What is your “why”? Are you playing an infinite game with a finite game mindset? Stephen Shedletzky shares the answers in this video & podcast episode.
About Stephen Shedletzky
Stephen Shedletzky is the Head of Brand Experience at Simon Sinek, Inc. You probably recognize Simon Sinek as the author of Find Your Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Simon is also the author of the bestsellers The Infinite Game, and Leaders Eat Last.
In his role at Simon Sinek, Inc., Stephen teaches and engages with audiences, leaders and organizations to share and facilitate Simon’s messages from his books.
Read the Transcript
This transcript was auto-generated from the original video recording using Otter Voice Meeting Notes. While the transcript has not been human edited, we hope it will still help you to quickly find or reference useful information from the interview.
Hi I’m Allison Dunn and I welcome you to Deliberate Leaders Podcast. Today, our interview is with Steven Shedletzky and I hope I said that correctly. He is the head of brand experience at Simon Sinek Inc. You probably recognize the name Simon, Simon Sinek he’s famous for start with why and find your why books, along with leaders eat last and infinite game, and I’m sure there are probably dozens more than I get in his room at Simon Sinek, Inc. Stephen teaches and engages with audience and leaders and organizations to help share and facilitate Simon’s message from his books, and we know that Simon’s very busy, so we are super pleased to have Steven here with us today. Stephen thanks so much for joining us.
Thanks for having me, so delighted to joining you.
Absolutely, thank you so I’m going to just dive right into it with our time here, and I will openly admit that I have not yet read the infinite game. And so, but I love the concept of that’s driven around an infinite mindset so you just kind of tell me the difference betweenthe mindsets that you discussed in the book.
Yeah, so it’s built upon some theory by a guy named James cars from the mid 80s he wrote a book called finite and infinite games. And so if you have two or more players you have a game. And it turns out there are at least two types of games. There are finite games and there are infinite games. So finite games have known players agreed upon fixed rules and a clear end point, baseball, right there’s a clear beginning, middle and end.
Players are known and the rules are agreed upon except for maybe the strike zone.
Infinite have known and unknown players come and go. The rules can change, there’s no standard metrics of success it’s in the eye of the beholder. And there is no end players come and go, the game keeps going. There are no winners of infinite games, there’s only a head behind. And so, Simon wrote this book. That really is about play with it you know what game you’re in, and then play with the appropriate mindset, a finite mindset is one designed to win and infinite minds, it is one designed to exist and keep going. And so, we should look at what game are we playing in, are we playing in an infinite game we’re playing in a finite baseball’s a finite game, it wouldn’t wouldn’t be smart to play baseball with an infinite mindset, we don’t need to win we just need to keep going no like you got to win more games and you lose otherwise you’re not going to exist, you know, and into the games or games like life, right though, our lives are finite life has existed before us and like to look after politics, education, all of our relationships right, there’s no winning marriage You can be number two you can’t be number one, and business is an infinite game. But too many players play the infinite game of business with a finite mind so just listen to how we speak about it, beat the competition be number one win the game. Well, how do you win a game that hasn’t finished one.
What is a way to apply it specifically to how you lead – with an infinite mindset and, like, how does that show up in the workplace and in our businesses today?
Stephen Shedletzky 3:47
Sure. So, to lead with an infinite mindset it’s it’s a practice. It’s like the practice of being healthy. Can you hear me loud, there still are like nothing coming in and out, or good awesome sounding to me. Okay, great. So, it’s it’s it’s a practice. So there are a few things you have to do. and it’s all of them. So it’s the same as if I were to say, I want to have a health practice. I want to be I want to have health and well being. Well what are the things I need to do. I need to eat well, I need to exercise I need to sleep. I need to focus on my relationships right those are all these things that I need need to do, where do I start. Just go start do all of them. Right. And the funny thing about when you become healthy, is you can’t stop doing those things you have to. And it’s the same with adopting an infinite mindset and leading an infinite mindset in the infinite game. There are five things that we have to do five practices. Advance adjust cause build trusting teams, study are worthy rivals. Prepare for existential flexibility, which sounds more complicated than it is. It sounds very sappy yeah and demonstrate the courage to lead. So, advance just cause to leave the infinite game, you, you must as a leader of an organization, you must have a cause, bigger than your own ego. That is a specific vision of the future that you and the people around you who are part of this, whether they’re employees or customers or vendors, you’re willing to sacrifice to advance that cause that’s adjust calls, we need to build trusting teams. We need to study over the rivals it’s not about beating the competition. It’s about studying, who do we admire, or frustrates the heck out of us, because they get all the accolades but we think we’re better, right. Well, they probably make you insecure because there’s something that they do that is better than you. And it would behoove you to study them, so you can improve access central flexibility is about finding a better business model that allows you to advance your just cause you know like why is it Spotify that came out, that wasn’t from the music company, you know, or the interesting example I have heard is the long laundry detergent company like tide should be focused on making a fabric a shirt that requires no laundry. It would totally make their laundry detergent sales cannibalized and obsolete. But if they’re really committed to a cause, would they want to do that. So it’s about radically shifting your mindset to advance a cause rather than advancing in cash. And then the last is demonstrating the courage to lead, because all of these things are really hard to do, putting your people first. I’m putting up a cause, ahead of short term profits, are you kidding me. All these things are very hard, hard to do. And it requires courage. And the funny thing about courage when we do what’s right for the tribe and not what’s right for our interests, we build trust.
