Motivation Monday: The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.

The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.   - John Powell

The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.

– John Powell

Click here for more inspirational quotes from Brainy Business Babe!

Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.

Stay true to yourself. An original is worth more than a copy.

Whatever you are, be a good one.

Join us, brainy business babe!
Enter your email below, and you’ll be able to download my daily intention-setting tool instantly for free! You’ll also get my weekly mood-boosting email, which I hope will bring a smile to your Monday morning. (Don’t worry, you can unsubscribe anytime if it’s not your thing.)


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Motivation Monday: If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased.

If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased.  - Katharine Hepburn

If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased.

– Katharine Hepburn

Click here for more inspirational quotes from Brainy Business Babe!

Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.

Stay true to yourself. An original is worth more than a copy.

Whatever you are, be a good one.

Join us, brainy business babe!
Enter your email below, and you’ll be able to download my daily intention-setting tool instantly for free! You’ll also get my weekly mood-boosting email, which I hope will bring a smile to your Monday morning. (Don’t worry, you can unsubscribe anytime if it’s not your thing.)


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Brainy Business Book Review: The Compelling Communicator by Tim Pollard

Brainy Business Book Review: The Compelling Communicator by Tim Pollard - A Top 25 Must-Read!A Top 25 Must-Read

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By popular demand, the Brainy Business Book Review is back! Here’s another savvy book summary from my Brainy Business Dad, Don Fletcher.

My dad is a real career advice guru: he’s read about 500 business books just in the last 15 years. (How did he find the time?? We’ll talk about that in a future post.) With all those books under his belt, he really knows the good from the bad from the just plain boring.

Dad has been raving about this book for months! So I’m delighted to present another “Top 25 Must-Read” review for you. Here we go…

The Brainy Business Book: The Compelling Communicator by Tim Pollard (2016)

The Compelling Communicator: Mastering the Art and Science of Exceptional Presentation Design is a top 25 must-read book. It provides groundbreaking insights, based on current brain science, on how to craft and deliver messages that truly resonate.

As CEO of the communications consulting firm Oratium, Tim Pollard’s purpose is to provide a creditable alternative to what he calls “show up and throw up” presentations, also referred to as “Death by PowerPoint.” The Compelling Communicator is a distillation of the concepts he developed over the years while coaching his clients – from senior executives to TEDx speakers – on how to create communications with impact.

Even if you are thinking, “I don’t do PowerPoint presentations!” this book is still for you. The principles in Pollard’s model apply to any form of human communication, whether it’s a presentation, blog post, training course, or conversation with your teenage daughter. [Brainy Business Babe note: I have no idea what he’s talking about.]

What is compelling communication? Pollard describes it as the ability to “powerfully land a small number of big ideas.” Citing recent brain science research findings, he has identified a three-step process to guide anyone to extraordinary communications.

Of the many insights to be found in the book, here are my top 5:

Insight #1: Communication Makes or Breaks a Leader

Why is communication so important? According to Pollard, it is a crucial element of career success.

Here’s a rundown of the bad, the good, and the ugly:

The Bad

The bad news is that shoddy communications can really harm your career, even if you are talented in other areas.

Pollard cites survey data demonstrating that poor presentation skills are career-limiting for aspiring leaders, and severely hinder the effectiveness of those already in leadership. For example, one research survey featured this question:

When a senior executive delivers a poor presentation, how does it affect your perception of his or her critical thinking/analytical skills?

In this case, 74% of respondents said that poor communication [has] a notable negative impact on their perceptions of a leader’s critical thinking skills.”

In another case, the respondents reported that 2 out of 3 presentations they had witnessed were “mediocre or worse,” and 1 in 5 were “really stinking up the joint”!

The Good

The good news is that the opposite is also true: excellent communication skills can skyrocket your career!

Pollard tells the story of how he got a chance opportunity, as a young employee, to present in front of his company’s largest client. He nailed the presentation, and his career was launched!

Lest you label him a braggart, Pollard follows up this success story by promising, “I assure you, you will read about several of my many screw-ups as this book progresses.” You have to love his self-deprecating humor! He goes on to say that he included his own triumph “because it’s crucial to demonstrate the positive side of communication.”

