In this particular chapter in Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek, he talks about trust and how trust forms a critical foundation for innovation and success. None of this is surprising to me. I’ve experienced and observed it in all the important relationships in my life, including my work environment.
Great organizations become great because the people inside the organization feel protected. The strong sense of culture creates a sense of belonging and acts like a net. People come to work knowing that their bosses, colleagues and the organization as a whole will look out for them. This results in reciprocal behavior. Individual decisions, efforts and behaviors that support, benefit and protect the long-term interest of the organization as a whole.
When I was in high school and wanting to stay out until all hours of the night I remember reaching an agreement with my father about what time I needed to be home. I remember him trusting me to come home at a certain time and emphasizing to me that if his ability to trust me became broken because I did not keep my word or honor our agreement, all the trust he had built up with me over the years would reset to zero.
It was the idea that over a series of years he had built experience upon experience with me that convinced him he could trust me. He made it very clear that if I ever broke that trust it wasn’t that would never trust me again or stop loving me, but that it would take a long time to recreate the trust we’d established. With that in mind, in a very fair way (not as shaming technique) he advised me to consider carefully the consequences of violating that trust.
That’s always made a lot of sense to me and something that is very important to my relationships too. I don’t think this is a special value I hold, I think it is fundamental to healthy, thriving relationships.
I’ve seen the setbacks breaking trust on small levels can have on personal relationships. Sometimes it stunts or slows down the relationship’s growth. Other times it causes a temporary set back.
It’s hard not to see very direct parallels to work relationships and the relationship people have with the company or group of people they work with. In my experience one of the fastest ways to ruin the dynamics of a well functioning team is the spread of distrust (intentionally or unintentionally) between managers and their reportees and team member to team member.
I saw an an interesting article over on LinkedIn by Dr. Marla Gottschalk titled 7 Very Telling Signs Your Job is a Poor Fit. The seven signs are:
- You feel lost
- Your strengths aren’t being tapped
- Challenge is absent
- You feel disconnected
- You can’t seem to complete anything
- You’re in avoidance mode
- You are in blame mode
I’ve been able to relate to all of these at one time or another. If these things are only happening to you, then yes, you are probably in the wrong place.
It’s also telling if you see these traits in more than one person on your team. If you do, there’s a good chance you are not in a healthy team environment.
The seventh “sign” caught my attention in particular. I’ve seen teams where blame was so prevalent it was like a “shared value.” People on the team were stuck in the mode of blaming other people inside and outside the team for their own lack of progress or success.
It is one of the fastest recipes I’ve seen for creating a toxic team environment. If this is the case, the question is no longer a case of whether or not you’re a fit for the team, rather it’s a question of how soon can you you find a healthy team to move to.
In my experience the mind tends to manifest that which it focuses on. If a good part of your team is investing large amounts of energy on how everyone else is failing, there’s only one thing your team is going to reap–MORE FAIL.
I really do believe that you get more of what you focus on. If the ongoing narrative of people around you is about how everyone else is failing or has failed, they’ll manage to find it just about everywhere they look, including in you.
The only way to win in a situation like this is to find a new place.
I’m working through Chris Brogan’s Owner’s Path course, an exploration and challenge to put into practice what it means to really own your business.
One of the first exercises was to set a mission statement. I spent a fair amount of time four years ago hammering out a mission statement, but I never felt that it was complete. Perhaps the passing of time and new experiences gave me what I needed to fully zero in on it in a way that I’m completely happy with.
Like mission statements I’ve read that belong to other people, I don’t expect everyone to fully understand or “get” mine. That’s okay, the most important person my mission statement for is me. I’m sharing mine here to give more insight into who I am and to encourage any other people on a similar mission.
I would highly encourage you to craft a mission statement that reflects who you are and why you are here on this earth. It’s not an easy or quick exercise. It is one of those valuable activities that takes time and a lot of refinement. I’d be glad to help you craft your mission statement. There are several ways to go about it, but I think I’ve found an approach that works well. More on that in another post if people are interested (leave a comment or contact me).
My mission statement is a clear way of explaining why I am here and what I am here to do. This is my WHY.
I bring order to chaos and clarity to confusion so that OWNERS can effectively communicate their truth and thrive.
“An owner is the kind of person that decides they are going to own their life. They own their choices they own their business and thus own their future.” – Chris Brogan keynote at Podcast Movement 2014
Further defining it means to be an Owner
I invest in Owners because an Owners’ first response has the spirit of, “I’ll try, I’ll find a way, or show me how to get started so I can do this.” Owners want to reach the next level. Owners don’t make excuses.
Non-Owners are people who:
- See everything that is wrong or can’t work
- Talk about all the reasons they can’t start, etc.
- Don’t take responsibility for everything in their lives
- Blame other things or people for their circumstances, lack of action or success
Not my mission
It is decidedly not my mission to convince non-owners to become owners.
Reading more from Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. In a previous post I reflected on the affect of different WHYs. I liked this quote about the confusion around money and it’s clear definition of what a WHY is.
WHY: Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. When I say WHY, I don’t mean to make money—that’s a result. By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief? WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care? (location 574 on Kindle).
This is interesting to consider in light of the regular approach. The WHY for adding new features to a product is often “so we can make more money” instead of, “so we can provide a better customer experience and help more people” or “because this will totally help further our mission!”
The difference is subtle. You could argue that the order doesn’t matter–if a company is making more money from adding a new feature, isn’t it likely that feature is helping people which is why they’re buying it?
I see two things happening here. First, the customer becomes something to extract money from (instead of someone to genuinely help because helping people is truly your mission). This leaks out in small subconscious ways that can’t always be controlled. People can tell.
Second, not everyone on a product team is inspired to take action at the thought of a company making more money (little of which they will receive) and because the feedback loop is too muddled. I feel good when I sense I’m helping someone directly and when I’m doing things aligned with my WHY.
Here’s a great section from Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Action by Simon Sinek.
Great leaders, in contrast, are able to inspire people to act. Those who are able to inspire give people a sense of purpose or belonging that has little to do with any external incentive or benefit to be gained. Those who truly lead are able to create a following of people who act not because they were swayed, but because they were inspired. For those who are inspired, the motivation to act is deeply personal. They are less likely to be swayed by incentives. Those who are inspired are willing to pay a premium or endure inconvenience, even personal suffering. Those who are able to inspire will create a following of people—supporters, voters, customers, workers—who act for the good of the whole not because they have to, but because they want to. (Kindle location 163)
This raised some good questions for me:
- Am I following leaders because I am swayed or inspired?
- Do I lead by sway or inspiration?
- How is the outcome different when I’m swayed versus inspired?
I see sway in this context as an external motivator, the most common being money or authority. You work extra hard because you want more money. You complete a project on time because you don’t want your boss to be mad. It’s an exchange–one thing to get or avoid another thing versus something you do simply because you want to.
I think Sinek’s observations have a profound impact on the workplace. You get a different type of employee and workplace when people are inspired and living from their own WHY, particularly when that WHY is shared throughout the organization.
I see this clearly where I work. Many people join because they are passionate about open source software, a particular programming language or technology they love. They are innately driven and inspire the people around them, including the people that work for them. It has a multiplier affect within the company.
I’ve seen the opposite too–people who come for other reasons. They have different passions and are inspired by other things. There is nothing wrong with these differences, however this misalignment often creates a less positive environment and results.