Simon Sinek makes a valid point that there is an absolute connection between trust and feeling “safe”. There is an erosion of trust in an environment where people do not feel “safe”; this in turn leads to decreased commitment, decreased discretionary effort, decreased openness, and decreased initiative. What makes people “safe” is a conviction that those in charge of the enterprise are acting in the best interests of their people – as opposed to in pursuit of their own interests. Trust is built over time, in increments, and into perpetuity. When managers compromise on what is the right thing to do, in order to further their own interests, this is immediately apparent to their people. Their people instantly conclude that management is self-serving and cannot be trusted. Conversely, when management contradicts their interests in order to do the right thing, their people experience them as sincere. They see management as values-driven rather than needs-driven, and therefore trust them.
OUR SUMMARY OF THIS VIDEO: Does your organization offer your people a cause so just that they would be willing to sacrifice themselves and their interests in order to advance that cause?
An example of a Just Cause was the United States’ Declaration of Independence. The founding fathers wrote down reasons why they wanted to go to war and create their own country. All men are created equal, they said – endowed with unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In other words they presented an ideal vision of a future state that did not yet exist – an ideal so inspiring that they were willing to commit their honor, their fortunes and their lives in order to advance it.
They will never actually achieve that ideal but they will die trying – and that is the point.
Winning the Revolutionary War was simply a finite victory in this infinite game. Once they had won that finite victory (like winning a client, for us), the heavy work begins (like founding a company, for us).
We can see throughout history when nations are trying to advance their ideal state – whether it’s the abolition of slavery or women’s suffrage or gay rights. We can see that there’s a striving towards that ideal state that they’ll never actually reach.
Organizations need to offer their people a cause so just that they would be willing to sacrifice – and it has nothing to do with the products you make or the services you sell. Nobody is inspired to sacrifice by going on frequent business trips and being away from their families so that the company can make the best products of the best possible value. Nobody cares about that.
Steve Jobs for example had an ideal vision of a future state. A Just Cause that he imagined was a world in which an individual could stand up to Big Brother; in which an individual could compete with a corporation. It so happened the personal computer was the perfect product to help Apple advance its just cause, and the people who signed up to be a part of their company were proud and loyal employees and customers. It wasn’t just that the product was better (that was debatable); it was that they saw themselves as champions for this cause, which cause became their own.
It’s not an accident they attracted young and creative people to be such zealots for their products. It’s because these were the people who liked the idea of standing up to Big Brother. It was a Just Cause.
Sacrifice doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing your life. Going on frequent business trips, being away from your family, working late hours and knowing that you could probably make more money at another job but you choose to stay here and choose to do those things – not because you like those things but because you feel they are worth it.
Are you offering your people something to make them feel a part of something bigger than themselves – a vision that they feel is worth the sacrifice?
You must have a Just Cause to play in the infinite game.
NOTE: Sinek defines a finite game as having known players, fixed rules and agreed-upon objectives. By contrast, rules are changeable in the infinite game, with unknown players who are in it to keep playing. Problems arise when finite players are up against infinite players. Often the former end up mired in lost trust and declining innovation.