The Ugly

Next, Pollard states the logical question: if communication is so incredibly important, “why haven’t we fixed this” yet?

His answer: “The real reason we present badly is because we don’t know what the rules that govern great communication are, and if we don’t know what they are, we can never know if we are breaking them.” (click here to tweet) This leads us to Insight #2.

Insight #2: Crime and Punishment – What Happens When We Break the Rules?

Pollard recounts a noteworthy story that illustrates how tempting it is to break the rules for effective presentations, and the dire consequences of doing so:

A conference keynote speaker’s first PowerPoint slide consisted of several bullet points, one of which contained a terrible typo. The mistake was so bad that a man in the audience interrupted the speaker to point it out.

Immediately, the presenter congratulated him on his observation and handed him a $20 bill. Then, the speaker announced that there was one more typo in his presentation, and that the first person to spot the error would be awarded $200!

Brilliant and memorable? Not so fast!

In this case, Pollard says, the speaker may have gotten the audience to focus on the text on the screen, but to the detriment of his actual message.

According to Pollard, that this speaker broke the three most important rules of communication. First, he used bulleted text on his slides. He entreats us: “don’t ever do that!” For one thing, presenting slides full of bulleted text allows you to bombard your audience with “Too Much Information” – more than they can digest during the time you are speaking. On top of that, the audience is distracted from your current remarks by reading what’s ahead.

Second, the speaker’s strategy directed the audience’s attention to the screen, as opposed to himself.  According to Pollard, this is “a trap that ensnares most speakers.”

Third, his audience failed to grasp the essence of his presentation. Their attention was totally consumed in scanning the text to capture the $200 reward. According to Pollard, this third violation was the speaker’s biggest error. By failing to “powerfully land a small number of big ideas,” the speaker rendered his entire presentation pointless.

Insight #3: Work With the Brain, Not Against It

The good news is you can learn to communicate effectively by following the right framework. The reason his system works, Pollard says, is because the framework is “based on how the human brain consumes information.”

Modern neuroscience researchers, using tools like functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), have revealed many of the secrets of how our brains process information. We can use these discoveries to our advantage. According to Pollard, “when communicators line up with how the brain wants to consume information, amazing effectiveness is possible.” But, on the flip side, “when they violate these natural laws of how the brain works, failure inevitably follows.”

So now that you understand WHY using a brain-oriented communication method (to understand the reason for the capitalized “why,” refer to last month’s book review of Start with Why by Simon Sinek), let’s peer into Pollard’s approach of HOW to communicate effectively using his framework, which he calls “the Carbon Atom model.”

Insight #3: Visualize Your Message Using the Carbon Atom Model

Pollard calls his process for designing a presentation, email, or any other communication the Carbon Atom Model. It’s named for the element carbon, which has six electrons orbiting its nucleus. Pollard’s model has a “nucleus” and six related steps/tools.

At the center of the model – the nucleus – is the audience. It’s critically important that communication be receiver-centric. Pollard argues that most presentations are constructed in a sender-centric way that turns people off, since it’s about you or your organization and not about the listeners’ needs.

So Pollard insists that you begin your design effort by identifying the audience’s problem and building your content around that need. Think about it: when you take your valuable time to listen to someone else, your ultimate question is, “What’s in it for me?”

Like electrons circling the nucleus of a carbon atom, the rest of your message should center on this key concept. The six steps in the Carbon Atom Method fall into 3 categories:

Right Content

  • Selection
  • Simplification

Right Sequence

  • Sequence
  • Initial Engagement

Right Engagement

  • Whole Person Engagement
  • Supporting Materials

Read on to Insight #5 for an explanation of each step in the process.

Insight #5: Mastering Content Design with the Carbon Atom Method

How do you create great content based on the Carbon Atom Model? You may be thinking, how do I begin? Does the presentation order matter? How do I ensure the message is memorable for the listener? Is this so hard that only a PhD can be successful at it? Read on for Pollard’s answers to all these questions.

Step 1: The Right Content

In Step 1, you create the “Right Content” through two steps: Selection and Simplification.

