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Spotlight On: Peter Docker, Leadership and Start With Why Culture Expert

Peter Docker is passionate about enabling others to be extraordinary. Working with individuals and organizations inspired by Simon Sinek’s theory of “The Golden Circle,” Peter helps to harness the power of “Why”  to create extraordinary cultures and sustainable high performance.  He illustrates his insights by drawing on examples from his previous flying, military, and industry career to explain principles that can be applied in any business. Peter graciously allowed us to shine the spotlight on him today:

What inspired you to want to be a speaker?

I’ve always enjoyed presenting.  I love connecting with people and shifting how they perceive the world.  Speaking to a large audience gives me a chance to do that at scale.  That said, if just one person leaves the room afterwards with a completely different outlook on life, it’s been a great use of my time!

Any advice for aspiring speakers?

Be yourself.  Trying to emulate someone else’s style will get in the way of your message.  Talk about things you are passionate about.  Seeing someone talk passionately about what they believe is, in itself, inspiring.  Above all, keep it simple.  As Leonardo di Vinci said, “Simplicity is the greatest sophistication.”

What do you like to leave audiences with?

Life is about Context and Content.  The Content–what we say and do–has meaning because of the Context, whatever that may be.  Shift the Context and everything can immediately be different although nothing has actually changed.  For example, having an organisation rediscover their Why (their higher purpose, cause or belief) gives new and deeper meaning to what they do.  What I try to leave people with is an entirely new Context within which the Content of their work and lives can take on entirely new meaning.

How do you prepare before a talk? Any special rituals? A good luck talisman?  

I don’t have any special rituals or a talisman–maybe I should acquire one!  I spend a large chunk of time learning as much as I can about my audience and their context.  Naturally, this will include research beforehand, but what’s really valuable is talking to as many people as I can as soon as I arrive and before I talk.  Linking back to my last answer, if I hope to shift their Context it helps to understand where they’re starting from.

Do you have an especially memorable event you can tell us about?  

Most of us like to think we make a difference to others during our lives–to be in some way ‘significant’. Counter-intuitively, I believe being significant is actually about the small things.  After one of my talks in America I was answering questions near the stage and a very excited woman came up to me, apologising because she just HAD to interrupt.  “Thank you for your talk,” she said. “I’ve just come from the ladies’ restroom and we all agree how your talk has made everything so simple!”  Now, she probably doesn’t remember because it was just a small moment in her life, but it was particularly memorable for me because I had so clearly made a difference to her.

Any funny or embarrassing situations you found yourself in as a speaker?  

Fortunately, not many!  One that springs to mind is a time I gave a presentation to a graduate class at a university.  I quite often use a flip chart and on this particular occasion the flip chart fought back, its legs flying off, getting tangled with mine, the pad breaking free and tripping me over before I was finally able to wrestle it to the ground.  I used to be a military pilot which has its moments, but wayward flip charts can be just as dangerous, I can tell you.

Is there a charitable cause that you feel passionate about? Why?  

There are many charities that capture my attention since they are essentially a very clear expression of what the people involve believe.  I was recently inspired by a former British Army soldier, called Christian, who is spending around two years walking the entire coastline of the UK–along the actual cliff edges and beaches.  He’s doing this to raise visibility of the fact that 30% of homeless people in the UK are military veterans, often suffering from PTSD following service in conflicts zones.  He’s raising a lot of money in the process too for the charity Help for Heroes.

If you had to choose a new career, what would it be?

The reason I do what I do–my Why–is to enable others to be extraordinary.  Because of this, what I do is less important –provided it’s always consistent with my Why.  This is what makes life fulfilling.

Desert island album?

Mmmm….I think it would have to be one of my playlists rather than an album–I have such a wide variety of tastes from the latest dance tracks to jazz to classical.

Best subject in school?

In terms of exam results, I was quite good at Mathematics and English.  However, I’m insatiably curious and love learning–there isn’t a subject I don’t enjoy.

Last book you read? 

Time to Think, by Nancy Kline.  The principles are valuable and her story inspiring.

Last film you saw?

Captain Phillips with Tom Hanks.  An excellent film about leadership, courage–and context.

Celebrity crush?

Oh lawks–a crush?  I have no idea who might be reading this so even if I figure out a particular celebrity I’ll keep that one to myself!  I do admire many actors though–including Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock–who have the ability to make us smile, laugh, cry and otherwise feel alive.