Allison Dunn 7:02
And I love, I love the concept of just cause, and I’m just curious, especially for my listeners, how would, how is just cause or is it different than a vision statement that a company may have? I hope you can answer that. I hope that makes sense in my head.
Stephen Shedletzky 7:23
Well, so a just causes is the same as vision, but as assignments genius. The issue with the current terms we have out there, is we lack a standard definition. So, you know, we use the words like purpose mission, vision, raison d’etre Northstar we have so many words that essentially mean the same thing. And so, but the issue is, is we did we debate the meanings of a word and then we make no progress together. So as part of Simon’s genius. You know when he wrote start with why he went to boardrooms and met with so many different organizations and leaders from so many different organizations, And he would ask them all the same thing, what’s the most important part of your operation, whether it was a nonprofit leader for profit leader government military, and they would all say something like brand or raison d’etre or purpose or vision or mission, it’s our mission, and they go one or two levels deeper and say well what is what is that, and they would all eventually say well it’s why we do what we do. And he went great. Can we just call the why. So our Why is our purpose, our purpose comes from our past it’s an origin story of who we are, are just causes our why projected into the future, it’s vision. And the reason we don’t call it vision is because the term is is faster that’s.
Allison Dunn 8:46
Can you give me like maybe one of your favorites, just causes for a company that is, you know, I think, I think a lot of people would associate just cause with nonprofits type of work. So, can you give me an example of just one of your favorite companies that is a for profit company that has really powerful just cause
Stephen Shedletzky 9:08
I think Patagonia is amazing organization, right. They are for profit. Make no mistake of it, and I believe they have wings of the organization that are our foundation as well as their for profit clothing company and they do things that are counter to their short term success like war they have a program called the worn wear, which is to send back clothes that you no longer are using. And then they will clean them and refurbish them and read and resell them I bought one were so right and it’s good as new.
Allison Dunn 9:43
But they’re a fantastic organization that stands for.
Stephen Shedletzky 9:48
It’s funny to many, a what organization defines itself but what isn’t right. nobody wakes up this morning and says, I can’t wait to not make profit. No, you’re a for impact organization. You are a for impact organization and your metrics are just a little bit different, right. So, you know, every great for profit organization exists for something bigger than profit, so sweet green is an organization that we highlight in the book Victorinox which is the company that makes Swiss Army knives, is an amazingly inspiring organization. Out of Switzerland. And yeah, like all the companies we admire Patagonia and Harley Davidson and Apple, they all stand to advance something bigger than themselves and it gives them an ethical and moral compass to do things greater than simply following along. So, if a leader, doesn’t yet have a just cause How can they develop a just cause that really engages, not only their, their desire to do well but also those of their team members, people they need.
Yeah, so every one of us has a why. And the way we find our Y is by going to the right, it’s, you know, if it’s if it’s an individual and that individual happens to be a leader of an organization, their individual y impacts their organization what it means to be a part of it what their leadership is like. And if it’s an organization you can ask people simply Why are they proud to be a part of this place. Tell me the times when you felt proud to be here in our, in our just causes speaking about the fry were to be realized what would the world look like. And the beautiful thing about adjust causes will never actually accomplish it, it’s infinite right we don’t wake up on Tuesday morning and go just cause nailed it like no more right No, there’s always more, and this is why why, and just causes links to legacy. And so, not everyone you know like 2% of the population are visionaries. And so, if you aren’t a crazy wacky idealist Richard Branson Malala Steve Jobs in, you know, visionary. You like pressure pressures off. You don’t need to be the visionary you just need to identify with. Right. And you need to look to Who are those visionaries who believed in something bigger than themselves that you’re inspired by, and you can look to the original managers as well.
