TOP Talk

The Tier One Book Club: Lessons in Leadership from “Leaders Eat Last”

Posted October 09, 2019 By Tier One

Topics: Thought Leadership

Bookcase with hanging lights

As a marketing tool, the power of the book club is undeniable. From Oprah to Sarah Jessica Parker to Reese Witherspoon and beyond, nothing attracts a crowd (or inspires countless Instagram posts) like a good book. Beyond boosting sales, the conversations these clubs generate (on social and IRL) are buzzworthy themselves.

So when Tier One wanted to spark some dialogue on leadership and team building, we knew just where to start. That’s right, with not only a book, but a book club, too. The inaugural session of the Tier One Book Club featured the leadership lessons of Simon Sinek’s scintillating (if you’re into team-building as much as we are), award-winning read: “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t.” From war stories and safe circles to tried-and-true ways to build trust, this book offered our team plenty to discuss.

And as any good book club does, we capped off our first read with a fantastic chat on what it takes to be a great leader and how we are putting that advice into practice at Tier One  (and snacks, of course). 

Keep Your Circle Strong

The Circle of Safety, the central theme throughout the book, is all about building a firm foundation of trust throughout your organization. As Sinek explains, creating this safe space allows teams to focus on their work and opportunities for the company, rather than waste energy on common internal stresses like intimidation, humiliation, and isolation.

How We Live It: At Tier One, as Managing Partner Marian Hughes observed, “Our best work happens when team members feel they are trusted to get the job done.” This feeling is instilled by making sure everyone has the opportunity to collaborate and share. That not only creates a fun, inviting work environment, but ultimately, it makes us all better at developing new, innovative ideas. 

Don’t Forget the Big Picture

We all want to feel like our work matters and seeing that outcome is imperative to strong leadership and team building. Or as Sinek put it, we need to, “see the actual, tangible impact of our time and effort for our work to have meaning for us to be motivated to do it even better.”

How We Live It: Helping our Tier One teammates see how their work supports the bigger picture is an ongoing effort that’s built into our culture. It starts by making sure everyone understands program objectives and then communicating progress on meeting those goals. That can be as simple as a group email congratulating someone on a great job, a quick chat thanking a team member for their extra effort, or a shout out during an agency meeting, or a larger recognition, like our quarterly Indispensable Award. As Tier One Managing Partner Sue Parente explained, “It’s easy to get too focused on the day to day and lose sight of the larger team and bigger picture.”  That’s why even the smallest of gestures can play an important role in helping team members see how integral every role is. 

Be Inclusive and Collaborative

To inspire fresh, new ideas, leaders need to create an inclusive environment for all employees (regardless of title) where everyone feels comfortable contributing their thoughts. And this isn’t an executives-only order. To be truly successful leaders, Sinek notes, “[you] must step back and trust that [your] people know what they’re doing and will do what needs to be done.” Without confidence in your employees’ skill sets or a collaborative culture where leaders trust each employee can make the right decision (even if it’s a bit off-script from what’s been done before), you can’t expect your organization or team to thrive. 

How We Live It:  In many ways this comes back to the idea of the Circle of Safety and creating an environment where every team member feels valued and trusted. Managing Partner Kathy Wilson pretty much nailed it when she said, “Every single member of my team, from the least to most experienced, plays a critical role in ensuring client work is getting done effectively and on deadline. I trust them fully to do that.” 

To paraphrase Sinek, this trust reduces friction and creates conditions that are much more conducive to performance. That’s true in any organization, and it’s certainly what we strive for at Tier One.  With this trust in place, our team (and yours too!) can focus on what matters: the organization and driving business goals forward. 

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