a strange sense of emptiness the day they pulled the plug. Like what I was doing didn’t matter.

When we work to “provide shareholder value” and are removed from the greater purpose of what our efforts contribute to, we do less and are less engaged. When leaders give us something noble to be a part of, offer us a compelling purpose or reason why we should come to work, people are happier and may even make sacrifices in their own short term comfort for the good of the cause.

Let’s help our teams love their jobs by helping them see the impact of what they do. I work with pharmaceutical professionals. I derive great pleasure helping them focus on the fact that regardless of their role in the organization, each and every one of them is contributing in some way to better patient outcomes. I see them reconnect with why they chose pharma and watch them fall back in love with their jobs as they become more engaged and engaging! Focusing on the patient is not just good for them and good for business, more importantly, it is simply the right thing to do.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Safety first

"There are few feelings that human beings crave more than a sense of belonging… the feeling of being inside a Circle of Safety."
- Leaders Eat Last, page 50

Do you work effectively when you don’t feel safe? Heck no! You spend too much energy protecting yourself. From the beginning of time, we’ve lived in a dangerous world. It used to be predators around the watering hole in the savannah and now it is predators around the water cooler in the office. We thrived in the past when we felt safe in our group; when we felt trusted and trusted those around us. And this holds true to today.

Simon studied successful teams and companies and discovered one important thing that they do differently than other teams. They trusted each other and felt safe. Great leaders create what Simon calls a Circle of Safety where everyone feels they belong.

When people don’t have to worry about losing their job, their energies can be devoted to seizing opportunities. The Circle of Safety created by the leader extends to the team and nurtures stable, adaptive, confident teams. In return for creating the circle of safety, leaders have deeply loyal colleagues who give their all to advance the leader’s vision and organizational interests.

Simon reports on companies who put a focus on building their people instead of firing them. Turns out, even when offered bigger titles and bigger salaries, people would rather work at a place in which they feel they belong, have the opportunity to grow and feel a part of something bigger than themselves.

Simon is striving to create a new generation of men and women who create success through leadership excellence instead of management acumen. And with the lessons he’s sharing, he’s making it easy to understand not just why we need to help people love their jobs, but how to do it and exactly what we need to do.

Do your people love their jobs? What one thing are you doing (or will you do) to help them? If you love your job, what is the most important thing leaders in your company do that contributes to this?

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Jill Donahue

ABOUT Jill Donahue

Everything I do is focused on improving patient outcomes. I do that by being a student and teacher of ethical, effective influence. I teach pharma people and health care professionals how to improve their ability to influence others...
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