I’ve taken some time out from writing blogs recently in order to focus on writing my book – to be launched later this year! Today’s offering is from one of my team members who attended an amazing Business Chicks event on my behalf… please welcome Tom!
Recently I attended a breakfast seminar hosted by Business Chicks at which Simon Sinek, author of the highly regarded book ‘Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action’ (2009), was our key note speaker. Firstly for clarity I attended the event as a guest as I’m not in the habit of loitering around women’s professional network groups. And despite some initial apprehension I met an equally nervous looking gentleman hovering at the entrance and we agreed to link arms – for safety purposes!
Sinek’s incredibly engaging 90 minutes centred around his Golden Circle model, a philosophy which aligns the success of leaders and organisations to their ability to clearly articulate and sell ‘why’ they exist and not ‘what’ they do. With a background in marketing the model is spun out of his belief that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. For a more in depth understanding of the Golden Circle model I encourage you to revisit Karen Gately’s March blog ‘Inspiring Commitment’ or Sinek’s TED Talk titled “So what does it take to be inspirational?”
In preference to describing Sinek’s model I’ve chosen to share one of my key take outs for the day which came from an example Sinek shared of an organisation culture shift that enhanced staff engagement and ownership. Interestingly the example came from the U.S Navy and a retired Captain, David Marquet who took over the lowest performing crew in the Navy. Sinek explained that Marquet’s success was driven by his ability to quickly identify and change the ship’s permission based culture. For example:
A submarine pilot might say to his commanding officer “Permission to dive to 400 feet,” to which the captain would reply “Permission granted”.
In this example although the submarine pilot was taking the action, he didn’t own the action, the commanding officer did. So Marquet set about changing the culture by banning the use of the words “permission to…” Instead these were replaced with “I intend….” and as you can imagine the impact was profound. Subsequent interaction were:
“Sir, I intend to dive to 400 feet,” to which the captain would reply “Go ahead.”
Whilst this represented a more relaxed and modern style of communication, importantly it did not break the chain of command, and now the driver is not just performing the action, he owns both it and its outcome.
With this example in mind Sinek commented on what he believes happens far too often in the workplace – we ask for permission. Sinek enquired of us the audience “How many times a day or week do you hear the following?” – “What do you think of this?” “I just want to run an idea past you” “What should I do?” Overwhelmingly the response was too often and through further discussion it became apparent that quite typically people are not just consulting on ideas or workshopping concepts, they are asking others to own what they do.
Sinek says that asking doesn’t get things done. He maintains that leadership starts with owning your own actions. He says that great leaders state out loud what they intend to do and in doing so, they get things done. More importantly, this encourages those around them to do the same. Sinek went on to state that leadership is not about command and control – that’s about authority. It’s about giving others responsibility and ownership over the things they do. That is what makes people feel like they are a part of something and it’s what makes them want to get things done. It builds trust and loyalty between people.
So with this in mind, I’ll leave you with the same challenge that Sinek posed to us. From now on, if something really needs to get done, don’t ask permission; tell someone: “I intend to….” Remember it’s OK if they disagree because you can still discuss options. Then it’s simple – do what you intend, get things done and encourage others to do the same.