Simon Sinek earned a BA degree in cultural anthropology from Brandeis University; he attended City University in London with the intention of becoming a barrister, but left law school to go into advertising. He was interviewed in August of 2014 by John Wall on the RoninMarketeer site in connection with the launch of his second book “Leaders Eat Last.” Here are some excerpts that highlight his insights about why leaders and advertisers should put people first.
Push Authority To Where The Action Is
Or Risk Creating More Bureaucracy
The CEO of the Ritz-Carlton famously said, “My lowest paid employees have all the contact with my customers.” In other words, if you want to know what’s going on, on a daily basis, it’s the people at the front lines.
The problem is, they have all the information and none of the authority. The opportunity is not to push the information up, the information is to push the authority down. When we give the people at the front line more authority, good things happen. When we force them to push information up, it just creates more bureaucracy, is all it does.
To make this work leadership has to be certain of shared values and has to communicate strategic intent throughout the organization. The paradoxical impact of a lot of informal and communication technology has been to increase the temptations for micromanagement. The challenge is to use these technologies to complement executive intent to delegate authority and really enable faster and more locally appropriate action. Not to create a “1984” telescreen model where every move is monitored.
Don’t Put a Progress Bar On An Ad
Measure When And How Often They Turn It Off
I watch Hulu. When an ad comes on, I can’t skip it, but there’s now a progress bar that tells me when it’s going to end. You know why they put progress bars on things? We put progress bars on things we find torturous, like software updates. If you have to put progress bar on your product, maybe you have a bad product.
The way to fix this is not to force people, to get rid of the ability to push fast-forward and to take it off the web video, so every time I want to watch a news clip, I’m forced to watch a 30 second ad that I watch like this, and 12 times in a row. Maybe it’s to produce something that’s entertaining, that’s enjoyable, that’s provocative, and that makes me want to lean in and watch.
GEICO commercials, I like them, I watch them, I enjoy them. There are some old commercials – Saturn had a commercial called “Sheet Metal.” I loved it. It’s ten years old and I still pull it up on YouTube and watch it because it’s so good. 1984 was an amazing commercial. It aired once, and yet we all know it, because it was good.
They weren’t thinking about the product, they were thinking about the person who’s watching – in other words, the consumer. They were actually making something for the person who will be consuming the product, which is the advertising.
If you have to put a progress bar in your advertising, maybe you should let people skip it. How often people skip is something we should be measuring, and our objective should be to produce marketing so good, that the skip numbers go down. We should be counting the skips and using it as a metric of something to improve.
Here is the Saturn Sheet Metal commercial.
I think this is a useful antidote to the race to the bottom a lot of social media experts seem to be engaged in.
Attention Spans Are Not Shorter
The Content is Crappier: We Have to Make Things Better
The data shows that people have shorter attention spans today. Really? Because you give me a good movie, I’ll sit there for three hours. Shorter attention spans, really? Because when I’m fast-forwarding on my DVR and I see a “Most Interesting Man in the World” commercial, how come I rewind? Am I that impatient, really? “Well, that’s what the trend data says, so we have to make things short.” No, we have to make things better.
Simon Sinek in an August 2014 interview with John “RoninMarketeer” Wall [hyperlinks added]
Sinek is a careful observer of people, both as leaders and in teams and organizations. Putting other people first is the hallmark of leadership and a recipe for success in marketing and in fostering organization excellence.