Selection

Pollard’s communication messaging process begins with “one of the most fundamental questions in all presentation design – that of relevance.”  He argues that this effort is “most critical, because if you don’t have the right content, it doesn’t matter how you then sequence it, illustrate it, etc. It’s simply the wrong content, and that can’t be redeemed.”

If you don’t have the right content, it doesn’t matter how you then sequence it, illustrate it, etc. It’s simply the wrong content, and that can’t be redeemed. - Tim Pollard

Pollard defines relevance as what is valuable or important to the audience. According to Pollard, “audiences will most deeply engage with information that helps them with a particular problem.” Determining the Relevant Content starts with “the action you want your audience to take, and work[s] back from there. Hence, the first question you want to ask is: What is the desired outcome of the presentation?”

To answer this question, Pollard provides us with what I consider to be the most powerful tool in the book, the Pyramid of Planned Outcomes.  “The tool make use of an important flow or sequence in the brain works, which I can describe as Know > Believe > Do,” he says. What does the audience need to know and believe in order to be able to do what you are inviting them to do? With book in hand, use this tool to construct the powerful content that exemplifies any great communication.

Simplification

Once you’ve identified your content, it’s time to simplify. Pollard says, “Bombarding with too much information is one of the more serious violations of a natural law of brain science.” Here, he gives two instructions: focus on only the most relevant material, and keep it as simple as possible.

We now have the right content to use in Step 2, Right Sequence.

Step 2: The Right Sequence

All memorable stories are told in a logical order, or sequence, from beginning to end. Educators know that we learn new information by connecting new ideas to something we already know. For example, teaching the alphabet comes before making a reading assignment. Which raises the question: how do we create the right sequence, so that the audience can easily comprehend what we’re trying to say?

Sequence

Here, Pollard comes to our rescue once again. He uses storyboarding as the tool to string together the key concepts identified in the Pyramid of Planned Outcomes (Step 1) in the right order. The insights are linked by natural, logical questions as the transitions between your key points.

Selecting an appropriate transition is simply anticipating what question might naturally arise from you audience based on what you’ve just said.  As an example of a natural logical question, see the last sentence in the first paragraph of this section: “Which raises the question: how do we create the right sequence, so that the audience can easily comprehend what we’re trying to say?”

The point here is to ensure that the audience can follow the flow of thought. Pollard says, “You may not agree with everything you’re reading, but hopefully you’re never lost.”

Initial Engagement

Now you may be wondering, how do I make sure I get off on the right foot? According to brain science research on how we retain information, the way we launch our presentation – the first few minutes – is crucial. Pollard says, “Your presentation opening bears a huge load: it has to secure attention and interest, and it both anchors and sets the context for everything else that’s to come.”

The answer is: to begin with what is relevant to the audience. And the most relevant starting point is the problem. (The very same problem determined in Step 1, Right Content.)

Step 3: The Right Engagement

In this final step, we learn how to ensure that our big ideas are retained long after the presentation ends.

Whole-Person Engagement

To significantly improve the odds of the audience remembering our content, we incorporate elements of “stickiness.” These elements engage the brain in a way that makes the facts of our argument “stick,” or become much more memorable. The way to do this is to incorporate elements that engage both halves of the brain – the left or “logical” brain and the right or “emotional” brain.

The book describes five ways to engage the whole brain and improve your audience’s retention:

  1. Stories
  2. Visual Images
  3. Artifacts or demos
  4. Contrasts
  5. Metaphor
Supporting Materials

According to Pollard, handouts, pictures, and leave-behinds are a key component of long-term stickiness. His chapter on supporting materials offers five rules for becoming a “visual aid ninja”:

  1. Visual Aids Must Be… Visual
  2. The Visual Must Teach
  3. One Idea Only
  4. Take Them Down (once you’ve finished discussing a particular point)
  5. Not Too Many

Bottom Line: A Must-Read

The Compelling Communicator is the best book you will ever read on communication! (And believe me, I’ve read lots of them.) It’s also an enjoyable and very readable book. I’ve tried my best to cover the highlights, but there’s a lot more great content in the book to help you with the “brass tacks” of constructing your next presentation, blog post, or email. So what will you gain? “A significant transformation in the effectiveness of your communication.” Before you do anything else today, run to the library or bookstore and grab your copy.

