Simon Sinek and why we all need a coach

by Edward Henkler on April 29, 2014

A few weeks ago, I was once again reminded of why we all need a coach.  I am a huge fan of Simon Sinek’s TED talk focused on the importance of starting with Why rather than What.  If you haven’t heard this talk, I’d highly recommend investing 15-20 minutes to invert your thinking.  Simon says that most leaders spend as much of 70% of their presentation time explaining What is going to be done.  Then they devote most of the remaining time to How it is going to be done.  On occasion, they may get to Why the activity is going to be undertaken.  This approach appeals to the mind but does not touch the heart.  You won’t achieve discretionary (above and beyond) performance and your initiative will never reach its full potential.

Simon Sinek - Why, How, What

Simon argues that you should invert the allocation of presentation time spending most of your time firing the audience’s passion by explaining Why an initiative is being pursued.  Once the passion is stirred and the listeners are fully engaged, some time should be devoted to How the initiative will be accomplished.  If there is time at the end or in response to questions, perhaps there will be some discussion of What will be done.  What must be addressed but only later in the process when all of the participants are already fully committed.

It is a simple but very powerful concept, which I have passed along to many of my colleagues.  I am completely convinced of its validity and have used it routinely in my coaching and mentoring in myriad settings.

Flash forward to a recent lunch meeting with a friend and trusted colleague.  I was telling him about a new technology with which I had become involved.  I waxed eloquently about the details of the system and all of the different ways it could be used in a corporate setting.  When I finished, he smiled and observed that the technology seemed to serve two purposes.  It would ease a leader’s fears that they didn’t know which employees were most valuable and engaged.  It would also capture institutional knowledge, which could be especially critical with large numbers of baby boomers retiring over the next 5-10 years.

It was easy to envision myself mentoring someone using almost exactly the same approach but I wasn’t sufficiently introspective to apply it to myself. 

Everyone needs a coach if they want to reach their full potential!

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