My Favorite Lessons from Simon Sinek

By Marilyn Weiss | Leadership

Apr 02

Simon Sinek is a legend in the world of business and leadership, with one of the top three most viewed TED talks of all time among the many credits to his name. He shares so many original, thought-provoking ideas that inspire me every time I get a chance to listen to him speak. And, thanks to modern technology like Facebook Live, I’ve been getting to hear a lot of Simon lately, as he’s done several live streaming sessions with his friend and colleague Seth Godin in recent months.

Here are my favorite ideas that Simon has recently shared:

Companies need to fundamentally change how they treat their employees. Yes, everyone says that these days, but Simon is bravely challenging what this means with practical – and some might consider radical – ideas. Here are two of them:

  • It would be more socially responsible for a company to give no money whatsoever to philanthropic causes and instead treat its employees so well that their personal health and families prospered. Simon argues that would create more positive social impact in the world than the current model, where many companies give millions of dollars to good causes but also create stress for employees that has negative ripple effects throughout their lives.
  • Conventional vacation and sick time benefits should be supplemented to better reflect human nature and people’s mental health needs. Simon shares the concept of “duvet days,” where employees can take an unplanned vacation day simply because they don’t feel like getting out of bed or because they’d rather be outside than at work on a beautiful day. He argues that enabling this flexibility – and allowing employees to be honest about needing some unplanned time away from work rather than faking illness – better accommodates employees’ needs and will make them more engaged when they return.

There’s a big difference between management and leadership. Simon cites strong leadership as the #1 skill that will be needed in business a decade from now, yet he believes most companies train their people to be managers, not true leaders. You can learn much more about what Simon has to say about leadership qualities in his book, Leaders Eat Last, but I was intrigued by an idea he recently mentioned about the company Chanel not allowing new leaders to speak in meetings for their first 30 days on the job. Instead, they’re supposed to focus on listening and learning, including from subordinates. I think this is such a powerful example of true leadership – Chanel is sending a clear message to its new leaders from the outset that humility and servant leadership are expected there.

Don’t be confused about the role shareholders play in business. Simon calls shareholders “short-term renters” rather than owners, cautioning companies to keep shareholder needs and short-term financial returns in perspective. This was a light bulb moment for me and I hope for many others who hear Simon’s words – shareholders don’t own the company at all. Like renters, they’re often looking for a short-term arrangement and will move on when it works for them. Simon brings this concept back to why companies need to treat employees as their most important stakeholder, which brings us back to the first point above about companies needing to fundamentally change how they treat their most important asset.

At LINX WorkForce Innovations, we love Simon’s focus on improving the employee experience by treating employees like human beings, and by understanding what’s most important to them and delivering on it. We help our clients do this by taking the time to listen to their employees to uncover deeper insights on their experience, then developing custom action plans that truly improve the employee experience.

We’re looking forward to more great insight from Simon when his new book, The Infinite Game, comes out this June. In the meantime, what’s your favorite “Simon Sinek-ism?” We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

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About the Author

Marilyn has a passion for Workforce Wellness. As co-founder of LINX WorkForce Innovations, she is keen on discovering and amplifying the “Voices of Employees” who are the “Consumers of the Workplace,” so that the right WorkForce solutions can be co-created the first time. Previously, she co-founded SIVO Insights where she provides thought leadership and creative thinking for Fortune 500 companies by uncovering consumer insights and experiences. For every endeavor, she believes in the power of a strong company culture, based on authentic connections, innovative approaches and a growth mindset.