PLA 2014 Simon Sinek Leaders Eat Last

PLA Day 1

Reconnected with friends and colleagues from Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and met some new folks from Virginia. The opening keynote speaker, Bryan Stevenson, made us think about social justice in a very human way. Regardless of what wrong we do in life, we have a basic human dignity beneath it that needs to be acknowledged and respected.

I also have pretty pictures of kids furniture from the Exhibit hall.

PLA Day 2 – current plans (subject to change)

BIG IDEAS with Simon Sinek. I LOVE Simon Sinek and refer to his Ted Talk “Start with Why” from time to time.  He turned that into a book, along with his new one “Leaders Eat Last.” He talks about inspiring people to do the things that inspire them and to go home feeling fulfilled by their work. He’s worth getting up and ready by 8:15 am to see.

Thursday Programs:

  • The Most Dangerous Idea of All: Change from the Bottom Up (Leadership) – Sometimes the very people who should be fostering staff engagement are its biggest enemies. What if libraries fostered change by truly encouraging innovation from any position? The is session will share ideas and outcomes from libraries that have removed obstacles and allowed front-line staff to thrive.
  • Working Effectively with Friends Groups (OR) Make it Happen Anyhow: Fundraising and Library-Building in Hard Times
  • Go Local with Geek the Library

Simon Sinek – Complete with White Board 🙂

Where do people like Johnny Bravo come from (fighter pilot story)  Because of something internal? No, it’s Environment – a good environment helps people do remarkable things.

Humans are Social animals – in the ‘olden days’ when we were surrounded by danger, we survived by living in tribes or ‘circles of safety’.  We had to cooperate to face the many dangers.

There is value in working with people we trust – they’ll watch our backs.   What is the culture inside your organization?  If we don’t feel safe, we are paranoid, self-interest, cynicism.

How do you build a circle of safety? 
Incentive systems – gold stars – feelings of happiness, pride, joy are reward feelings from:

Endorphins: The mask physical pain and we are built for endurance and hunting/gathering. Laughing feels good because we are hurting our innards and endorphins are released.

Dopamine: Feelings of accomplishment when ‘crossing off to-do list’- Feeling we get when we find something we are looking for – why we like collecting things – when we reach a goal and win the game, dopamine is released making us feel good.
Developed/based on finding food, not just hunger. We don’t eat because it’s rational, but because it makes us feel good to find food. Dopamine helps us stay focused on the goal and ‘get there’ – why we fixate on goals. Metrics are meant to make us feel like we are working towards the goal. Write down your goals – biology – we need concrete/tangible goals. Count and measure goals. Have a useful Vision statement – have to be able to see it! Abstract vision statements are unnerving. Dopamine can also can be addictive: nicotine, alcohol, gambling, cell phone.  Creates instant gratification.
These two are selfish chemicals with short term hits and can be unhealthy.

These two are Selfless Chemicals and are responsible for building the Circle of Safety:

Serotonin – The “leadership chemical” – generated by status, recognition by our ‘tribe’, public recognition, and encourages more work toward the tribe.  Ceremony and celebrations generate Serotonin, Graduation, for example.  Creates feelings of confidence and pride.  Involves both the person and the relationships (boss-employee / leader-follower / giver and recipient of sacrifice)
Share serotonin and reinforce the relationship.
For the last 40,000 years, we lived in groups of about 150 people as hierarchical animals and it is important for us to know Who is alpha.  We self assess and self organize when in a group, so we take a step back and let alpha go first. We feel proud to serve the alpha – ‘it’s good to be the king’- but…it doesn’t come for free. The group expects that the alphas will confront the danger and protect the group. “The cost of leadership is self-interest” – it’s a choice to look after the people near you.
We are offended by some bank leaders violating the social contract because they should have but did not sacrifice their bonuses. It’s not the numbers or money, but the social responsibility.
Photo on in Kenya – mother lying on top of her child at the sound of a gun. When danger threatens, it’s a mother’s instinct to protect the child. Leadership is just like being a parent. Learn the lessons and gain the confidence. Leaders should make more leaders.

Oxytocin – Feelings of friendship and love – unicorns and rainbows. Why we like being with our friends. Enjoy company. Feel safe. Feeling of trust. It’s natural be uncomfortable around strangers and explains the gap in the movie theater.
Power of Human contact – it reinforces relationships. Human contact also boosts our immune system.  Impacts pre-frontal cortex and makes us better problem solvers. A Handshake is Valuable and reinforces the bond. Touch is a political tool – social communication that says “I trust you.”
Comes from Acts of kindness and generosity – time and energy without expectation of anything in return – gives oxytocin. Value of labor, time and energy worth more than money – we can feel it.  This is why handwritten notes are so important because it took more time. Email is too easy. Call if human emotion is involved – NO email – because it is more efficient, you learn more, they feel you care. We make sacrifices if we lead. Give the time and energy – make person feel that we are there for them. Even witnessing acts of generosity gives us a shot of oxytocin. Just help.

Simon story about a Marine who let his men eat first, and he was left with no food.  In the field, all of his men gave him some of their food out of Love, loyalty, respect – if we look after others, they look after us. Our people keep us fed, too.

Cortisol – Causes feelings of stress and anxiety and is the first stage of fight or flight. Our early warning alarm system.  Makes us paranoid to find the danger and makes us tense and heightens sensitivity.  When we work in an unhealthy environment, we have a low level of cortisol = tension, work stress and imbalance (drip, drip, drip).  Makes us paranoid and we look for and ‘find’ danger, it makes us selfish and turns off oxytocin production. The body turns off growth and immune system when cortisol stays in our system at low levels. Our jobs are killing us slowly.

Think about Parenting and exercise – we can’t see a daily improvement and have to wait years and months to see the impact and improvement and outcome.  Leadership is the same. It takes time. Dopamine can be measured in small amounts (circ numbers), but S and O can be seen over time (relationships). S/O balances E/D

Why? Because they would have done it for me.

[END NOTES] This was So good!!! I love Simon. I bought both books and waited in line to have him sign them for me.

Q and A:

Post script: “Focus on each other and help them grow as human beings.”

Connect with an audience: talk about things you care about and understand (nothing else)

Simon is an introvert – he talks to one person at a time, not the whole group. Individual connections are felt by the group.

Put your phone away when someone asks you a question. Put the phone away – conveys that they are not the most person around. Turn off the monitor when someone comes in to talk to you.

Start with Why – be around people who believe what you believe. Devotion to our cause – with diversity, but have to have similar belief and value set. People inside should be first, then the customers will be treated better. If you don’t fear your leader, you’ll try to include the outsiders and bring them into the tribe.

Example: come to work on time because you care and don’t want to let your workers down v. because it’s the rule

Turn the Ship Around – read this book – Naval sub captain wrote the book – his authority came from how much he knew – his intelligence. Given worst-performing sub and his lessons. Crew trained for compliance.  People at the bottom had all the info and no authority. Banned the words “Permission to” and replaced to “I intend to” – psychological – person who performs the action, owns the action. complete turn around in the crew.

How do you expand leadership – influence above? “You don’t.” Obsess about your crew/team/circle/tribe. That cohesive group gets attention – tail wags the dog. Same with toxic leadership. People should unite – power with the people. United front, emasculates toxic leader.


  • Rearrange my desk to remove the giant screen barrier between me and visitors.
  • Break my cell phone addiction
  • Active listening
  • Read Introvert book – not quiet, the other one Vanessa recommended

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