So, I mean we. When you look at the C suite. It’s funny because every, every C suite role you know exactly what they do because it’s in the title, cmo CTO CFO, like I’m not hiring a CFO if they don’t have know how to read a balance sheet, you know, see Oh, like we said the title. What does the CEO do, what does it mean to be an executive, like, I don’t know, do you, and so are the term that we put forth in the infinite game is CEO, Chief vision officer. It’s your, it’s your responsibility to keep things positive to point to the future to say this is where we’re going. This is what successful looks like this is who we are. This is what we stand for, and then ensure that everything is designed to help us go to work back, right, especially if it’s hard and especially if it means they have to make short term sacrifice in order to make progress in the mid to long term.
Allison Dunn 13:37
I don’t know that I’ve ever actually seen the title used at CVO but I think that that’s actually like super brilliant right because I play a CEO by day, but I think my role is a CBO. So, that’s cool.
Allison Dunn 13:49
And like totally cool. I’m glad to resume.
Allison Dunn 13:53
How many companies, do you think starts, start with why like on purpose like really driving know what it is, as opposed to setting you know I just want to make money.
Stephen Shedletzky 14:06
Yeah, I don’t, I don’t know the actual number I haven’t done the study nor seen it but it’s not the majority. And it’s our humans, like if you even look at the way we write an email. We start with you, like we just go through a rational process and have the very answer be right, while we’re asking for our Ask. Which is funny, which by the way a funny little trick is write your email then read your last sentence and put it at the top, because now you’ve given like you open up the email Let’s face it, we all get to many, but you’re starting the email with the very reason that you’re reaching out. And so, we all have a why so many organizations start with the clarity of why, but then it becomes about the systems and the structure and not.
And it’s not anyone’s fault it’s just our human nature. And so we need to be intentional with it.
Stephen Shedletzky 15:00
So I don’t have a number but I don’t think it’s in the majority yet that, you know, that do it. And make no mistake of its financial goals in finance you know resources are important. There’s just the will of the people that matters, and often matters most. In too many organizations make the goals, about money only forgetting that money is simply fuel. Right, money is fuel that keeps the car going. But none of us would buy a car so that, for the purposes of putting fuel in it. Right, like we know that that’s something like that’s so silly. And we buy a car so that we can go places and the question is Where are you, and so it’s the responsibility of leaders rooted in their purpose and their why and their values to say this is where we’re going. And not just talking about your three to five year strategic plan. I’m talking about what’s the world that you want to live in. And how can your organization be part of the solution because another great thing that infinite mind that organizations do is they know that they’re not the only play. Boeing came out and said that they’re going to the first shuttle that lands on Mars and have a Boeing logo on it too much Ilan Musk said, Great do it, you’ll advance it like power to you can’t wait to do it because then we can learn from you. Like that’s an infinite mindset, for sure.
Allison Dunn 16:25
And I’ve had the opportunity to not only work for but create and then coach, a lot of companies that have a really clear why and. So a lot of my time is spent, often, having a company identify what it is efficient that they’re going after. And so I guess my question for you is, How do companies, align their decision making to the to why and can you help me to like share why this is so important.
