20VC Simon Sinek on Trust; How it is Gained and Lost Why Millennials Avoid Conflict How to Listen Effectively What Makes The Best Feedback and How to Provide It Why Humans Do Not Change & How To Find Out Who You Really Are



In an insightful conversation with Simon Sinek, a renowned leadership expert and bestselling author known for his works "Start With Why," "Leaders Eat Last," and "The Infinite Game," the discussion delves into the essence of effective leadership and the importance of trust. Sinek emphasizes that leaders must earn their team's trust and create an environment where everyone feels heard and valued. He shares personal anecdotes, revealing how his upbringing influenced his adaptability and comfort with change. Sinek also discusses the pitfalls of linking identity to success metrics, the significance of sharing knowledge, and the need for more altruism in society. Additionally, he touches on the concept of mental fitness and the power of acknowledging a full range of human emotions. Throughout the exchange, Sinek advocates for open communication, active listening, and the continual development of human skills to foster both personal growth and professional success.

Summary Notes

Trust and Leadership

  • Great leaders do not demand trust but rather work to earn it from their teams.
  • Listening is a critical skill that makes others feel valued and heard.
  • Effective leadership is about enabling and encouraging team members to excel and grow.

Great leaders never say to their team, prove to me why I should trust you. It's the opposite. Great leaders have to earn the trust from their teams. Listening is the art of making other people feel heard. Great leadership is the awesome responsibility to see those around you rise.

This quote emphasizes the role of a leader in fostering trust and growth within a team by actively listening and supporting team members, rather than expecting them to earn the leader's trust.

Simon Sinek's Influence and Work

  • Simon Sinek is recognized for his inspirational talks and bestselling books.
  • His concepts, such as "Start With Why," have resonated with millions of viewers and readers.
  • The success of his work is attributed to his ability to articulate and share a unique perspective with others.

I have been a Simon Sinek fan... With his seminal YouTube talk on why now with over 62 million views. And then I absolutely loved his more recent video on millennials in the workplace, which got 80 million views in seven days. Simon's also the bestselling author of some incredible books, including global bestseller Start with Why, Leaders Eat Last, and then the Infinite Game. All incredible reads.

This quote outlines the impact of Simon Sinek's work, highlighting his popular talks and books that have garnered significant attention and praise for their insights into leadership and organizational culture.

The Importance of Sharing and Generosity

  • Sharing knowledge and experiences is fundamental to Simon Sinek's philosophy.
  • He believes in the value of giving to others rather than hoarding information for personal advantage.
  • A societal shift towards more sharing and less self-involvement is advocated.

I think it's selfish not to share. There's an entire section of the bookshop called Self Help, and there's no section bookshop called Help Others. We've overdone it on taking and hoarding and being self-involved, and I think our society could do with a little more balance, a little more giving to manage all the taking.

Simon Sinek argues for a more altruistic approach to life, where sharing and helping others is prioritized over individual gain, suggesting that society would benefit from a greater focus on collective well-being rather than self-interest.

The Evolution of Simon Sinek's Brand

  • Building a personal brand is a gradual process, not a single breakthrough moment.
  • Focusing on early adopters and sharing beliefs can create a tipping point for wider acceptance and success.
  • Authentic communication of one's "why" attracts like-minded individuals and opportunities.

Like so many things, there's not an answer to that question... It's an evolution. It's not a switch. And so the same is, for my know, I committed myself to a process that I believed in and still believe in desperately.

Simon Sinek describes his brand's growth as a continuous journey rather than a single event, emphasizing the importance of commitment to a belief-driven process that resonates with early adopters.

Childhood Influence on Personality and Preferences

  • Childhood experiences, such as frequent relocations, can shape one's adaptability and resourcefulness.
  • Having a stable home base can become more appealing to those who have experienced constant change in their early years.

So when you say what you're running towards or running from, based on my childhood, it's made me comfortable in the unfamiliar. When things are not moving for me, I'm very comfortable changing course, because to me, being resourceful is fun. It's not a panic. It's more like a puzzle.

Simon Sinek reflects on how his childhood experiences have made him comfortable with change and resourcefulness, illustrating the long-term impact of one's upbringing on personal traits and behaviors.

Aspirations and Perspectives

  • Childhood aspirations, such as becoming an astronaut, can reveal deeper desires for unique perspectives and sharing discoveries with others.
  • Simon Sinek's ambition to share his views with the world is likened to the perspective an astronaut gains from space.

And I sort of smiled when I gave the ads and realized, I am an astronaut. I try and see the world from a different perspective, and I try and report back what I see with the hope that people will see the perspective that I see as well, to help them see the world in a new way.

This quote reveals Simon Sinek's realization that his work allows him to fulfill his childhood dream of gaining and sharing a unique perspective, akin to an astronaut's view of Earth.

