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If You Don’t Understand People, You Don’t Understand Business

March 23, 2017 - By Simon Sinek, American author on leadership and motivational speaker, addressing a designers conference in the US.

COMMENT BY WENDY LAMBOURNE, LEGITIMATE LEADERSHIP, ON THIS VIDEO

OUR SUMMARY OF THIS VIDEO: Humans are social animals and our very survival depends on our ability to form communities to form cultures.

What is a community, a culture? It’s a group of people with a common set of values and beliefs; so is a country – it should be a group of people with a common set of values and beliefs. Likewise a company should be a group of people with a common set of values and beliefs.

When we are surrounded by people who believe what we believe something remarkable happens: trust emerges.

Trust is a distinctly human feeling. We all have friends who are total screw-ups and we still trust them.

Trust is not a checklist. Simply doing everything you say you’re going to do does not mean people inherently trust you; it just means you’re reliable.

We need trust. When we’re surrounded by people who believe what we believe and trust starts to emerge – we trust them and they trust us – we’re more willing to take risks, we’re more willing to experiment (which requires failure). We’re more willing to explore and go somewhere that no one has ever gone before with the confidence that if we fail those within our community, those who we trust and who trust us, they will look after us while we’re gone, will pick us up when we fall over, help us when we’re hurt. Our very survival depends on it.

We’re not good at everything; we’re not good by ourselves. If you have to go and fight a sabre-toothed tiger by yourself, odds are it’s not going to go well. But if we go out as a group, we’re pretty amazing because we all have our strengths.

We also all have our weaknesses but the goal is not to fix our weaknesses, it is to amplify our strengths and surround ourselves with people who can do what we can’t do.

But it’s not just based on skills and experience; it’s based on what you believe it’s based on.

Simply being good at something and having somebody else who is good at what you’re not good at does not mean you will trust each other. The sense of trust comes from the sense of common values and common beliefs

Say you come from New York. When you go to Los Angeles and you meet someone from New York, you greet them and you are best friends. Likewise when you go to France, if you hear someone with an accent from your country.

This is because when you’re surrounded by people who don’t believe what you believe, when you’re in a strange environment where you don’t feel comfortable, you look for anyone who may share some of the same values and beliefs that you have, and you start to form a bond with them simply because you know that they have a basic understanding of how you grew up, of the things that you care about.

The same is true when we go to work. We want to go to work with people who understand us and believe what we believe – have a similar view of the world.

This has nothing to do with their opinions and the differences that we share – that’s good, that’s called diversity and it is an advantage in problem-solving because with it we can all look at the same thing from different angles and come up with solutions.

What I’m talking about is why we should help each other in the first place in what are we are in pursuit of.

Now the question is: what creates that sense of values and beliefs, what creates that sense of trust? We know how to find people who believe what we believe because our survival depends on it. If I ask you to go out in the street and find people who believe what you believe you know exactly what to do. You’re going to strike up conversations, you’re going to start talking to people and realise you have a good feeling about them. Sometimes it’s quick, sometimes it’s slow but we know how to do it – it’s called making friends, dating, networking – and we have the innate ability to do it.

The problem is it’s not scalable – you’re the only one who has that gut feeling. But if you know the signs to look for, it’s easy to spot simply because those people have sign or a symbol, they have something they’re giving off that says something about who they are and what they believe when you are standing on that Paris metro. The accent you heard is a symbol, a sign.

Though you don’t know these people, you trust they will save you – or give you a good reference to a restaurant.

It’s also why you will believe a credible friend’s recommendation when you buy a TV.

We don’t trust everyone, we trust people from within our community.

But we have to know what to look for. Every single piece of communication we make, every decision we make in our lives as individuals or as organizations is a piece of communication – it is our way of saying something about who we are and what we believe.

This is why authenticity matters; this is why you have to say and do the things you actually believe because the things you say and do are symbols of who you are – and we look for those symbols, because our very survival depends on it.

If you say what you believe and you do what you believe you attract people who believe what you believe.

If you had to go to your friends and say ‘how would you like me to dress so that you liked me better, how do you want me to address you, how do you want me to speak so that you like me more?’ Your friends would look at you funny and tell you to just be yourself, because that’s why they like you.

Now think about what we do in industry and in market research. We go and ask the customers what style we should speak to them in; how should we decorate ourselves; what kind of things they are drawn to – so if we can do those things they will like us more. It’s ridiculous!

Organizations should say and do the things they actually believe and they will attract people who believe what they believe.

If they choose to lie, at the slightest hint that they might be lying, cynicism sets in and people start saying ‘I’m not sure I can trust these guys because there’s not a lot of consistency in what they say and do which means they can’t have a very strong belief’. That is, they are not authentic.

The entire process of asking other people who we should be – positioning studies – is inauthentic.

People put Harley-Davidson logos on their bodies to say something about who they are. Did you ever see anybody with a with a Mac laptop who had a sticker over that shining Apple?

But there is no Procter & Gamble logo tattooed on anybody’s body.

Regarding the spirit of generosity, if we’re willing to give to the person next to us it’s amazing but they will be willing to give to us. Again, our very survival depends on this. I hate the whole self-help industry because how can you be happy with the five steps to follow to be a millionaire or the seven steps that you need to get the career that – with me, me, me.

What about helping the guy next to you with the five steps, or to lose some weight?

At work, you can be happy because you did things you can be proud of and fulfilled by –when you do something for someone else. It’s the only way we get that feeling.

Statistics say that over ninety percent of people don’t feel fulfilled by the work they do – it’s not because of the job or the benefits; it is because we don’t help each other anymore. We sit in our cubes and we work and we don’t put ourselves out there to help somebody else. Generosity is doing something for someone else expecting nothing in return.

Mother nature has given us this feeling that when we do something for someone else to encourage us to do it.

Sex feels good so that we can procreate more; the same applies here for that sense of fulfilment.

I don’t care how good your design is, if you don’t understand people you don’t understand business. We are social animals we are human beings and our survival depends on our ability to form trusting relationships.

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