Have you read Simon Sinek’s books? Are you looking for discussion questions to use individually or with a group?
Author Simon Sinek gives us a lot to talk about and act upon. We’ve put together several exercises based on the content in four of Sinek’s books. The exercises include questions that will help you discuss and implement each book’s ideas.
Continue reading for Simon Sinek book club questions that will allow you to get even more out of Sinek’s books.
Simon Sinek Book Club Questions
Sinek is a best-selling author, a coach, and a popular TED Talk speaker. Below, find Simon Sinek book club questions based on the content in Find Your Why, The Infinite Game, Leaders Eat Last, and Start With Why.
Questions for Find Your Why
Purpose-driven people and organizations are more successful and fulfilled, and they contribute more to the world around them, according to Sinek. Find Your Why distills his theory and his experience working with organizations and individuals into a workbook you can follow to discover your own purpose and strengths, or those of your organization.
According to Sinek, “finding your Why” means finding the single core belief that inspires you to do the work you choose to do and be the person you want to be in all spheres of your life. He believes every individual and organization has a purpose, though not everyone has discovered theirs or put it into words.
Exercise 1: What Would Having a Clear Purpose Do for You?
Consider how clarifying your purpose could improve your life.
- Do you feel fulfilled with the work you’re doing now? If you do, where does that sense of fulfillment come from? If not, how would your life be different if you were working at a fulfilling job?
- How would being more persuasive help you? For example, you might inspire your team or be more successful in job interviews.
- What kind of decisions would you make more confidently and why? For example, knowing your purpose might help you choose a new path for your career or choose between competing career opportunities.
Exercise 2: Lead With Your Purpose
Sinek recommends leading with your purpose or Why to create stronger connections and be more persuasive.
- Write down how you’d usually introduce yourself or your organization.
- Consider your previous response. Do you lead with your Why, How, or What (purpose, methods, or results)? How do you think this helps or harms your long-term relationships?
- Rewrite how you might introduce yourself or your organization so the focus is on your Why.
Exercise 3: Learn the Elements of a Purpose Statement
This exercise will help you understand the characteristics of a purpose statement before you set out to write yours.
- Purpose statements are impact-focused: Think of a time when you felt fulfilled. What were you doing? Does your experience confirm or refute Sinek’s ideas about fulfillment coming from serving others?
- Purpose statements are meaningful and declarative: In your opinion, what value does a purpose statement have for a for-profit company or a career-oriented individual, if it’s not a branding tool?
- Purpose statements are constant: Consider your outcomes, or What, including your work, personal life, and other projects. What overlap or similarities do you see between them? Is there a common thread?
Exercise 4: Prepare for a Personal Purpose Discussion
This exercise will help you prepare for the process of uncovering your purpose. Come up with stories to share with a partner by answering these questions.
- Describe a memorable life lesson you’ve learned. How did you learn it?
- Describe a time you felt especially proud of yourself.
- Who do you look up to? What do you admire about them?
Exercise 5: Prepare for a Team Purpose Discussion
Follow Sinek’s steps to prepare for a team purpose discussion.
- Describe the team you’ll be working with. Is it the entire organization or a smaller team within a larger one? Based on your observations, are team members disconnected from their purpose, or are they just struggling to put it into words? How can you tell?
- What problems do you think the team needs to address before the purpose discussion?
- List three to five team members who could facilitate the discussion, and note why each would be a good fit. What can you do this week to reach out to them and see if they’d be up for the challenge?
- List the people you’d like to invite to the discussion. Consider the area of the team each represents so you can ensure you have vertical and horizontal diversity.
Exercise 6: Discover Your Personal Purpose
If you don’t have the right partner available, these questions will help you through the process of finding your purpose on your own.
- Write down one of the stories you previously selected in as much detail as possible. Notice your emotions and physical responses as you write. When you notice an emotion, dig deeper—what is it about the story that’s triggering the emotion?
- Describe the main ideas and feelings in your story, the core action you took in the story, and the effect you had or tried to have. (Repeat this question and the previous one for each of the stories you picked for the process.)
- After you’ve worked through each story, look over your notes, and highlight recurring words or ideas. These are your themes. Identify two that you feel a strong connection to and convey your unique participation in the stories and your effect on others. Write them down.