Stephen Shedletzky 16:54
Yeah, I mean, the Golden Circle and starting with y is about authenticity. Right. And we all say we want to work to the authentic leader, we want to work with the authentic organization we want to buy from the authentic brand great, does anyone know what authenticity means like we just throw out the word well what does it mean, it means you say and do the things you actually believe. And so, when it when it’s about change in an organization, it’s about mindsets actions and systems. And if you don’t have systems if you don’t have the actual things to make this stuff happened. It’s gonna be a lot of great words and not action, and that’s just putting helium in, right, we need this stuff to have clarity of why discipline of how and consistency. So, our Why is our purpose, our house or our values and actions or leadership behaviors and their filters, and they are filter. And so the opportunity is constantly to look at what you’re doing, and to play a game of continuous stop start. What are the things that we’re doing in our own leadership in our teams and organization that are wonderful representations of who we are but what we believe. What do we know is in violation, and that we need to make a adult responsible stop to it. And what are we inspired to start that we’ve been sitting on for two or three years or just just came to mind because it’s a wonderful representation. I’ll tell you a funny little story. We worked for a number of years with a, with an organization, and they’re wise to approve the course of history, no small why and they did it with with what they did. They actually made unmanned drones that provided Wi Fi and eyes, eyes in the sky for military and disaster relief, so they’re sending their drones into forest fires, instead of people right so to improve the course of history, they’re doing it right. Yeah, one of their employees was up for promotion, they got the promotion, and to take the promotion they would need to shift from a salaried role to an hourly role, which is odd, but actually if you did the dollars and cents it’d be more, you know more and more income for them. The company is headquartered in an area where the, the quality of life is high, and the cost of living is very high. And so in order for this person to say yes to this shift from salary to hourly, they need to skip two weeks of a paycheck, which they couldn’t afford to do. And it made it up as as high as a chro. And it was decided that that person could not take the promotion, the CEO got wind of it and said what’s going on here the eyes, like, we have an opportunity to break a rule so that we can live our Why have proven the course of of history, and all things sorted out. The person got the promotion then the chro was no longer in the role because they didn’t have the creativity to say you know what we need to make an exception here because this is a one time case but it’s gonna happen again. And we got to make it right.
Allison Dunn 20:01
So, that’s a great story and tying back to like hiring make decisions right and insured forward.
Stephen Shedletzky 20:10
Now sometimes a company can have a really great why and have this disconnect with people who don’t quite know how to be in alignment with it so I also see sometimes companies that maybe had a really great why but you’ll eventually like move away from it or get disconnected from it. So what are some of the things, how can companies reevaluate and reconnect with your goal because business is busy and it’s sometimes hard and we need to make that, you know, to realign.
Stephen Shedletzky 20:41
Yeah, I mean there are tons of practices you can do one thing is we’re really big believers of stories because stories are human. Right. And, and, you know, a purpose, whether it’s plastered on the wall or in an employee handbook, you need to give it life it needs to be lived. So, I’m give you one funny story I hope it answers the question if it doesn’t ask, ask more. So, we we’ve done some work with Hyatt Hotels and they have a why it’s to care for people so that they can be at the best. And it’s been rolled out globally and it’s fantastic. We had a real job. Yeah, we had a close relationship with their cmo who left the organization but was still doing some consulting. And he heard the CEO speak at a nursing convention, which actually makes sense because Hyatt Hotels to care for people sort of, so that they can be at their best actually make sense in a nursing environment. And the CEO came off the stage, about a standing ovation was the highest rated speaker in the entire conference and the CMO said to the CEO said I’m disgusted CEOs like his ego was all big like what do you mean you’re disgusted. And he said, I’ve heard those same stories for two years. You need to come up with new stories. And I think that the lesson of it is the strength of your why and the strength of your culture is not in how many great stories you have of the past that how many news stories you’re creating in the present. And, and we have these legends and fables and they say something, but we need to, you know, on our team we have a weekly meeting which we call the huddle, which is really based around building relationships with one another. And one of the questions that we ask is, who has a story of why we do what we do. And it’s a mix of internal stories as well as, as well as customer and crime stories.
Allison Dunn 23:02
So I think stories are really what give words meaning in life and career. I’m curious just as a practice because we do a huddle as well, how do you how do you take that that circle of sharing, and then bring it external so that others know about it as well like what’s your practice for the huddle how do you take it forward in terms of how do we share it externally or. Yeah, yeah. I mean your team as well so my focus was how you hate your team like reconnected with it and make it a connection that they don’t lose give any tips on how to share that story going outside the doors.
Stephen Shedletzky 23:21
I’m not sure if we’re, you know, it’s a bit of a cheat because, you know, the founder of our company is the best selling author so he could shoot a video or write a book and highlight those.
Stephen Shedletzky 23:35
Are you essentially saying how do you take. What makes you so unique internally and then be able to share it and authentic way externally.
Allison Dunn 23:44
Yes. Well said, Yeah, okay.
