Leadership Books

What's your purpose? Insights from Simon Sinek's book "Start With Why"

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach and President of MAP Professional Development Inc.

“I feel like a cog in a wheel. All I do is enter data. I never even talk with customers unless they’re upset. I feel so replaceable.”

As a leadership coach, I’ve heard this sentiment from many clients over the years. Does one of your employees feel this way?

Start W Why - SinekChances are, more than one does. Gallup studies tell us that 70 percent of employees are dissatisfied and/or disengaged at work, even top performers. A big reason for this – the motivator for starting my company, in fact – is that people feel disconnected from the bigger picture, the purpose. We long for meaning and purpose at work but often struggle to find it, and the results can be devastating to our economy, our relationships, and our human psyche.

Simon Sinek wrote his bestselling book "Start With Why" around the concept of knowing your purpose. “People don’t buy WHAT you do,” he argues fervently, “they buy WHY you do it.”

Inspiring leaders know that they must first clarify the why – the purpose – behind an initiative, product, or action. Once the why becomes clear, then the details (how, what) can take the front seat.

If you believe in inspiring people into action rather than manipulating, valuing people over numbers (including those with a dollar sign in front), and building a successful business with heart, you will devour this book.

In addition to offering practical tools for discerning your organization’s why, Sinek shares thought-provoking examples of purposeful organizations achieving extraordinary measures of success. Imagine working for a financial firm, for example, that awards its agents bonuses not based on production numbers but on the number of thank-you cards they send out!

While reading "Start With Why" I found myself often thinking back to one of Patrick Lencioni’s statements in his excellent resource, "The Advantage": “All organizations exist to make people’s lives better… Every organization must contribute in some way to a better world for some group of people, because if it doesn’t, it will, and should, go out of business.”

Purposeful organizations don’t just happen by chance – they are intentionally built. A few questions, inspired by "Start With Why", to help you move towards purpose:

  • Why are you in business? Hint: “To make money” is not a purpose, it’s a result.
  • How does your organization make lives better? Knowing how you contribute to a better world strengthens every aspect of your business, from marketing to HR to product design and everything in between.
  • Do your employees know why you are in business? We all want to know our work matters. Understanding how you, as one individual, contribute to the bigger picture increases engagement, trust, and passion for the work.
  • How safe do your employees feel with you? As a leader, you set the tone. When people feel protected, your organizational culture exudes a sense of belonging, support, and the space to innovate.
  • Do you hire primarily for skill, or for passion/cultural fit? “Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them,” asserts Sinek, “they hire already motivated people and inspire them.”

Once you know your why, you can make decisions – including hiring choices – using purpose as your anchor. As Sinek writes, “When you fill an organization with good fits, those who believe what you believe, success just happens.”

This month, make clarifying your why a top priority. When you know your purpose, you have the foundation to become much more productive, streamlined, meaningful, and successful.

Start with why!

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotDr. Christi Hegstad is Certified Executive & Leadership Coach and President of MAP Professional Development Inc. Gain more leadership tips from Dr. Christi via Facebook and Twitter.

Website: www.meaning-and-purpose.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan

Twitter: www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach

Do you agree that knowing your purpose is crucial to success? What’s YOUR why? Share your thoughts below.

Optimistic leadership: what works for Colin Powell

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, President of MAP Professional Development Inc., and Founder of Spark!

“High-performing, successful organizations build cultures of introspection and trust and never lose sight of their purpose,” writes Colin Powell in his latest book, It Worked For Me: In Life and Leadership. This outstanding resource is packed with simple but poignant leadership lessons, which Powell brings to life with stories from his extraordinary career path.

Powell - It Worked For MeIt Worked For Me, which I would describe as part memoir/part leadership guide, opens with Powell’s “Thirteen Rules” – the overarching principles that have guided arguably one of the most influential leaders of our time. From “Share Credit” to “Get Mad, Then Get Over It,” he offers the guidelines that served him as he rose to four-star general in the U.S. Army and eventually to Secretary of State, with many other notable milestones.