The Concept of "Why" and Its Misinterpretations

  • A "why" is a foundational motivation, not a goal or outcome.
  • Pursuing money as a primary motivation can be problematic and unsustainable.
  • A strong sense of identity and purpose should be rooted in contribution and giving rather than personal gain.

A why is not a goal a why is not an outcome... A why is an input. It's a motivation and a drive. And so the question I would ask is, why do you want to make money?

Simon Sinek clarifies that a "why" is about underlying motivation, not external achievements like making money, and that understanding one's true motivations can lead to more fulfilling pursuits.

Identity Beyond Achievements

  • Defining oneself by what one does can lead to a fragile sense of self-worth.
  • Building a strong identity should be based on values and contributions, not just professional or financial success.

I've never attached my identity to my bank account. If you look at any blurb that I've given on the back of a book, for example, my identity is not even connected to the work that I do. It says optimist. An author is what it says.

Simon Sinek emphasizes the importance of detaching personal identity from external achievements, such as financial status or job titles, to maintain a stable and positive self-image.## Discovering Personal Value

  • The process of discovering one's personal value or 'why' involves asking close friends or loved ones what specific qualities make them want you in their lives.
  • It's important to push for specific answers beyond general friend qualities, as these reveal your unique value to others.
  • The emotional reactions to their descriptions, such as goosebumps or tears, signal the deep personal significance of these attributes.
  • Friends will often provide similar descriptions, indicating a consistent personal value or 'why' that you bring to the world.
  • This value is considered fixed and represents the space you fill in others' lives, hence why we are not friends with everyone.

"Because the thing you give to the world, your why, is the value you have in other people's lives."

This quote emphasizes that a person's 'why' is the unique value they provide to others, which defines their role in their social circles.

Acceptance of Personal Value

  • The idea of disliking the personal value identified through others is dismissed, as the emotional response to their descriptions confirms its truth.
  • One's 'why' reflects their true self, and while behaviors may deviate from this, the core value remains constant.
  • Discovering this value is empowering and helps understand why people love you.

"It doesn't exist. Because if you have an emotional reaction to what they say, if you get goosebumps or you well up, what they're telling you is who you are."

Simon Sinek argues that the emotional response to others' perceptions of you confirms the truth of your personal value, making it undeniable.

Constancy of Personal Value

  • The 'why' of a person is fully formed by mid to late teens and remains constant throughout life.
  • While behaviors and skills may evolve, the core of one's personality, identity, and value to the world is fixed.
  • The alignment of actions with core values is crucial for personal balance and authenticity.
  • Misalignment, such as prioritizing money over personal values, can lead to a perceived change in character by others.

"Our why is fully formed by our mid to late teens."

Simon Sinek asserts that the foundational elements of our personal value are established in adolescence and remain unchanged thereafter.

Trust in Relationships

  • Trust is essential in relationships, and it should be approached with a basic level of trust rather than complete trust from the start.
  • Leaders should earn trust from their team, and a mutual deepening of trust occurs through vulnerability and openness.
  • Experiences of betrayal can lead to cynicism and the construction of protective walls, which can be isolating.
  • Trust can be rebuilt in relationships, but it requires communication and may indicate underlying issues within the relationship or individual.

"Trust is a two way street. If you show up distant and cold and untrustworthy for whatever you've been burned in the past, well, you're going to have a really hard time getting trust back also."

Simon Sinek highlights that trust must be reciprocal; if one party is guarded, it hinders the development of trust.

Decision-Making in Partnerships

  • In partnerships, whether personal or professional, unilateral decision-making should be avoided in favor of constant communication and mutual agreement.
  • Assumptions without verification can damage relationships, so open and honest communication is key.
  • Fear is often the motivator for making decisions without involving others, but this can lead to negative outcomes.

"Neither of us has the right to make decisions unilaterally about the relationship because it's our relationship, not my relationship, it's not her relationship, it's our relationship."

This quote from Simon Sinek stresses the importance of mutual involvement in decision-making within a relationship.

The Impact of Social Media and Parenting

  • Social media and parenting styles have contributed to a generation that avoids discomfort and confrontation.
  • The practice of ghosting in relationships is an example of avoiding uncomfortable situations.
  • The tendency to compare oneself to others on social media and seek validation through likes and followers affects self-identity and behavior.

"Younger generations really work hard to avoid being uncomfortable and having uncomfortable conversations."

Simon Sinek discusses the generational trend of avoiding discomfort, which is influenced by social media and parenting.

The Problem with Participation Medals

  • Participation medals can devalue the accomplishments of winners and make non-winners feel worse because they know they did not earn the medal.
  • Evidence suggests that participation awards do not have the intended positive effect.

