Do your staff members wake up inspired to go to work? Do they feel trusted and valued during the day? Do they return home feeling fulfilled? Some teams are able to trust each other so much they are able to put their careers on the line for each other. Other teams, no matter what incentives are offered, are doomed to infighting, fragmentation and failure. Why? It has to do with leadership.
We in education certainly feel the pain in knowing the people who will be laid off during financial reductions. They are not abstractions or simply numbers to us. And in many cases superintendents are the leaders who eat last…or take less of a percent or even a salary freeze rather than have one of our staff lose a job. But for leaders who do not put the people they work with first, this is a great wake up call. Listen up!
Our biology has not changed in fifty thousand years, but our environment certainly has. Today’s workplaces tend to be full of cynicism, paranoia and self-interest. But the best organizations foster trust and cooperation because their leaders build what Sinek calls a Circle of Safety that separates the security inside the team from the challenges outside.
Air traffic controllers who went out on strike were banned from ever working for the FAA again for the rest of their lives by Reagan on August 5, 1981. Sinek sees this as the day a message was sent to leaders across the nation that use of mass layoffs to guard against a short-term economic disruption was giving tacit approval to lay off people in mass numbers to balance the books. When the bottom line becomes more important than the people we work with, “innovation declines and pressure to compete on things like price, and other short-term strategies, goes up.” Sinek warns not to focus on numbers over people, whether in pay for performance or any measures that can be simply reduced to numbers.
Sinek uses a number of different settings in industry to underscore his message and relates our present day reactions using oxytocin and dopamine triggers as they relate to safety, community, and job satisfaction. Time and energy build more trust than money does. Responsibility is not doing what we are told, but doing what is right.
Although Sinek is an unshakeable optimist, he does deliver some fairly sobering statistics about the Baby Boomer generation. “Baby Boomers are killing themselves in greater numbers than ever before. According to a 2013 study by the Center for Disease Control, suicide rates among Baby Boomers rose nearly 30% during the past decade, making suicide one of the leading causes of death in that age group, behind cancer and heart disease. The biggest jump was among men in their 50’s—this age group experienced a 50% increase (p. 200).” This exceeds the number who die from car accidents. The Me Generation, addicted to performance, will need to open up to the fulfillment of service rather than being served. Those of us in education who practice service will recognize this as one of the reasons we entered the profession.
Simon Sinek’s TEDTalk based on Start with Why, his first book, is the second most popular video of all time on TED.com. Check out How Great Leaders Inspire Action at TEDTalk (14.2 million views), second to Ken Robinson’s How Schools Kill Creativity (23.5 million views). Jill Bolte Taylor My Stroke of Insight (14.3 million views), Brene Brown The Power of Vulnerability (12.7 million views), and Amy Cuddy Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are (12.6 million views) round out the top five TEDTalks viewed according to Bruno Giussani, European director of TED and curator of TED Global.