It’s hard to tell how one’s childhood experiences will impact their life. By example, some children whose families move a lot during their childhood feel enriched by the experience. Others feel a sense of detachment, of not having roots. Simon was born in Wimbledon, England in 1973. From there his family moved to Johannesburg, South Africa before moving back to England – this time to London. The moves continued – from London to Hong Kong before finally settling in Demarest, New Jersey. There, Simon attended the highly regarded Northern Valley Regional High School.
Simon had lived in four countries by then – in five different cities – all with differing cultures. Perhaps those experiences influenced his course of study when he attended Brandeis University, just west of Boston. There, he earned a B.A. in cultural anthropology. His next move was back to London, where he attended City University to pursue a law degree. He quickly realized that law was not his calling. Instead, he returned to the U.S. going to work in the advertising industry. He spent time at two different agencies where he worked on a variety of well-known brands including MCI, Oppenheimer Funds, NASDAQ and DISH Network.
Advertising, like law, did not fulfill Simon. He opened his own business in 2002. As a trained ethnographer, he began to integrate his knowledge of human cultures with his experience with business cultures. He became enthralled with how certain leaders and companies were able to have a significant impact in business and beyond. Simon studied impactful leaders and their companies to discover the traits which led to their success. He looked for patterns and commonalities.
Simon, a visionary thinker and an eternal optimist, looked at business in a way which most others had not. He was able to look beyond what leaders and companies did and how did things. He discovered that the one thing the most innovative and successful companies had in common was that they knew their purpose – their why. He went on to create what he called The Golden Circle of Why. He presented that concept in a 2009 TED talk titled “How Great Leaders Inspire Action“.
Today, that talk has been viewed over 28,000,000 times. That led to an international best-selling book titled Start With Why. Companies and leaders from around the world incorporated the Golden Circle of Why into their business strategy. The concept was identified through a combination of creative thinking, cultural anthropology, business experience and unbridled optimism. A single word concept – Why – has impacted literally millions of people in business and beyond. These results, while nothing short of incredible, would not have been realized if not for a fearless brand – Simon Sinek.
Fearless Brands begin with Why
Simon Sinek is committed to teaching leaders and organizations how to inspire people. Yes, he’s endlessly optimistic – but his beliefs are based on a combination of research, science and proven performance. Simply put, leaders and companies that start with their why achieve an environment which leads to greater productivity, greater employee engagement and higher customer satisfaction.
Sinek discovered his own why along the way. His insatiable curiosity drove him to delve deeper into discovering how leaders inspire action. Sinek was able to leverage his role as a highly sought after speaker and thought partner to meet and learn even more about leadership. One such meeting helped Simon to understand why the people in some organizations would naturally work together to do remarkable things. A Marine Corps general explained a USMC tradition “Officers eat last”. Putting their troops first demonstrates that the officers – leaders – would sacrifice their comfort for the benefit of those in their care. In the field of battle, it translated to an officer’s willingness to sacrifice their own life. That insight led to a second book Leaders Eat Last.
A third book, Together is Better, is a fable telling the story of three kids on a playground who stand together for what they believe. It’s a story of everybody working together towards the same end. A natural progression of this thinking has led to Sinek’s most recent premise which he refers to as the “Circle of Safety”. This concept has its roots in the Paleolithic era of man – a time when homo sapiens first began to walk. In the face of ever present danger from predators, humans realized that they would survive if they banded together to create a circle of safety.
It’s that same concept which Sinek points out will create stronger businesses with a more content and productive work force. An environment built on trust and team will yield exponentially greater results than will an environment based on fear.
When one views all of Sinek’s philosophies together as one body of work, one common element emerges. People. Business – like life – is about taking care of people in a responsible caring way. One company which epitomizes Sinek’s beliefs is Barry-Wehmiller, a St. Louis based manufacturing company. This global entity reached new heights of success when its CEO, Bob Chapman, adopted a philosophy that Everybody Matters. Chapman treats his employees as ‘somebody’s precious child’ – someone placed in the care of him and his company.
There are great lessons to be learned in branding, in business and in life when looking at Simon Sinek.
Start with why – What else could the first learning point from Simon Sinek be if not to start with why? Every brand – be it a person, a company a product or a service – needs to understand and effectively communicate its why. What is the brand’s purpose? Who does it serve and how? If you don’t have an understanding of your brand’s why, you are not delivering the greatest value possible to those you would serve. Your brand is compromised by a lack of clarity and a shortfall of results. Take the time to know – and embrace – your why.
Seek to inspire – An effective brand builds an emotional connection between itself, its customers, prospects, employees and suppliers. Humans buy and act based on emotion – at least to some degree. To quote Sinek “There are only two ways to influence human behavior – you can manipulate it or inspire it.” Seek to inspire at every touch point of your brand.
Build trust – earn respect – provide safety – Trust has to be created through consistent actions over time. Respect has to be earned and results from trust. When people are in a place where they feel safe, trust that it’s genuine and respect all around them – there satisfaction and their performance reach new heights.
Simon Sinek and his philosophies have their fair share of skeptics and naysayers – people quick to dismiss the power of why. Those are the people wondering why their performance and results lag behind. The power of Why has been proven by Steve Jobs, the Wright Brothers and Martin Luther King. It has also been proven by Disney, jetBlue, every arm of the U.S. military, NBC, KPMG and the United Nations. It should be clear to you that starting with your why is the key to building your fearless brand, inspiring others and reaching new heights of success.