Have you read The Compelling Communicator? What book should we review next? Let us know in the comments!

*Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one of my affiliate links and make a purchase, I may receive a commission for referring you. This comes at no extra cost to you. I’m grateful for your support!

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Join us, brainy business babe!
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Motivation Monday: Hope begins in the dark.

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. - Anne LamottHope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.

– Anne Lamott

Click here for more inspirational quotes from Brainy Business Babe!

Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.

Stay true to yourself. An original is worth more than a copy.

Whatever you are, be a good one.

Join us, brainy business babe!
Enter your email below, and you’ll be able to download my daily intention-setting tool instantly for free! You’ll also get my weekly mood-boosting email, which I hope will bring a smile to your Monday morning. (Don’t worry, you can unsubscribe anytime if it’s not your thing.)


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Top Five Productivity Boosts That Aren’t Apps

Top 5 Productivity Boosts That Aren't Apps - Put down your phone and get cracking! You know I love a good app to boost productivity. But sometimes, my digital devices seem to be more distracting than I'd like. When that happens, I turn to these five sure-fire strategies that get me going - without a screen in sight!

Put down your phone and get cracking!

You know I love a good app to boost productivity. But sometimes, my digital devices seem to be more distracting than I’d like. When that happens, I turn to these five sure-fire strategies that get me going – without a screen in sight!

1. Suzi’s Super Simple Weekly Calendar

Suzi Whitford from StartAMomBlog.com is a former industrial engineer turned mom-of-two/blogging queen. Which means she is also a productivity MACHINE. Her Super Simple Weekly Schedule is flexible, colorful, and inescapable – and all it takes is some posterboard and Post-It notes.

Why does this digitally dazzling lady use an analog calendar? “The biggest fault I see with [calendar] apps are that they aren’t visible at all times,” she says. “Once you put down your phone, or close your computer, your calendar is no longer visible. Also, if I use my phone to manage my life I get too distracted by the peeps and pings, that I completely forget what I needed to add to my calendar in the first place.”

2. The Ivy Lee Method

The Cure for the Never-Ending To-Do List: the Ivy Lee method is 100 Years Old and Fresh as Ever!It’s no secret that I’m a list-maker.  I love powering through a to-do list – checking off and crossing out give me such a sense of satisfaction.

Until… the list gets to be a mile long. Or something unexpected happens, and I have to drop everything. I feel overwhelmed and discouraged, and I let my list languish for days.

That said, I was intrigued when I heard about “the Ivy Lee method.” I gave it a try, and much to my surprise, it totally changed my day!

 

3. Get Rid of Productivity Killers

Olga at The Minimalist Mind made this helpful list of five productivity killers that can totally cramp your work style. No surprise – the first three are device related: your smartphone, social media, and email. “It is actually quite alarming that my phone is number one on this list of productivity killers,” she says. “Wherever I am, my phone is always within reach – tempting me to check my texts, social media and stats. This is proving to be a huge problem for my concentration.”

We’re already working on avoiding those distractions, so let’s focus on her productivity killer #5: noise. I never thought much about noise until a company decided to build a staircase connecting my floor with the floor below – right next to my desk. The noise was attention-shattering, especially when one of the construction workers began a loud, heated phone conversation with his girlfriend! Check out this post for Olga’s tips on managing noise while you work.

4. Use GPS

No, not on your phone! This article in Forbes magazine offers inside tips from 6 productivity experts. My favorite is Mitzi Weinman‘s suggestion to focus on “goal, purpose, and scope.” Sometimes it’s easy to just jump right in on the first task that pops into my mind, or the first request in my email. But by focusing on what I want to achieve (goal) and why (purpose), I attack the day in a totally different way. And keeping the scope in mind helps me step back before I get launched on a tangent or fall down a rabbit-hole and get way off-track.