Throughout the book, Powell places a hefty emphasis on one critical, but often overlooked, leadership principle: Optimism. “I have always tried to keep my confidence and optimism up,” says Powell, “no matter how difficult the situation.” Sharing stories from his military experience, he demonstrates how “perpetual optimism” strengthens the success of individuals as well as an overall organization, which research by Martin Seligman, Barbara Fredrickson, and others clearly supports.

Yet although Powell clearly favors hoping for the best, he doesn’t suggest putting on blinders and ignoring realities. With characteristic wit he writes, “I try to be an optimist, but I try not to be stupid.”

I wore out a highlighter on It Worked For Me, so narrowing down to three takeaways proved quite challenging! Here are key guidelines that you can apply to your current leadership role as well as build upon for future roles:

1. Insist on clarity.

Powell always held high, specific expectations of his team but also insisted on making those expectations extremely clear. He describes conversations with new staff, warning them that the first few weeks will include continuous correction and nitpicking but will ultimately lead to success. Leadership experts consistently emphasize this need for clarity; in her outstanding bestseller Reality-Based Leadership, Cy Wakeman goes so far as to state that ambiguity is the source of all conflict. Have high expectations, but make them very clear. Set up your team for success

2. Hire for potential, not just performance.

While past performance offers the backdrop, it doesn’t necessarily predict future success. Powell lists several characteristics he would look for in new hires including competence, intelligence, and previous accomplishments but also qualities like “toughness with empathy” and “ability to inspire.” Look for a superb track record of success, but gauge for future potential.

3. Always be kind.

Kindness, this decorated military leader explains, isn’t “being soft or a wuss,” nor is it a weakness. On the contrary, kindness shows confidence.“Taking care of employees is perhaps the best form of kindness,” Powell concludes. Choose kindness. Always.

I found Powell’s thoughts on moral courage, true victory, getting over failure, and servant leadership especially fascinating, and his unique positions throughout his career offer a perspective most of us wouldn’t otherwise get to experience.

While you won’t necessarily agree with all of his strategies, the title of the book clearly explains that is not his expectation. Extraordinary leadership stems from influencing authentically: take pointers from those you admire but don’t attempt to mimic them.

Perhaps the most significant point reminds us that although leading others is important, your most important leadership role is that of being the leader in your own life:

Always do your very best. Even if no one else is looking, you always are. Don’t disappoint yourself.

 

What do you believe has made Colin Powell such a celebrated leader? Share your comments below.

Dr. Christi Hegstad, Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, President of MAP Professional Development Inc., and Founder of Spark! Gain more leadership tips from Dr. Christi via Facebook and Twitter.

Stronger decisions = stronger leaders

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive Coach and President of MAP Professional Development Inc.

Imagine you have a bright, talented employee who has all but checked out: He does the bare minimum, contributes little in meetings and displays a sour attitude. He’s not officially doing anything wrong but, as a leader, you know his behavior negatively impacts your culture.

He also happens to be the best at his technical skill.

What do you do? How do you decide?

If you’re like many, you might weigh pros and cons, seek group consensus, or research all possible solutions, become overwhelmed, and end up doing nothing.

All common. None optimal.

Decisive - bookIn their latest book, Decisive: How To Make Better Choices In Life And Work, Chip and Dan Heath strive to help us make stronger decisions more consistently. Through extensive research and case studies, they entertainingly teach us “four villains” standing in our way of effective decision-making and provide a new “WRAP” model – Widen your options, Reality-test your assumptions, Attain distance before deciding, and Prepare to be wrong – to improve. While perhaps not suited for split-second decisions such as those an ER doctor or firefighter might make, the strategies provided in Decisive can support leaders in continuously improving and staying consistent – an important but often overlooked component of positive leadership.

Three key takeaways from Decisive that can help your decision-making immediately include:

1. Honor your core priorities. You must have a clear understanding of your vision, values, and priorities in order to make strong decisions. Your calendar and bank statement typically serve as your most accurate scoreboard: Where you place your time and money reflects what matters most to you.