"No, it's a bad idea. And there is actually evidence of that. It actually backfires because the people who do earn first or second medals, their accomplishment is devalued."

Simon Sinek expresses his opposition to participation medals, citing evidence that they can have negative effects on all recipients.

Honesty and White Lies

  • Human beings tend to tell white lies to avoid hurting others' feelings, but this can lead to a slippery slope of dishonesty.
  • White lies can compound over time and lead to larger deceptions.
  • Honesty should be practiced, but it does not have to be brutal; tactful truth-telling is preferred.

"I personally don't believe there's ever a reason to tell a white lie. Because if you tell one, you start telling more."

Simon Sinek argues against telling white lies, suggesting that honesty is always the better policy.## Honesty in Communication

  • Simon Sinek discusses the importance of honesty in communication.
  • Being honest does not equate to being mean or mean-spirited.
  • It is possible to be truthful without creating a negative experience for others.
  • Sinek suggests using tactful honesty when responding to questions about quality, such as food being too salty.
  • Compliments can be used to soften the honesty, focusing on the positive aspects.
  • He proposes a challenge: for 48 hours, do not tell a single lie, to demonstrate the difficulty of being completely honest.
  • The challenge is meant to reveal how often people tell "little white lies" in daily life.

"My rule is if he asks, I'm going to tell him. So how's the food? If I'm honest, it's a little too salty for me. You asked."

This quote emphasizes the importance of being honest when directly questioned, and that honesty can be delivered without being harsh.

"For the next 48 hours, you may not tell a single Lie. Zero. You will find it unbelievably difficult."

This quote introduces the challenge of complete honesty, highlighting how ingrained small lies are in everyday interactions.

Active and Empathetic Listening

  • Active listening involves more than just hearing words; it's about making the other person feel heard.
  • True listening requires validating and acknowledging the speaker's feelings and thoughts.
  • It's important to be fully present, maintaining eye contact and avoiding distractions.
  • Active listening is a social interaction that requires feedback from the other person to confirm that they feel understood.
  • Sinek points out that problem-solving should not be the immediate response to someone sharing a struggle.
  • Instead, offering a safe space for the person to be heard is more important.
  • Active listening is a practice that requires constant improvement and understanding of others' needs.
  • Sinek encourages asking for clarity on what the other person needs, rather than making assumptions.

"Listening is making the other person feel heard."

This quote defines the essence of active listening and how it's about the emotional experience of the speaker, not just the listener's ability to recite what was said.

"You haven't listened until somebody else has said that you've done so."

This quote stresses that the act of listening is validated by the speaker's acknowledgment, not just the listener's belief that they have listened.

Creating Environments of Safety

  • Simon Sinek discusses the importance of creating safe environments in personal and professional relationships.
  • In such environments, people feel comfortable being honest and asking questions without fear of judgment or repercussions.
  • Leaders should encourage honesty by sharing their own experiences and offering support rather than punishment for mistakes.
  • Sinek shares a personal anecdote about an employee who feared admitting mistakes and how he encouraged her to be honest.
  • It is crucial for leaders to respond constructively to mistakes to foster a culture of trust and openness.
  • The distinction between reacting to negligence and reacting to honest mistakes is highlighted.
  • Leaders must tailor their feedback and reactions to the individual needs of their team members.

"If you're not sure, ask."

This quote encapsulates the approach to avoid assumptions and seek clarity in communication, which is essential for understanding and meeting others' needs.

"Just because it works for me, it doesn't mean it works for them."

This quote reflects the idea that leadership and communication styles must be adapted to suit the individual preferences and needs of team members.

Leadership and Personal Growth

  • Simon Sinek speaks about his evolution as a leader, particularly in learning to delegate and trust his team.
  • He recognizes his tendency to micromanage under stress and has worked to temper this reaction.
  • Sinek admits that he is a "reactor" and has learned to manage his initial reactions to bad news.
  • He acknowledges the need to improve in setting context before asking questions to prevent others from feeling interrogated.
  • Sinek suggests that leaders should provide context and communicate their intentions to help their team understand and respond effectively.
  • He touches on the applicability of these leadership lessons to parenting, implying that the same principles of communication and understanding can be beneficial in familial relationships.

"I've gotten much better at delegating."

This quote indicates Sinek's personal growth in leadership, highlighting the importance of trusting others to handle responsibilities.

"I need to say, okay, I don't understand. This is what I don't understand. So I'm going to ask a bunch of questions to get at it. Don't take it personally."

This quote shows Sinek's awareness of the impact his leadership style can have on his team and his efforts to improve communication clarity.## Parenting and Leadership Overlap

  • Leadership and parenting both involve the responsibility of nurturing another human being.
  • A great leader, like a good parent, aims to help those around them grow and succeed.
  • Parenting involves teaching children confidence and skills, knowing when to intervene, and when to allow them to learn from their own mistakes.

