Derek Sivers: How to start a movement

Speaker

Derek Sivers is best known for being the founder and former president of CD Baby, an online CD store for independent musicians.

Summary

Derek shows a video of a crowd forming around a single shirtless dancer (the leader). He dances alone for a while, then someone else comes forward. They dance together for a while, and are embraced as equals. Then a couple more come over and start dancing, and soon a large crowd forms around them.

So what can we learn from this?

  • As a leader, you must encourage your first followers. Embrace them as equals and treat them well.
  • The first follower is the one who turns someone from a shirtless nut into a leader. The leader will get the credit, but the followers are brave for getting it started.
  • Once a group is formed, the rest will start flocking towards it. Suddenly it isn’t weird or risky – if they’re quick they can still be part of the ‘in’ crowd, rather than feeling left behind.
  • For this reason, an early follower is a special kind of leadership.
  • If you see a single person with a good idea, be that first follower.

My Thoughts

Fun short talk, with some nonetheless useful messages. Nearly half of the video is the opening and ads that accompanied older TEDs.

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Susan Colantuono: The career advice you probably didn’t get

Speaker

Susan Colantuono is the CEO and founder of Leading Women. She is the author of No Ceiling, No Walls: What women haven’t been told about leadership, which takes a close look at the conventional wisdom keeping women from rising from middle management.

Summary

Women now occupy 50% of middle management positions, but less than a third of that portion in upper management. Leadership skills are required at all levels of management – defined by using your own skills and engaging with others to help the organisation achieve its goals. However in the highest positions, the most important skill is ‘Business, strategic, and financial acumen’ – or the ability to understand the business, and people’s roles. This is the skill that is missing in the advice given to women – not because they are incapable of achieving it but because it isn’t recognised as a skill they are advised to acquire.

As an example, Susan was discussing with some executives what they look for in people with executive potential: they recognise personal success & work ethic, and they recognise people skills. When asked about high level strategy and business understanding they say “That’s a given”. When Susan asks women how many have heard that this skill is important, very few have had that advice. Most advice given to women relates to developing negotiating skills, personal branding, networking and self confidence. This is good advice for reaching middle management positions, but is not enough to reach executive level. Additionally, performance & talent systems focus on personal achievement & leadership, and are not directing people to develop business or strategic skills.

Men are doing a better job of developing business skills through mentoring and networking – being sponsored by someone at the top. In one case, an executive mentored a man and a woman – helping the man learn the business and helping the woman develop self-confidence. At the time he didn’t realise he was treating them differently.

Actions that can be taken from these findings: For women to develop they need to demonstrate financial acumen. Even for people not at middle management yet, by weaving financial or strategic information into project reports it can really impress those above. For executives, these findings should cause concern – it shows a lack of strategic alignment if their middle managers do not understand the skills expected of them to advance. Additionally, boards should demand proportional succession pools to fill future executive positions, with CEOs and HR prepared to help high potential employees get the skills needed. By recognising and acting on this, we can close the gender gap at the top.

My Thoughts

Very worthwhile topic and wonderful result – to identify what is missing in middle managers to help them become executives. Although I am not a woman, personally I will take the advice to develop high level strategic skills in the workplace.

However, I’m not entirely convinced that the only thing missing is the advice to develop business, strategic and financial skills. I would have thought that people aiming for executive positions should be capable of recognising they need these skills. It is possible that executives do not see women as having these skills – similar to the example in Susan’s talk who mentored his men and women differently. In this case the women can’t just learn the skills, they need to take the chance to show them off as much as possible as well.

Regardless, an enjoyable and useful talk.

Simon Sinek: Why good leaders make you feel safe

Speaker

Simon Sinek – Simon is author of “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”

Summary

Simon starts by discussing a medal of honour recipient – a military man who charged into fire to pull wounded soldiers into a helicopter. In the military we give medals to people willing to sacrifice themselves to help others. However, in business we give bonuses to people who sacrifice others to help ourselves. In talking to heroic soldiers about why they made a sacrifice for someone else, they all said that the other guy would have done the same thing – there is a deep trust in the military. It is hard to build this trust in the office environment.

In humanity’s ancient history, danger was everywhere and the tribe needed to trust each other to stay safe. In modern times, a business has dangers – competitors cutting their market share, new technology that will make the business model obsolete. However, if individual employees do not trust their leadership, they end up spending their own time fighting each other or fighting their leaders for safety and security. For example – enforcing arbitrary and confusing rules at an airline check in counter because if they don’t do this, they think they will lose their job. If people feel safe, they can focus on actually tackling external threats and delivering good customer service.

In business, we need to think of leaders as parents. To discipline, nurture, educate, and challenge their employees to build their confidence, take risks and allow them to achieve on their own. In return, they need to trust that a leader will not lay them off when times are tough – you would not lay off a child because the economy changes. This is what offends people about exorbitant CEO salaries in underperforming companies – the feeling that they have sacrificed people to protect their company’s numbers (and their own salary).

An example of alternative leadership – a manufacturing company suffered 30% loss of sales during 2008 and their labour pool was overspending by $10million. When the board asked for layoffs, the CEO refused and instead gave every employee (including himself) 4 weeks of compulsory unpaid leave to be taken any time they chose over the year. He told the employees it was better for everyone to suffer a little, rather than a few suffer a lot. They saved $20million, and morale was up. As they trusted each other, some employees started trading leave – taking 5 so another would take only 3.

Leaders should take the risks first, they should eat last, they should sacrifice so their people feel safe, and so that their people can gain. When they do this, the natural response of their people is that they trust, and are willing to sacrifice for the good of the leader’s vision. And then they can say that they did what they did because their leader would have done the same for them.

