I'm always trawling through podcasts trying to learn new things. Today I listened to three of my favourite leadership thought leaders: Brené Brown, Simon Sinek and Adam Grant.
The episode was so good that I paused it (I was cycling at the time) and set a reminder to share it with you. Here's my favourite section where they discuss the mistake we make in business of taking stories of high performing Navy SEAL teams and trying to make them into high performing individuals:
Listen to the whole episode of Brené Brown's fantastic podcast: Dare To Lead
Simon Sinek: I just had a thought while we were talking, which is, you mentioned the Navy SEALs and other high-performing teams.
We talk about them all as a high performing teams or high-performing organizations, and I think so often, I’m just realizing what so many businesses do is they take those stories, and they try to make them into high performing individual.
Adam Grant: Yes.
Brené Brown: Yes. Say it again, say it again, say it again. People take stories…
Simon Sinek: They take data that describes high-performing teams, and they try and use it to create high-performing individuals, and when we go and tell these stories, we’re talking about high-performing teams, and there’s team ethic and team… And it’s all team, team, team, and you’d sacrifice for the team, and you don’t want to let the team down.
And then businesses say, “Oh my God, I love all this stuff about Navy SEALs, look how amazing Navy SEALs are. I want a team of Navy SEALs,” and they think about the individuals who could be Navy SEALs, but they’re forgetting that it’s a team effort.
Brené Brown: Huge.
Simon Sinek: And one of the stories that I love to tell is a former Navy SEAL was asked, “What kind of person makes it onto the SEALs? What kind of person makes it through the selection process?”
And he said, “I can’t tell you the kind of person that does, but I can tell you the person… The kind of person that doesn’t.” He says the star college athlete who’s never really been tested to the core of his being, none of those guys make it through. The preening leader who likes to delegate everything, none of those guys make it through.
The guys who show up with huge hulking muscles covered in tattoos to show how tough they are, none of those guys make it through. Some of the guys who make it onto the teams are skinny and scrawny, you might even see them shivering out of fear.
Simon Sinek: He says, “But what they all have in common is when they are physically exhausted, when they’re emotionally exhausted, somehow some way, they’re able to dig down deep inside of themselves to find the energy to help the person next to them.”
And what I’ve never thought about as I’ve told that story, is those three examples of people who don’t get in are driven by individual performance or individual recognition, whereas the guys who make it in, they really are about each other. And it’s about reclaiming service. I think in the United States, we double down on rugged individualism a little too much.
We over-indexed on rugged individualism, Marlboro man, etcetera. And our incentive structures in our businesses reflect that over-emphasizing of one value, rugged individualism. And I think we’ve over-indexed so far that we have forgotten the value of service, we’ve forgotten the value…
And service requires, by its very nature, some sort of struggle or sacrifice, time, energy, all kinds of things. That I’m going to give something up so that you may thrive and that the three of us have tried in all of our work is like, “Oh, and by the way, that’s incredibly joyful and fulfilling for the person who serves, who gives.”
Simon Sinek: What I’m finding so ironic is we’re out there talking and trying to describe teams, and that work is often applied, misapplied and re-appropriated into an individual.
Brené Brown: Yeah. The sole Navy SEAL team. Like you’re the whole team in one person.
Simon Sinek: And all three of us have worked with military, they refer to themselves as…
Brené Brown: The teams.
Simon Sinek: The teams.
Brené Brown: Yeah.
Simon Sinek: That guy made it into ‘The Teams.’ How long have you been on ‘The Team?’ I’m just… Thank you for this.
Brené Brown: No, it’s a big insight. I have done some work with fighter pilots and I was reading an article from a Top Gun instructor in the real world, and they were asking him, “How close is Maverick?”
And great movie, fun movie. Great movie. I’ve seen it four times. But he said, “It’s such a good film, but that’s not who we are, you would think we were really, really boring. We cannot strut around like that because when we strut individually, people die.”
Adam, is this resonating with you, what Simon is saying about, they love these great high-performing team stories, but want to embody that in a single person?
Adam Grant: Yeah, I was thinking I’ve seen it so consistently in the military, but also with astronauts at NASA, that the easiest way to get yourself out of consideration for becoming an astronaut is to show that you can’t put the team’s interest first.
And I think every astronaut I’ve ever met has shared a belief that the most meaningful way to succeed is to help other people succeed.
Brené Brown: God, I just want to stop for a minute. Say that one more time. You don’t even have to say who it’s from, but just say the sentence.
Adam Grant: The most meaningful way to succeed is to help other people succeed.