Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe: TED Talk by Simon Sinek

What makes a great leader? Management theorist Simon Sinek suggests that it’s someone who makes their employees feel secure — who draws staffers into a “circle of trust.”

Sinek opens his TED Talk with a story about Congressional Medal of Honor winner Captain William Swenson who, while in Afghanistan, ran into live fire to rescue wounded soldiers and pull out the dead. After helping one soldier into a medevac helicopter, the captain bent over and gave him a kiss before returning to rescue others.

It made a tremendous impact on Sinek who asked himself the question, “Where do people like this come from?” His first thought was, “They are just better people,” but he soon proved himself wrong.

The author of Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Sinek discovered that it is the environment. “If you get the environment right, every single one of us has the capacity to do these wonderful things.” Sinek talked with many folks who we would call heroes and asked each one the question, “Why would you do that?” The answer: “Because they would have done it for me.”

Trust and cooperation are front and center for this kind of environment to exist. However, trust is a feeling and we can’t just tell people to trust us, to cooperate and to follow us.

Sinek goes on to explain that we have evolved into social animals from the days of the Paleolithic era to the early days of Homo sapiens when we lived and worked together in what he calls a “circle of safety.” It was inside the tribe, where we felt like we belonged. And when we felt safe amongst our own, the natural reaction was trust and cooperation.

The same is true today in a world that is filled with danger — where there are things that frustrate our lives or reduce our opportunity for success.

The only variables are the conditions inside the organization, and that’s where leadership matters, because it’s the leader who sets the tone. When leaders make the choice to put the safety and lives of the people inside the organization first, to sacrifice their own comforts and to sacrifice the tangible results so that people feel safe and know they belong, remarkable things happen.

Adds Sinek, “When we feel safe inside the organization, we will naturally combine our talents, our strengths and work tirelessly to face external dangers and seize opportunities for success.”

When leaders choose to sacrifice so that their people may be safe and protected, Sinek believes that the natural response is that, “They will give us their blood and sweat and tears to see that their leader’s vision comes to life. When we ask them, ‘Why would you do that? Why would you give your blood and sweat and tears for that person?’ they all say the same thing: ‘Because they would have done it for me.’ And isn’t that the organization we would all like to work in?”

I encourage you to check out Simon Sinek’s TED Talk.

I also encourage you to read a blog I wrote several years ago about “personal trust.” It is a topic that I think is vital to establishing and sustaining relationships of all kinds.

10 Ways To Have A Better Conversation – TED Talk by Celeste Headlee

Longtime National Public Radio host Celeste Headlee shares what she has found to be the ingredients of a great conversation: “Honesty, brevity, clarity and a healthy dose of listening.” Taking each of these qualities seriously and adding a healthy dose of humor, Headlee talks us through her 10 Rules.

She does address the fact that every conversation holds the potential to devolve into an argument. Our politicians can’t speak to one another civilly and even trivial issues have someone fighting either passionately for them or against them.

Longtime National Public Radio host Celeste Headlee shares what she has found to be the ingredients of a great conversation: “Honesty, brevity, clarity and a healthy dose of listening.” Taking each of these qualities seriously and adding a healthy dose of humor, Headlee talks us through her Ten Rules.

She does address the fact that every conversation holds the potential to devolve into an argument. Our politicians can’t speak to one another civily and even trivial issues have someone fighting either passionately for them or against them.

Citing a Pew Research study of 10,000 American adults, Headlee tells us that we are more polarized and more divided than ever before. She believes that much of this is because we are not listening to each other. “A conversation requires a balance between talking and listening,” she adds, “and somewhere along the way we lost that balance.”

Of course a talk about conversations cannot be complete without the mention of our unceasing use of technology. Headlee talks about an article written by high school teacher Paul Barnwell in which he says, “I came to realize that conversational competence might be the single most overlooked skill we fail to teach.” He observes that kids spend hours each day engaging with ideas and each other through screens, but rarely hone their interpersonal communication skills. “Is there any 21st-century skill more important than being able to sustain coherent, confident conversation?” Barnwell asks.

Before Headlee launches into her ten rules, she reminds us of the importance of nodding and smiling to show that we’re paying attention and summarizing what we have understood. “Forget about all of that,” she adds quite strongly. “There is no reason to learn how to show you’re paying attention if you are in fact paying attention.”

Headlee’s skills as a professional interviewer will help us to learn how to be better conversationalists. How to avoid wasting time, getting bored, or offending anyone. And, how to have conversations where we walk away feeling engaged and inspired , having made a real connection, or been perfectly understood.

Headlee’s 10 Basic Rules for conversations are very good, as are her explanations for why they are significant.

She again emphasizes the importance of listening. Having written several blogs about this myself, I totally agree. Headlee and I have both quoted author Stephen Covey who said, “Most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand, we listen with the intent to reply.”

“Be interested in other people,” says Headlee. “I keep my mouth shut as often as I possibly can, I keep my mind open, and I’m always prepared to be amazed. You do the same thing. Go out, talk to people, listen to people. You won’t be disappointed. Enter every conversation assuming that you have something to learn.”

I encourage you to listen to Celeste Headlee’s TEDTalk. I promise you will not be disappointed and will find yourself having better conversations.

The 5 Elements Of Effective Thinking

By Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird

Because it came highly recommended, I decided to read The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking. I wasn’t necessarily in the mood for yet another book telling me how to think, but it was small and compact, with few pages. And, I was interested to learn the thought provoking ways that promised to provoke thoughts.

