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April 17, 2020 by Speakers' Spotlight

Leadership Expert Simon Sinek On How to Build Stronger Teams Amid Coronavirus Crisis

An unshakable optimist, Simon Sinek believes this unprecedented time of challenge can also be an unprecedented opportunity for leaders and teams who decide to use it wisely. Speaking to CNBC, he shared tips on how leaders and organizations can use this pandemic to transform their businesses through building stronger social connections and exploring ideas.

It’s a difficult process, Simon said, as it will require both leaders and teams to quickly adapt to new roles and business models. But if they can accept and rise to the challenge, they will come out of this stronger.

“We want to mitigate the damage that is done until we get to that light,” Simon added. “But at the end of the day, we can rebuild our trains, so by the time we come out of this tunnel, this train is even better than when it went into the tunnel.”

Simon is best known for widely popularizing the concept of “why” in his first Ted Talk in 2009. It rose to become the second most watched TED Talk of all time, and remains in the top five today with nearly 50 million views. Today, he is the author of five bestselling books, including his latest The Infinite Game, whose unconventional and innovative views on business and leadership have attracted international attention.

Below are Simon’s tips to help teams get through this difficult time of change, find and pursue a united goal, and come out the other side as a stronger and more united team.

Double Down on Empathy

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, many workers are dealing with unspoken challenges. And because of that, we need to treat everyone with empathy.

“We’re all battling the up-and-down roller coaster emotions of, ‘I’ve got this, and I don’t got this,’” Sinek said.

Moreover, it’s difficult to know how every individual processes stress. While some people become hyper-productive, others shut down.

“We cannot start attacking, if they’re struggling and their performance is struggling, that there’s something wrong with them, because we just don’t know,” Sinek said.

Instead, the best approach is to double down on empathy.

“When people feel that somebody actually cares about them as a human being, they will be inspired,” Sinek said.

Keep Up with Your Office Social Habits

While you may be displaced from your physical office, that shouldn’t stop you from still doing the social things that make offices great.

Have lunch or coffee with your colleagues or friends like you used to via video chat.

“The social stuff is equally, if not more, important than just the work stuff,” Sinek said. “And use the phone more than you used to.

“That human voice is really reassuring and really important.”

When it comes to meetings, just going down a checklist of what everyone is working on is not enough, Sinek said.

While those necessary meetings should still take place, you also want to make sure you’re holding what Sinek calls huddle meetings either daily or weekly.

“A huddle is two things: What’s on your heart and mind and let’s answer a fun question and go around the room,” Sinek said. “It’s basically just a human connection.”

Remember leadership has nothing to do with rank

If you don’t feel that your team leader is setting the example you want, don’t be afraid to take action yourself.

“Anyone can be the leader they wish they had,” Sinek said. “If the team needs it, do it.

“Just say, ‘Hey guys, I’m doing a huddle,’ and invite the formal leader.”

Also remember that it’s never too late to brush up on your leadership skills, whether it be reading books or articles or watching TED Talks videos.

“This is the time when leaders are made,” Sinek said. “People crumble or they get to it.

“And even if your education is a little bit behind, OK, you have a steeper learning curve than some,” he added. “Get to it.”

Ideas Can Come From Anywhere

Throughout history, businesses have had to either transform or perish. Just think of the video-rental stores that went out of business.

But some companies, like Nintendo, have managed to stand the test of time. The consumer electronics and video game company has actually been around for more than 100 years, Sinek said.

The company started out selling dominoes. And throughout the years, it has stayed true to its core mission — the “business of fun,” according to Sinek — while adapting what that means for the times.

All businesses need to strive to adapt the same way, Sinek said.

One way of doing that is by encouraging all employees to think up new ways of doing things.

“We are all part of the solution,” Sinek said. “Ideas can come from anywhere.”

Sinek said he tells his own team members to bounce their ideas off one another and test each other with questions. Once the idea has been thought through, it can be presented in a huddle meeting.

One question Sinek said helps for idea generation: “What’s the cheapest, simplest thing we can do with the highest probability of success?”

“Do that, and then once that’s done, improve it,” Sinek said. “And then once that’s done, improve it again.

“By the end, you actually have something pretty dynamic.”