Catching fireflies with Simon Sinek

I’ve had a bit of an epiphany this week (yes again).


There has been lots of discussion this week about recovery planning for businesses and that one of the key pieces of work is to really clearly re-establish the organisational purpose; the ‘why’.


Simon Sinek's name has been flung into almost every post, and it makes sense because starting with why is critically important!


I’ve been sitting for weeks with the question of my ‘why’ in the back of my mind. Partly because I need to understand it for my own business, but also because I need to know it and feel it for myself. To have a centre to ground myself to, to connect with when things go pear shaped, to make me resilient in the challenging times and, most importantly, so I can acknowledge and do the more of stuff that fills me with joy.


I need to find my 'why' so I can acknowledge and do the more of stuff that fills me with joy.

And me being me, I really like a little bit of objective information to help guide my thinking so I’ve had a crack at as many personality centered assessments I can find with interesting results (they are all hyperlinked in case you want to do a couple too!);


My love language: My primary love language is Acts of Service which translates to me wanting to do things for others. Helping others is how I demonstrate my love, respect and appreciation.


16 personalities: I’m a ‘Defender’ whose main goal is putting good service and dedication above all else. Whether helping customers directly, helping co-workers get projects finished on time or helping teams keep organized and productive, people with the Defender personality type can always be relied on for their kindness and ability to listen to concerns, and to find ways to resolve them.


DiSC: My results are high Steadiness, high Compliance, high Influence and low Dominance. This indicates that I’m an excellent listener, and able to get along with a variety of people in many situations. This trait comes from my enthusiasm, and my sincere interest in others. I can maintain high standards, and at the same time be flexible when necessary.


Via Strengths: My top strengths are:

  1. Humour: Liking to laugh and tease; bringing smiles to other people; seeing the light side; making (not necessarily telling) jokes.

  2. Honesty: Speaking the truth but more broadly presenting oneself in a genuine way and acting in a sincere way; being without pretense; taking responsibility for one's feelings and actions.

  3. Self-regulation: Regulating what one feels and does; being disciplined; controlling one's appetites and emotions.

  4. Kindness: Doing favours and good deeds for others; helping them; taking care of them.

  5. Fairness: Treating all people the same according to notions of fairness and justice; not letting feelings bias decisions about others; giving everyone a fair chance.


I’ve sat with this information for a couple of weeks, reflecting on it and trying to ‘feel’ it rather than ‘think’ it to deeply connect with my why.


It’s clear from all of the assessments that I have a strong need to help people. I love using humour and kindness and fairness each and every day to make someone’s life better or brighter or easier. I think that’s why I was initially drawn to HR and have now chosen focused on diversity & inclusion, flexibility and employee-centred design.


I love using humour and kindness and fairness each and every day to make someone’s life better or brighter or easier.

And reflecting on the last few weeks, I noticed that most of my moments of joy occurred when I've been helping others;


  • I offered to introduce one of my peers to another to help them solve a problem they shared with me and received thanks for being a ‘thoughtful connector’;

  • I recommended an ex-colleague and friend as a guest speaker on a panel discussion because I knew she'd add incredible value;

  • I had a connection thank me for my allyship when I recently posted about preferred pronouns. They said that my post helped them as a gender diverse individual feel more seen in the world (I get goosebumps from that one);

  • I offered to connect a stranger whose post I saw in a FB business group with friends of mine in the marketing space to help her with a social media issue she was experiencing;

  • I wrote numerous recommendations for ex-colleagues on LinkedIn to tell them what I valued about working with them. I received many messages of gratitude for providing a spot of positivity during a really challenging period.

  • I offered do some grocery shopping for my elderly neighbour so she didn't have to brave the supermarket. She baked me homemade savoury scones to say thank you.


These acts honestly require minimal effort from me because they are who I am. I just do them without thinking; it’s not self-serving, tit-for-tat or quid-pro-quo. I just genuinely get a kick out of helping others, although I'll never say no to a homemade scone!


My helping isn't self-serving, tit-for-tat or quid-pro-quo. I just genuinely get a kick out of helping others, although I'll never say no to a homemade scone!

I was discussing all of this with my coach this week and she asked me what these acts of service mean to me; how they feel. The only way I could describe them is that every time I help someone a little bright firefly appears and fills my jar with more beautiful light*.


*Ok, so I originally said that they are like little fireflies that I swallow and they light me up from the inside, but then I felt bad about ‘eating’ imaginary fireflies… so the jar analogy will have to do!


But in discovering my 'why' I discovered a conflict.


In interviews and performance processes throughout my career I've been asked why I ‘do HR’ and my answer has always been because I enjoy helping people, managers or employees, to have a more positive experience at work.


That answer has generally stood me in good stead because people can see that I am completely sincere about it. But earlier this year I gave that answer in an interview with a senior recruiter who consequently advised me that I’d be better off focusing on lower-level HR roles because ‘helping others’ isn’t a leadership trait.


So part of the processing of my ‘why’ in recent weeks has been to try and reconcile my desire for high-level, challenging and impactful work with my desire to help and serve others with honesty, humour and kindness.


And as usual, when you throw a question or problem out into the universe it delivers responses more reliably than Australia Post.


Logging into LinkedIn yesterday I was greeted with these gems:


And to cap off the universe’s express kick-up-the-bum service (as if a quote from Jacinda wasn't enough), a wonderful connection of mine, whose leadership and attitude I admire greatly, posted on my WinWall yesterday ‘My last week consisted of helping others achieve their wins. This is a win for me’. Boom 💥


That content has helped me put the seeds of doubt sown by the recruiter, and countless others over the years who told me I was too ‘nice’ to be a senior leader, to rest.


Being kind, honest and fair and genuinely wanting to serve others are traits that actually make me a great leader. I'm someone that easily connects with others and shares in their successes. I'm someone who is focused on how I can help others rather than solely helping myself. I'm someone who is deeply committed not just to the idea of fairness but to the day-to-day demonstration of it.


I realised that it’s not my ‘why’ that makes me unsuitable for leadership roles, it’s that the leadership roles on offer are unsuitable for me. I need an opportunity and a culture where my talents can flourish and be recognised. Where kind, honest and positive people-focused leaders are truly valued for their contributions.


I hope that one of the outcomes of the COVID crisis is that organisations will finally see and embrace the value of human-centred leadership. Certainly the signs are there as employees report feeling more connected to their managers now than they ever have before (check out my previous blog 'Quit managing on social auto-pilot').


In the meantime I’m going to just do me and keep busy filling my jar with fireflies.



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Supporting positive Workplace Culture Crusaders across Australia from sunny Brisbane.

I respectfully acknowledge and pay my respects to the Kabi Kabi, Jinibara and Turrbal Traditional Custodians, and their elders past, present and emerging, on whose unceded lands I live and work.

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