Book Buzz: Leaders Eat Last

Cindi Filer's review of Leaders Eat Last, by Simon Sinek

Have you ever wondered where all the loyalty has gone?  Employees don't seem loyal to their employers.  Employers don't seem loyal to their employees.  Where did it go? Why did it go away?  And do we need loyalty?

Did you know that only 20% of Americans"love" their jobs?  Why is this happening and how can we as leaders change this number?  I'll share two of his points.

We need to be careful to make sure we create a SAFE environment

Simon Sinek is an author who purports that the reason employees express no loyalty is that we, as owners and managers of businesses, have not created safe environments. Since many owners look at layoffs regularly to "manage expenses", employees feel that they are not safe even if they perform well.  Therefore, there is a "look out for myself" attitude because the company is not looking out for me mentality. 

INTERESTING POINT - This author believes that the time when this "safety" began to disappear was during the Reagan administration - when Reagan fired 11,000 air traffic controllers in 1981 as they demanded higher pay and a shorter work week.  The author believes that this was the first very public time that is was "ok" to use mass layoffs to guard against a short term economic loss.  Thus, a process of protecting commerce over protecting people was considered a good practice. 

From the book - "When we (employees) feel that Circle of Safety around us, we offer our blood and sweat and tears and do everything we can to see our leaders' vision come to life."

Manage Well

The author believes that leaders today are too abstract - too far away from their people.  He speaks about owners managing by numbers and not by walking around and caring about their employees and how their actions will impact the people.  He writes an entire chapter about owners only requiring the things that are legally compliant - and not the things that are actually empathetic or right for the employees.  He gives countless examples where companies - the bigger they got - stopped really caring for the employees because they became assets and not people.  He believes that it takes a great leader to stem this tide and start getting back on the floor and knowing his employees in order to do the "right" things, not just the legal things.

AN INTERESTING EXAMPLE: To talk about this point, he talked about Newt Gengrich who took over Congress in 1994.  His opinion is that prior to then, Congress had differing opinions about things but they could communicate and function properly because they were friends with each other.  You see, they all lived in Washington DC at that time.  So, they were social friends and spent much time together regardless of what party they were a part of.  In 1994, Mr. Gingrich recommended that all of the congressmen live in their districts.  So, they would come in on Tuesday morning and leave Thursday each week. This created no time to get to know people - and socialize with the people that they were called to work and collaborate with.  So, the author said that this change created a lack of community and therefore, no one really knows anyone anymore. Therefore, decisions cannot be argued reasonably because there are no relationships - there is just the necessity to win.  And this has contributed to gridlock. 

As another example, he compares Jack Welch, the CEO of GE, who he believes managed a culture where people were pitted against one another against James Sinegal, CEO of Costco who made a culture of treating employees like family.  Under Jack Welch, people were driven to do whatever they could do make themselves look good.  Being number one was all that mattered.  Under Sinegal, a great priority was to take time for trust and cooperation to develop.  While both companies went through tough recessions, he notes that Costco has fared better because their people felt "safe".  Turnover is lower and profits have grown faster.

The rest of the book talks about:

  • Boomers and their self orientation
  • Gen Years and their distracted generation
  • The need for more real leaders that are solid
  • The need for courage in leadership

So my application questions for my business are:

  1.  Am I building a culture where people feel safe?  That I am not hiring poorly so that I stay committed to my staff - and in bad times I take a hit before "firing" them - creating a culture that instills loyalty.
  2.  Am I making sure that the larger my company gets, that I don't look at employees as assets but I continue to spend enough time with my employees that I remember they are people and I have been given them to steward and lead - not just to get stuff out of them.

I recommend this book to business owners who are interested in learning how to create a culture where their employees have a loyalty and love for their company.  By reading this book - you might agree and disagree with points throughout the book - but it is worth some of the thought changing points.  A negative is that it is very long and you could easily get   distracted and not finish the entire book."

This book will take lots of sittings to complete and you will need to give it all your attention.  I would give it a month to complete."

 I would recommend reading this over a few weeks, chapter by chapter and after each chapter I would think and write about what things you can do to enhance your leadership in that area.  This would also be good to go through with your leadership team over several months - to talk about in leadership meetings.