5. Work Out While You Work

I’m a big fan of fitting exercise into my daily routine. And given that many of us are sitting at desks for a big chunk of the day, “deskercise” (I promise that’s the only time I’ll use that horrible word) seems like a great idea, right?But then there are some questions. Will I get sweaty? Are my work clothes stretchy enough to stand the strain? What if somebody sees me?? Never fear! I (with the help of the Internet) have answers. (And some laughs.)I’m a big fan of fitting exercise into my daily routine. And given that many of us are sitting at desks for a big chunk of the day, “deskercise” (I promise that’s the only time I’ll use that horrible word) seems like a great idea, right?But then there are some questions. Will I get sweaty? Are my work clothes stretchy enough to stand the strain? What if somebody sees me??
Never fear! I  have answers. (And some laughs.)

 

 

 

 

What are your favorite productivity hacks IRL? Let me know in the comments!

There's more where that came from!

Top Five: Best Free Apps for Work

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Use This Mantra to Ask Smarter Questions at Work

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Motivation Monday: Just to be alive is a grand thing.

I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing. - Agatha Christie

I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.

Agatha Christie

Click here for more inspirational quotes from Brainy Business Babe!

Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.

Stay true to yourself. An original is worth more than a copy.

Whatever you are, be a good one.

Join us, brainy business babe!

Sign up for the Brainy Business Babe Weekly Mood Booster e-mail and get my free daily intention-setting tool! I hope it brings a smile to your Monday mornings.

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How to Dress Like a Boss When You’re Pregnant

How to Dress Like a Boss When You're Pregnant A Guide to Maternity Shopping for Professional Moms-to-Be

A Guide to Maternity Shopping for Professional Moms-to-Be

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I had a moment of wardrobe-induced panic when my baby bump started showing two summers ago. How could I possibly replace my entire work wardrobe in just a few weeks? And without spending a fortune?

Believe it or not, I ended up LOVING my maternity wardrobe. In fact, I think that was the happiest I’ve ever been with my outfit options – everything was chic, comfortable, and easy to mix-and-match. Read on for the top five tips and tricks that got me through!

1.     Hautelook/Nordstrom Rack website

Hautelook was my #1 go-to source for good-quality, professional maternity clothes at reasonable prices. My favorite brand to wear to work was Leota (by far!), followed by Olian and Lilac Maternity. I took advantage of free shipping (over $100) to order a few dresses per sale, try them on at home, and then return all but one or two favorites.

Pro tip: Scoring good finds on Hautelook takes pretty frequent checking, like every other day or so, since the “flash sales” are only available for a few days at a time. But I found that persistence paid off because they had maternity sales pretty regularly.

2.     Double Your Maternity Wardrobe for $30 or Less

How to Double Your Maternity Wardrobe for $30 or LessYou already know that a statement necklace is one of my four secrets to dressing like a boss in 5 minutes or less. This blog post makes a pretty convincing argument that statement necklaces are, in fact, your fashion secret weapon while pregnant. I couldn’t agree more!

3.     Try Non-Maternity Clothes

When I was pregnant, I found myself unexpectedly needing to shop for a work trip while I was on vacation. A friend of mine (to whom I’ll be forever grateful) pointed me to Xpecting, a maternity boutique that specializes in non-maternity clothes! This sounds like an oxymoron, I know. But they were geniuses at finding regular clothes with a cut that flatters a baby bump. Those “emergency” purchases are still some of my favorite clothes – and my little one is over a year old! If you can’t visit Southern California anytime soon, check out Xpecting’s Pinterest boards for inspiration. Or try asking someone on staff at your favorite boutique what they’d recommend for a mom-to-be!

Want more wardrobe inspiration? Click here to Follow @brainybizbabe on Pinterest!

4.     A Bun in the Oven and a Mother in Court

Do you wear a suit to work? Corporette has published not one, but two articles on finding formal business attire when you’re expecting, and how to fake it if you can’t find a maternity suit you like. (My two cents: I wore an Isabella Oliver maternity blazer over a coordinating dress when I needed to suit up.)

5.     Where to Shop for Maternity Clothes

If all else fails, check out this comprehensive post from Maternal Reasoning, which gives moms-to-be lots of shopping (and rental) options for both work and play!

What are your favorite maternity style secrets? Let me know in the comments below!

*Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one of my affiliate links and make a purchase, I may receive a commission for referring you. This comes at no extra cost to you. I’m grateful for your support!

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Motivation Monday: Explore. Dream. Discover.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. - Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore. Dream.  Discover.

– Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)

Click here for more inspirational quotes from Brainy Business Babe!

Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.

Stay true to yourself. An original is worth more than a copy.

Whatever you are, be a good one.

Join us, brainy business babe!

Sign up for the Brainy Business Babe Weekly Mood Booster e-mail and get my free daily intention-setting tool! I hope it brings a smile to your Monday mornings.

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Motivation Monday: Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. - Seneca

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

Seneca

Click here for more inspirational quotes from Brainy Business Babe!

Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.

Stay true to yourself. An original is worth more than a copy.

Whatever you are, be a good one.

Join us, brainy business babe!

Sign up for the Brainy Business Babe Weekly Mood Booster e-mail and get my free daily intention-setting tool! I hope it brings a smile to your Monday mornings.

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Brainy Business Book Review: Start with Why by Simon Sinek (2009)

Brainy Business Book Review: Start with Why by Simon Sinek (2009). By popular demand, the Brainy Business Book Review is back! Here’s another savvy book summary from my Brainy Business Dad, Don Fletcher.

To Read or Not to Read?

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By popular demand, the Brainy Business Book Review is back! Here’s another savvy book summary from my Brainy Business Dad, Don Fletcher.

My dad is a real career advice guru: he’s read about 500 business books just in the last 15 years. (How did he find the time?? We’ll talk about that in a future post.) With all those books under his belt, he really knows the good from the bad from the just plain boring.

Is Start with Why worth a read or a waste of time? Read on to find out. Take it away, Dad!

The Brainy Business Book: Start with Why by Simon Sinek

Start with Why is the second in a string of bestsellers from Sinek, who also authored Leaders Eat Last and Together is Better. As its subtitle suggests, it illuminates the concept of “How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.”

The book is worthwhile for just this one point: it explains the process uplifting leaders, from Martin Luther King to Steve Jobs, followed to inspire their followers. This simple yet powerful concept should be applied in business and in life. That said, there are shortcomings that keep Start with Why off the top 25 business books list (more on this later).

How do great leaders make a difference, according to Sinek? They inspire us by focusing on WHY. His opening quote describes it best:

There are leaders and there are those who lead.
Leaders hold a (formal) position of power or influence.
Those who lead inspire us. We follow those who lead not because we have to, but because we want to.
We follow those who lead not for them, but for ourselves.

Sinek claims that effective leaders must explain WHY their followers should act prior to providing the facts around HOW they should act and WHAT they should do.  By analyzing organizations that have succeeded and those that have lost their way, he illustrates the importance of starting with WHY.

Here are my top 4 insights from the book:

Insight #1: Manipulation versus Inspiration

Sinek argues that “there are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.” (Click here to tweet)

Manipulations commonly used in business include special pricing, promotions, and scare tactics, among others. In politics, enticing promises may get a candidate elected, but they do not form the foundation for great leadership.

The reason organizations and people employ manipulation is that it can be very effective in generating short-term action (e.g. buying what’s on special at the grocery store). For a one-time transaction, manipulation is the most effective way to induce the desired behavior.

However, the foundation of great leadership is to inspire loyalty over the long run, when support is generated through thick and thin.  So how do great leaders do it?

Want more Career hacks? Click here to Follow @brainybizbabe on Pinterest!

Insight #2: Inspirational Leaders and the Golden Circle

According to Sinek, every inspiring leader “thinks, acts and communicates in exactly the same way.” And it is the exact opposite from everyone else!

Sinek designed the Golden Circle diagram (modeled after the mathematical relationship of the golden ratio) to illustrate this communication pattern.

Simon Sinek's golden circle diagram: Inspirational leaders communicate great ideas in a specific order: 1. WHY: Inspiration starts with WHY we support a cause or organization. Although it’s critical to loyalty, very few organizations effectively articulate their WHY. 2. HOW: HOW (in the business setting) is what make the company’s offering different or better than an alternative choice. Marketing efforts often are focused here. 3. WHAT: WHAT an organization does is easy to identify (e.g. we make cars). Since communicating the WHAT is simple, many leaders fall into the trap of communicating it first. Sinek argues that starting with WHAT and then HOW misses the essence of inspirational leadership.