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Much to my surprise and my ever-lasting gratitude to the authors, I found the book to be inspiring, entertaining, and yes, thought provoking. Meaningful and wonderful quotes were sprinkled throughout, as were great tips to improve one’s overall thinking skills. In addition, it actually changed the way I process information and think about it, just as authors and mathematics professors Burger and Starbird said it would. [Read more…]

Living Brave Interview Series: Brene Brown Interviews Oprah Winfrey

It was Lucille Ball who said, “I’m not funny. I’m brave.” And so she was. It took a lot of courage in those days, especially for a woman, to do all of the wonderfully “nutty” things that she did.

In the first taped episode of her “Living Brave” series, Brene Brown interviews Oprah Winfrey, and courage takes on a very different meaning in a conversation that is fascinating and illuminating. We don’t often get to hear Oprah answering personal questions and sharing fairly intimate details about her life and her “own truth.”

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Brown, whose latest book is Rising Strong, asks Oprah some pointed questions, the first of which is what vulnerability means to her. The answer: “It is being willing to express the truth no matter what — the truth of who you are. The essence at the core of what you are feeling at any given moment. Being able to open up your soul and let it flow so that other people can see their soul in yours.” That’s pretty powerful, I think, and as the interview progressed, I had a glimpse of seeing my soul in Oprah’s.

When asked by Brown to give an example of what she still feels vulnerable about, Winfrey shared that it’s “not having conquered the whole weight struggle — balancing what it means to be a strong powerful woman in the world juxtaposed with trying to control what you are eating.”

Brown and Winfrey talk about stories — those we create about others and those we create about ourselves, or that others create about us and how we deal with them.

When asked about what fear she still struggles with, Winfrey said, “I’ve worked on the disease to please a lot.” Reading and introspection helped Winfrey learn how to live an “intentional life.” She no longer makes decisions unless she thinks about what her true and pure motivation is for doing something. “The intention informs the cause, and the reason for doing the action is what actually is going to show up in your life. It will come back to you.” Winfrey’s example: “I realized I was often doing things for people who kept coming back for more and I didn’t understand it.” It finally became clear that the intention was she wanted to be liked. Wow, does that sound familiar. Yes, folks, even Oprah felt the need to please.

I found this discussion about bravery and courage to be so important for all us to hear and to really think about. I was particularly affected by Winfrey’s answer to the question: “So what do you do if you want to lead a brave life and not disappoint anyone?” Her answer: “You cannot live a brave life without disappointing people.” It does take courage — especially for people pleasers — to make decisions they know are going to disappoint people, but do it anyway to be true to themselves.

The discussion continues with fascinating topics that include the physics of vulnerability, taking falls and rising again, the two “shame tapes” and how to understand that sometimes the world is “reflecting you back to you.” Says Winfrey: “No one is saying anything about you that you haven’t thought about yourself.”

I urge you all to listen to the conversation. It’s powerful, honest and brave. Oprah Winfrey,  Brene Brown, and yes Lucille Ball, have each found the courage to live her truth.

“What To Do When It’s Your Turn” by Seth Godin

“I’m no longer sure what the question is, but I do know that the answer is Yes.” — Leonard Bernstein

And thus begins Seth Godin’s latest book, What To Do When It’s Your Turn (And it’s always your turn). I have read many of Seth’s published works and have enjoyed and been motivated by all of them, but I was particularly enchanted, excited and inspired by his latest effort.

Printed in full color, the unique format includes photographs, collages, and blocks and circular colors, in addition to the text, which appears in different sizes and fonts. Seth created what in his own words, “seems more like a high-end magazine than a book, that will encourage even people who hesitate to buy and read books to be engaged by this one.” I wholeheartedly agree.

According to Seth, “The book explores, as directly as I can, the dance we all have to do with our fears, the tension we all must embrace in order to do work that we care about. It pushes us to dig deep inside so we can do better work and impact the things we care about.” Fear is a word used throughout the book.

Seth explores, creatively and consistently, the very critical issue of personal fears and what we all do — and how we do it — about grappling with them. He does not for one moment let us forget that we have fears and how they can and do prevent us from moving forward, from fulfilling our dreams, and even preventing us from having dreams. Because we would then fear having to fulfill them.

Also at the core of What To Do When It’s Your Turn is Seth’s belief that freedom is not only an opportunity, but also a problem. Freedom allows us to make choices, which bring the appearance of risk and responsibility. What if we make the wrong choice? By liberating ourselves from the need to be right, we can also liberate ourselves from the fear. Says Seth, “If you are not willing to imagine failure, you’re unable to be free.”

Despite the fact that our culture reinforces the fear of failure daily, Seth believes that “failure is almost never as bad as we think it will be, but it’s our fear that we fear, not the failure.”

Seth includes in What To Do When It’s Your Turn many quotes, thought-provoking comments and questions, inspiration, and a very real determination to encourage us to get out there and “Take a Turn.” He warns that it might not work. It might not be fun. But he’s hoping that we will “do it anyway.”

Our need to be recognized as a winner, Seth believes, can destroy our ability to take our turn, because that requires that we are not willing to not win. However, if we care enough to do exceptional work, we must choose to risk failure.

Seth asks: “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” My answer: I don’t remember, but will try to do that each and every day. Like Leonard Bernstein, I am saying, “Yes!”