Over the coming days, I’ll be sharing some of my takeaways from this year’s Global Leadership Summit. Every year I am challenged by great thought leaders around leadership ideas and principles from a variety of different contexts and parts of the world. One of those this year was Sahar Hashemi.

I was not familiar with Sahar prior to hearing her speak, but what a story. She is the founder of two ground-breaking businesses: the United Kingdom’s first coffee bar chain, Coffee Republic, which she grew to 110 stores and a 50 million pound market cap, and Skinny Candy, a market segment-defining brand of sugar free sweets. She is a former “recovering” lawyer and a best selling author, writing about entrepreneurship and the start up mentality that makes the difference. Her newest book is Start Up Forever: How to Build a Start Up Culture In a Big Company.

Here are some of my notes from her talk:

  • The startup mentality is something you need to maintain for as long as possible rather than transition out of.
  • Tiny shifts in behavior have a deep impact in how you live your life.
    • Oh man. This is so true. So many areas of your life – from what you eat to exercise to work habits to journaling to relationships…
  • Components of a start up mindset:
    • Step into the customer’s shoes – how can you think as if you’re not selling the product, but instead as the purchaser? That activates the gold within you. Write the book you want to read. Create the product or service that you want to buy.
    • Get out of the desk/office and interact with customers!
    • The importance of being clueless – retain innate curiosity and humility, a teachable spirit, so that you can remain in a learning posture
    • Start bootstrapping (extreme resourcefulness) – a lack of resources often is the catalyst for creative solutions. Give up perfectionism – whatever is worth doing is worth doing (at first) badly
    • Think of NO as a badge of honor – what you say no to matters as much or more as what you say yes to
    • When you execute the first five components, you are becoming 100% you
  • We are hungry to make a difference. We don’t want to be transactional any more. Purpose is knowing that everyday when we go to work, we are making a difference for someone.

The last 30 months have produced MANY lessons for leaders, but that last bullet really stood out to me in Sahar’s talk. People do not want to be transactional any more. We are hungry to make a difference.

I’ve seen that to be true in so many contexts.

Quarantine, isolation, social distancing – all of these created in us an awareness of the value and power of community, of touch, of the difference that we make in the lives of others, and the difference they make in our lives. And the outgrowth of that has been the rise of a determination that we’re done with transactional. That’s a large reason for the “Great Recession” we’ve seen in the workplace. That’s why people are leaving jobs in large numbers. It’s because it was a transactional relationship at best. They did not believe they were making a difference, and they are hungry for that, so they move to a new opportunity, searching for that place where they can make a difference.

Are you there? Are you hungry to make a difference?

I am. That’s one of the reasons I started Catalytic Leadership, why I coach leaders and write and speak, to make a difference in the lives of leaders. I want to see leaders INTENTIONALLY grow and thrive. I want to see them get better, because as Craig Groeschel says so well, “when a leader gets better, everybody benefits.”

The start up mindset is so important for entrepreneurs, and too often there is a rush to move away from it, to move into stability and “maturity.” Sahar’s talk highlighted the importance of not jumping ahead of it, but to retain that mindset even into a company’s maturity. Mindset matters. As I coach leaders, I am reminded of this with every session I have with clients. The right mindset makes the difference between success and failure. It’s truly remarkable the power of our thoughts and mindset. Sahar’s talk reinforced the power of retaining the mindset of a startup – hungry, agile, flexible, and teachable.

That’s a great lesson to take to heart no matter what you lead.

When you stop learning, you stop leading effectively. Never stop, leaders. Cultivate a teachable spirit every single day. Determine that no one will be more teachable than you, and see what fruit that mindset brings.

I believe you’ll be pleasantly surprised.


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