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Sinek Puts CU Leadership Under the Microscope
MADISON, Wis. (7/19/13)--While most people are familiar with the psychological side of corporate leadership, Simon Sinek, author of "Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action," offered a glimpse of the biology behind decision making during the closing session Wednesday of the World Council of Credit Unions' World Credit Union Conference in Ottawa, Canada, Wednesday.
 
Click to view larger image Simon Sinek opted for a flipchart rather than a PowerPoint presentation during his World Credit Union Conference closing session in Ottawa, Canada, Wednesday. Sinek gave a crash course on the brain's chemicals and how a balance of endurance, accomplishment, pride, trust and safety in the workplace lead to optimal performance.
"Inside our bodies are incentives trying to encourage us to repeat behavior that is in the best interest of ourselves and of our groups," said Sinek, who is best known for his theory of the "Golden Circle," a naturally occurring pattern that is grounded in the biology of human decision making and explains why we are inspired by some people and organizations more than others. "We are naturally cooperative animals when we are in the right environments," he said.
 
Through a crash course on the brain's endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin, Sinek revealed that human beings perform best together when they all experience a balance of endurance, accomplishment, pride, trust and safety in the workplace. Leaders, he said, become responsible for instilling this type of work environment at their credit unions.
 
Click to view larger image World Council of Credit Unions Director Patrick Jury, master of ceremonies at Wednesday's session at the 2013 World Credit Union Conference, thanked the sponsors of the event. (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
"If you want to enjoy the perks of leadership, you must be willing to sacrifice yourself to protect your people," Sinek said. "The best leaders are the ones who act like parents. What do we want as parents? We want to provide opportunity, education and discipline as necessary, all so that our kids can grow up and achieve more than we ever thought was possible for ourselves. It's the exact same thing for a good boss. We commit ourselves to protection and love, and give our time and energy to see that our employees do well."
 
Although the world is constantly filled with danger, Sinek said, the dangers felt inside credit unions are variable. When employees feel safe internally, the chemicals for happiness are balanced, which leads to cooperation, trust, innovation and progress. Work environments in which staff feel unsafe are dangerous to the well-being of employees and the credit union as a whole. Stress, which releases a hormone called cortisol, is contagious and leads to paranoia and self-interest, hampering the desire to protect and cooperate with each other.
 
"Our jobs are literally killing us because we're not feeling safe," Sinek said.
 
One of the best ways to reduce stress is empathy, Sinek continued. "Do something nice for someone. Instead of sending an e-mail, pick up the phone. The care and time you give is the only way to actually share these good feelings. It makes you healthier, happier and inspires people to help you."
 
Prior to the general session, attendees explored leadership challenges in emerging credit union systems, social media marketing, grassroots advocacy, strategic financial planning and wealth management for members during morning breakout sessions.
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