Stephen Shedletzky 23:49
So, it’s, it’s so interesting, because it’s like if you say Hi, my name is Alison, I’m a wonderful leader, am I going to believe you, or am I going to believe you more if one of your other people or one of your customers or clients. And so, I’m a big believer in in word of mouth, and reputation and I’m a big believer of just share what you stand for. And instead of sort of yeah i mean i think there’s a way in which you can say this is why we show up and just highlight those stories, not from a place highlighted from a place of service, rather than from a place of looking how great we are, it’s this is what we care about and this is what makes us click.
Allison Dunn 24:35
Yeah. Does that help that absolutely does and I think that reinforces that you should always be allowing other people to kind of share how great you are so provide the service and they will they will tell how you know the experience has been so great. Yeah, yeah. And there’s so many organizations we work with who are so fantastic and they don’t market it. And yet the reputation and their communities or, you know, they’re a larger organization, it’s just fantastic. So it’s that balance but I think, you know, we’re really big believers that when we help an organization articulate discover its wine house before you market it internally or externally audit, look at where are the gaps, who you know who are the people that if you marketed this outside, they would they would respond with cynicism, and then look okay great. What’s our part, how can we close the gap, or are they a wrong fit, you know, that’s possible to. But, how, how can we continue. Stop start ourselves that by the time we market this the vast majority of our people are proud of it.
Allison Dunn 25:42
I love that. And, Steven. I just want to make sure that my listeners understand how to connect with you and what is the best way to connect with Simon, as you know follower online where would you suggest that listeners go. Yeah.
Stephen Shedletzky 25:57
I’ll leave all roads lead to Simon sinek.com. Sinek, and we’re on LinkedIn and Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and all the places but yeah we have tons of free tools and some, some paid tools as well all with the intent to inspire on our website, which is the best place to find this tactic So Simon sinek.com.
Allison Dunn 26:19
And then, you know, I have a whole stack of books I’m gonna like put this one up for people to look at but what is in series, what, what would be the sequence of books like the logical reader read them.
Stephen Shedletzky 26:32
I don’t need you know it’s like it’s like a great TV show that you can start wherever you want. So Simon’s written his three book and then two others so the first one, you know 10 years ago called start with why, and it’s a manifesto for purpose. It’s for leaders in organizations who wish to be inspired and wish to inspire others. If that speaks to you read that one first. His next book leaders eat last is all around. How do we create conditions inside of the organization where we feel safe, and we feel like we are surrounded by people who have our back. And it, there’s, there’s a lot of ties and comes from work with military but yeah leaders eat last it’s a great book if you really want to understand the awesome responsibility that is to lead other human beings. And, and, yeah, how serious of a job that is. Then he wrote together is better, which is a nice little coffee table book really just to give back to two fans. It’s illustrated, it’s written in this very pretty. Yeah, it’s written in the style of a children’s book but with a message for adults around this person this kid who was bullied in a in a in a schoolyard and goes on a journey with his friends that to realize that together is better. And then we will find your why. You know we wrote start with why, when Simon first wrote start with why he tried to do like a Kill Bill Volume One and Volume Two, meaning he tried to put start with by hand and find your why in one book together, and it just, it didn’t work. And so finally, eight years later we said okay, well right find your wife, and it’s it’s a it’s a guidebook for those who wish to find their wife as individuals or for your team, or organization. So it’s, it’s an interactive guidebook text booking thing which I’m sure you can attest to. I don’t recommend that you listen to it on audiobook but if you do not do that either. Yeah, yeah. And then the infinite game.
Stephen Shedletzky 28:40
I’m bias because Simon has often asked me What’s my favorite work of his, and I always respond to him whatever’s newest, The infinite Game is certainly true with that. It’s the most grounded and realistic book he’s written. Not that the others weren’t but this is just really grounded in, you know, the realities of business, and the realities of our climate. But yeah, it’s a really powerful book. So, yeah, if you haven’t started, I would say the infinite game because that’s my personal favorite, but feel free to go with wherever your energy takes you.
Allison Dunn 29:23
I disclosed at the beginning of this podcast, I have not yet read it and so to my readers, it’s Next on my list, and I encourage you also to pick it up and start a conversation online with us on this. Steven, I just can’t thank you enough for your time this afternoon. I am a huge fan of your work. And just can’t wait to see what’s coming. Awesome. Thank you so much. Thanks for the opportunity to talk about the stuff and share it with your audience.
My pleasure. Thank you.