Inspirational leaders communicate great ideas in a specific order:

  1. WHY: Inspiration starts with WHY we support a cause or organization. Although it’s critical to loyalty, very few organizations effectively articulate their WHY.
  2. HOW: HOW (in the business setting) is what make the company’s offering different or better than an alternative choice. Marketing efforts often are focused here.
  3. WHAT: WHAT an organization does is easy to identify (e.g. we make cars). Since communicating the WHAT is simple, many leaders fall into the trap of communicating it first. Sinek argues that starting with WHAT and then HOW misses the essence of inspirational leadership.

Sinek writes that this order is deeply rooted in the reality of human biology. Which leads us to Insight #3…

Insight #3: Hearts and Minds

Our rational brain, the neocortex, is responsible for analytical thought, and most importantly, language. This area is where HOW and WHAT are processed.

WHY resides in the limbic brain, which is responsible for our feelings (such as loyalty), and “has no capacity for language.” The limbic brain is also responsible for “all human behavior and all our decision-making,” according to Sinek.

This division of functions creates a paradox. Our decision-making functionality exists in a different part of the brain from our ability to explain those decisions (through language).

Sinek states emphatically that inspiration come first from winning people’s hearts (the WHY), and only after that, winning minds with the important rational supporting reasons (the HOW and WHAT). It’s critical to win both hearts and minds, but inspiration begins with the heart.

Insight #4: Clarity and WHY

To ensure lasting success, Sinek says, an organization must provide clarity around its WHY.

He cites great leaders such as Steve Jobs of Apple, Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines, Martin Luther King, and the Wright Brothers as examples of leaders who communicated their WHY with great clarity.

Sinek also describes situations when a founding leader demonstrated their WHY with clarity, only to have it fade away once the leader was no longer in the picture.

For example, Sam Walton’s WHY was that “if he looked after people, people would look after him”. To Walton, “service was a higher cause.” Wal-Mart was arguably the most successful retailer in the world under his leadership.

After Walton, new Wal-Mart leadership did not articulate WHY, but focused on traditional measures of financial performance (the WHAT, or the results). The company’s image and profitability have suffered since. “The company once renowned for how it treated employees and customers has been scandal-ridden for nearly a decade. For Wal-Mart, WHAT they do and HOW they are doing it hasn’t changed. What has changed is that their WHY went fuzzy,” Sinek says.

Now for the shortcomings. This fourth insight points to a missed opportunity to deliver the most important chapter in the book, which could have titled “How to Find Your WHY.” Unlike Mastery by Robert Greene (reviewed last month), Start with Why offers no clear path on how to determine your WHY. This is a glaring weakness, considering this statement from Sinek: “The part of the brain that controls our feelings has no capacity for language. It is this disconnection that makes putting our feeling (or our WHY) into words so hard.”

Although Sinek’s Golden Circle analogy gives us the right order of WHY, HOW, and WHAT, it fails to help us find the WHY. Which of course is the critical element in this trilogy!

To be fair, Sinek has provided additional context since the book was published in 2009. Which leads us to…

The Bottom Line: To Read or not To Read

For reading fanatics who are drawn to Sinek’s concept, Start with Why is an enjoyable book.

For the interested but more casual student, you may forgo reading the book and instead glean the highlights from a video or podcast:

TED talk: How Great Leaders Inspire Action (the third most popular TED video of all time!)

The Unmistakable Creative Podcast interview: Finding Your Why by Simon Sinek

BREAKING NEWS: Brainy Business Babe has learned that Sinek is planning to publish a companion book to Start with Why, scheduled for September 2017. It will be titled Find Your Why: A Practical Guide to Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team. Let’s encourage Dad to read this new offering and write a sequel book review later this year! Stay tuned…

Have you read Start with Why or watched Simon Sinek’s TED talk? What’s your take? What other books would you like us to review for you? Let me know below in the comments!

We follow those who lead not because we have to, but because we want to. -Simon Sinek

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