"Well, great leadership is the awesome responsibility to see those around you rise. Well, that's kind of what a great parent is, right?"

This quote emphasizes the similarity between leadership and parenting in terms of the responsibility to help others develop and succeed.

Individual Paths and Parental Influence

  • Not everything about an individual's path in life can be attributed to their parents.
  • Siblings can have the same upbringing yet take very different paths in life.
  • Parents have a significant impact on how children learn to treat themselves and others.

"You have a brother and a sister. You have two siblings, same parents, raised similarly in the same household, and they grow up to be entirely, completely, like they're going completely different paths."

This quote reflects the idea that despite a shared upbringing, individuals can have vastly different life outcomes, but certain core values are consistently learned from parents.

Teamwork and Individual Motivation

  • In a team, the focus should be on mutual support and collective success rather than individual gain.
  • A team thrives when members are concerned about each other's well-being and success.
  • Being solely motivated by money can be detrimental to team dynamics and overall success.

"And that when you come to work and everybody's worried about and concerned about each other, the whole team rises."

This quote highlights the importance of a team-oriented approach to work, where members prioritize each other's success, leading to better overall performance.

Impact of Content and Teamwork

  • The content that has impacted Simon Sinek the most is Star Wars.
  • Star Wars demonstrates the power of teamwork and the success that can be achieved when people with a common cause work together.

"Star wars. When you try and do things by yourself, it doesn't work. When you work as a team, it works."

This quote illustrates the lesson from Star Wars that resonates with Simon Sinek: the effectiveness of teamwork over going it alone.

Reevaluating Belief as Currency

  • Belief is initially a strong motivator and unifier in a start-up environment.
  • As an organization grows, an overemphasis on belief can create an echo chamber and exclude valuable dissent.
  • Productive dissenters, who identify problems and work to solve them, are crucial for a healthy organization.

"And as the organization starts to grow, belief in the cause becomes the currency by which we judge others."

This quote describes the transition in a growing business where belief can become a problematic standard for evaluating team members, potentially leading to a lack of diverse perspectives.

Unasked Questions and Audience Needs

  • Simon Sinek does not have a specific agenda or questions he wishes to be asked.
  • He emphasizes the importance of addressing the needs of the audience rather than focusing on self-promotion.

"Ask me the questions that your audience needs to hear."

This quote conveys Simon Sinek's approach to interviews, focusing on providing value to the audience rather than discussing personal desires or promoting his work.

Inspiration from Non-Household Name Leaders

  • Leaders who inspire Simon Sinek are often not widely known.
  • He mentions Bob Chapman, Laurie Robinson, and others as sources of inspiration and mentorship.

"A lot of the leaders who inspire me are not household names."

This quote indicates that Simon Sinek's sources of inspiration come from leaders who may not be globally recognized but have had a significant personal impact on him.

Definition of Success

  • Success is seen as contributing to something larger than oneself.
  • Rather than absolute measures, Simon Sinek values momentum and the continuation of causes beyond one's lifetime.

"Success for me is contributing to something bigger than myself."

This quote defines Simon Sinek's personal view of success, highlighting the importance of making a lasting impact rather than achieving finite goals.

Mental Fitness and Emotional Range

  • Mental fitness is preferred over mental health as it implies ongoing work rather than a fixed state.
  • Experiencing a range of emotions, both positive and negative, is normal and healthy.

"I believe in mental fitness, which is something you're constantly working on."

This quote emphasizes the concept of mental fitness as an ongoing process, advocating for a balanced emotional experience as part of being human.

Detachment from Metrics

  • Simon Sinek does not define himself by metrics such as book sales or social media likes.
  • He focuses on personal growth and progress based on his own standards, not comparisons with others.

"I haven't defined myself by those things."

This quote reflects Simon Sinek's stance on not allowing external metrics to determine his self-worth or happiness, opting instead to measure success on his own terms.

Acceptance of Mortality

  • Accepting the inevitability of death can shape how one lives their life and contributes to the world.
  • The goal is to live in a way that ensures one's ideas and positive influence endure beyond their lifetime.

"Like, I hate to break it to you, but this doesn't end well. I don't know how to put it to you, but you're going to die, right?"

This quote confronts the reality of mortality and encourages living a life that leaves a lasting, positive legacy.

The Optimism Company and Human Skills

  • The term "soft skills" is disliked; Simon Sinek prefers "human skills."
  • Human skills are crucial for personal development and business success.
  • The Optimism Company aims to be a resource for improving these human skills.

"I hate the term soft skills. There's nothing soft about them."

This quote criticizes the term "soft skills" and advocates for the importance of human skills, which are essential for both personal and professional development.

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