Decisive reiterates Jim Collins’ advice to create a stop-doing list. Imagine receiving a phone call that you’ve inherited $20 million, no strings. Moments later, you learn that you have only ten years left to live. What would you do differently and, just as important, what would you stop doing? Reflecting on this scenario can help you clarify your priorities.

2. Consider the opposite. “If you haven’t encountered any opposition to a decision you’re considering,” the Heaths assert, “chances are you haven’t looked hard enough.” Assign someone the role of devil’s advocate, or honestly ask, “What if our least favorite option were actually the best one? What data might convince us of that?” We often confuse research with simply fishing for support; considering an opposing possibility heightens our effectiveness.  

3. Set tripwires, or signals that boost you out of autopilot. For example, Zappos offers new employees $2,000 to quit if they realize the company isn’t a good fit. This may seem pricey but, compared to the cost of a disengaged employee, it’s a bargain. The monetary offer removes any nagging uncertainties (“Is this job right for me?”) and guides employees into a clear decision-making opportunity. Tripwires protect against the dangerous “We’ve Always Done It This Way” syndrome, too.

Your Turn: What decision are you currently mulling over? Make a hypothetical choice, then apply the three above tips: Lay out your core priorities to determine if your choice supports them. Look for opposition and see if you’re truly convinced. Finally, create a few tripwires that will signal if a different or modified decision needs to be made.

“Being decisive itself is a choice,” the Heaths remind us. “Decisiveness is a way of behaving, not an inherited trait. It allows us to make brave and confident choices, not because we know we’ll be right but because it’s better to try and fail than to delay and regret.”

What helps you make strong decisions? What other decision-making books have you enjoyed? Share your comments below!

Dr. Christi Hegstad, Certified Executive Coach and President of MAP Professional Development Inc. Find more book reviews & coaching tips on Facebook and Twitter.

Meet new blogger Christi Hegstad

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a certified executive and leadership coach and the president of MAP Professional Development Inc. She specializes in positive leadership, employee engagement, career development, and meaningful work. 

How many leadership books have you read in the past year? Christi Hegstad

How many books sit on your nightstand, grace your office shelves, or linger on your Kindle while you wait for a few spare moments to read?

About eleven years ago, I felt a little busy: I was finishing up my doctorate, finding my way around my new hometown of Des Moines, mothering two toddlers with a baby on the way, and starting my executive and leadership coaching business. Not a lot of free time (that I didn’t spend trying to catch some sleep, anyway!).

But because of my lifelong love of books and my core value of growth, I continued to read. I’d finish a few pages while stirring the night’s dinner, wrap up a chapter while in the carpool lane at preschool, or sneak in a few pages before crashing in bed for the night. A day never feels quite complete for me if it hasn’t held some reading and writing.

Maybe you can relate?

Many of the leaders I coach want to read more but, with so many urgent needs and responsibilities, they feel at a loss for time. Again, maybe you can relate. But you might also find yourself staying quiet when a competitor shares how the concept of Level 5 Leadership from Good To Great has transformed her organization or a colleague mentions that the principles from Quiet have helped his previously disharmonious staff thrive. It’s not so much about missing out on a book discussion as it is being unable to learn and apply the key takeaways to advance your business, facilitate employee growth, and create a culture of leadership development in your company.

That’s where this blog will help!

I am an addicted avid reader of nonfiction and constantly share the tips, tools, and principles with my executive coaching clients. Now I’ll share them with you each month, too.

Rather than give you the basic back-cover summary of each book, I’ll share a few key takeaways that you can apply in your leadership role today. As someone who reads extensively (over 100 books some years), I’m quite selective about what I consider worthy of sharing. So rest assured, what you’ll gain from this blog are tips you can use – the best of the best.

We’ll start next month with "Decisive: How To Make Better Choices In Life And Work" by Chip and Dan Heath, and go from there. Feel free to share your experiences, additional takeaways if you’ve read the book, questions, or even suggestions for future books. Your contributions to the conversation will make this all the more valuable!

I look forward to this virtual book group where leaders can have an opportunity to learn, grow, and share with one another. As John F. Kennedy wisely stated, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

Website: www.meaning-and-purpose.com

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