Julian Treasure: How to speak so that people want to listen

Speaker

Julian Treasure is the chair of the Sound Agency, a firm that advises worldwide businesses – offices, retailers, hotels on how to use sound.

Summary

Sometimes you talk and get the feeling that noone is listening. Julian starts by listing the ‘7 deadly sins’ of conversation – basically people don’t want to listen if you are doing this

  1. Gossip (speaking about people who aren’t present, and probably saying nasty things about the listener later)
  2. Judging (judging the person you are speaking to, and finding them wanting)
  3. Negativity (negative outlook)
  4. Complaining (achieves nothing)
  5. Excuses (passing problems of the world on to everyone else)
  6. Lying
  7. Dogmatism (mixing up facts and opinion)

However there are 4 positive, powerful ways to improve your conversation style – summarised as HAIL.

  • Honesty – be true and clear with what you mean
  • Authenticity – be yourself, stand in your own truth
  • Integrity – do what you say, be trustworthy
  • Love – wish people well

You can also look at how you say it – tools in your speech patterns to enhance your speech.

  • Register – a deeper voice from the chest speaks with more power and authority.
  • Timbre – how the voice feels or sounds – distinct from tone or loudness.
  • prosody – the sing-song or up and down of the movement – opposite of montonous. Some problems are an upward inflection at the end of every sentence to make everything a question?
  • Pace- a rapid pace, then slowing down for emphasis. Or just pausing occasionally can be very powerful.
  • Pitch – a higher pitch can make you sound more excited
  • Volume – quiet to make people lean in and pay attention, louder can also show excitement. Don’t broadcast loudly all the time.

Finally he discusses 6 vocal warmup exercises – to get you ready before you need to talk. This includes breathing, making noises with lips, ‘rapberries’, lalala on tongue, practising a rolled ‘r’, and moving through the whole range of pitch.

 

Sheryl Sandberg: Why we have too few women leaders

Speaker

Sheryl Sandberg is an American technology executive, activist, and author. As of August 2013, she is the chief operating officer of Facebook.

Summary

Women have made progress towards equality, but this is not reflected in leadership positions. Female heads of state, parliament members, and board positions are only 13-15%, and these have not improved over the past decade. They also need to make tougher decisions between work and lifestyle – with 2/3 of married men in leadership having children, compared to 1/3 of married women.

Sheryl talks about what women can do to stay in the workforce and move towards leadership.

  1. Sit at the table – men tend to oversell themselves, while women underestimate their abilities. Importantly, men attribute their success to themselves, while women will say they got lucky, or someone helped them. No-one gets the promotion if they don’t believe they deserve it. This point is about having the confidence to sell yourself, and let yourself sit at the table or meeting where important decisions are made.
  2. Make your partner a real partner – Women have made more progress in the workforce than they have in the workforce. Even as fulltime workers, women do 2x the housework and 3x the childrearing compared to their fulltime partners. The stigma affects men too, with men sometimes differently by other parents at playdates. Domestic duties need to be as respected as success in the workforce to get more equality here.
  3. don’t leave before you leave – the actions women take to stay in the workforce can sometimes force them out. When she decides to have a child, she has to think about how to find the time to care for it, and she stops pushing for a better job, and better projects. Once you have a child it is really hard to go back to work and leave the child alone. The work needs to be as challenging and interesting as possible, so if you have excluded yourself from rewarding projects then it will be more difficult to get back. The message is to keep pushing for better work right up until you have to leave.

Sheyl has both a young son and a daughter. She doesn’t think leadership equality will happen for her generation, but she wants her son to have a real choice between domestic and workplace responsibilities. She wants her daughter to not only be able to succeed, but also to be liked for it.

Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action

Speaker: Simon Sinek – Simon is author of “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” http://www.ted.com/speakers/simon_sinek

Length: 18:34

Summary

What gives the great leaders their edge? Why were Martin Luther King, Wright Brothers, & Steve Jobs successful when others have access to similar resources and conditions? The thing these leaders have in common is summarised in the ‘Golden Circle’.

  1. What – every organisation should know this
  2. How – some know this – their differentiating values, or intellectual property
  3. Why – only the best know this – why their organisation exists beyond a profit

The best organisations can explain and sell the ‘why’ first, and use this to inspire others. People don’t buy what you do, but why you do it. Using Apple as an example, their sales statements starts with their “why” – they design differently to push the boundary. Once you accept their why, you trust them to build anything for you – a computer, an MP3 player, phone. Other quality electronics companies known for 1 product (eg Dell computers) struggle to sell anything else, because they are only known for what they make not why.

The most central parts of the brain control behaviour – this is what people speak to when they answer ‘why’. Answering ‘what’ deals with fact, figures, but still might not feel right on gut feeling.

Simon gives the example of the Wright brothers against Samuel Pierpont Langley. Samuel had all the usually be the recipes to success on his side – money, market conditions, and a well educated and connected team. But while Samuel was driven by wealth and power, the Wright brother’s team were motivated by the idea of changing the course of history with powered flight. The Wright brothers achieved flight first, and Samuel immediately quit once the goal of being first was out of reach.

Different people are comfortable to adopt new technology at different times. The early adopters take up the first 15-18%, with the mainstream being the next 68%. The mainstream need the early adopters to try it first, on gut instinct. This makes hitting 20% market share vital – hitting the tipping point where the mainstream will start to take up quickly. Early adopters are sold everything on the ‘why’ – they will adopt a poor quality product if they like the idea behind it.

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.