- Write a statement using the two themes selected in the previous step. First, write the core action your purpose compels you to take. Second, write the ultimate impact you want that action to have. This is your purpose statement. (For example: “To tell necessary stories so that hurt people can heal,” or “To build strong foundations so that future generations can thrive.”)
Exercise 7: Determine Your Personal Practices, or How
This exercise will help you determine your individual How, or the methods that will help you accomplish your Why, or purpose.
- Group the themes you set aside after writing your purpose statement until you have no more than five. Write those five themes in active and inspiring language that expresses your unique How, or methods. For example, “build safe communities.”
- Elaborate on each How to make it more concrete. For instance, you could add the following clarifying statements to the example above:
- “I look out for my community members.”
- “I create safe spaces where everyone feels welcome.”
- “I seek opportunities for connection.”
- Consider your current work. Does it allow you to apply your How, or methods, or are you having to stifle them? How can you create opportunities for yourself to apply more of your unique How, or methods, in the work you’re doing now?
Exercise 8: Determine Your Team’s Practices, or How
This exercise will help teams determine your How, or the methods that will help you accomplish your Why, or purpose.
- Group the themes you set aside after writing your purpose statement until you have no more than five. Write those five themes in active and inspiring language that expresses your team’s unique How, or methods. For example, “build safe communities.”
- Elaborate on each How to make it more concrete. For instance, you could add the following clarifying statements to the example above:
- “We look out for our community members.”
- “We create safe spaces where everyone feels welcome.”
- “We seek opportunities for connection.”
- Make a list of your team’s values. What overlap do you see between your values and your How, or methods?
Questions for The Infinite Game
When two or more people or businesses jostle for dominance and survival, the ones who survive do so because they understand it as an infinite game—constantly evolving and never-ending, with a higher purpose. Those who don’t survive see the game as a finite one—filled with short-term concerns and aimed at a win-or-lose ending point.
In The Infinite Game, Simon Sinek explores the differences between infinite and finite games. He walks you through how to develop an infinite mindset that will put you and your organization on a path for long-term success in business.
Exercise 1: Name Your Just Cause
A Just Cause is a big-picture vision that provides a framework for your corporate strategies. A Just Cause outlines the reason you are in business beyond the provision of any one specific product or service; it is the vision your product or service exists to support.
- Write down your company’s Just Cause. Think beyond your product or service—ask yourself what larger need your product or service answers (remember the example of the railroad companies, who should have seen themselves as transportation providers rather than sellers of train tickets).
- How do your company’s current operations support this Just Cause? How might these operations be adjusted to better support it?
Exercise 2: Design Ethical Incentives
In an organization run with a finite mindset where employees are judged exclusively on their performance with no consideration given to how they achieved that performance, employees can feel pressure to hit their targets by cutting corners, bending rules, and making unethical decisions.
- Think back to a work situation in which you felt compelled to cut corners or otherwise behave unethically in order to keep up with the performance of colleagues. What actions did you feel compelled to engage in? What outcome were you expecting by engaging in them?
- What were the specific pressures that pushed you to behave unethically? How could those pressures have been better managed? (For instance, how might management have structured your incentives better to discourage unethical behavior?)
Exercise 3: Find a Worthy Rival
When you have a worthy rival, that person or organization can keep you focused on what you stand for. When a worthy rival shows you both what to imitate and what to avoid doing, they can help you define your own Just Cause.
- Name a competitor whom you admire in some way—someone (or some organization) who does at least one thing better than you do.
- What can that competitor teach you? How can you apply the lessons you might learn from them to your own organization or career?
- How might that competitor help you define your own Just Cause, by making the Cause slightly different from theirs?
Exercise 4: Plan for an Existential Pivot
An existential pivot is a purposeful, dramatic change that a person willingly makes in order to stay true to her Just Cause. It’s a move that pushes her out of her comfort zone and carries a risk of failure but is necessary in order for her to continue to play an infinite game.
- Describe a fundamental change that you anticipate coming to your industry. It might be technological, political, or market-based. (Have fun with this, if needed: If there’s nothing you’re currently anticipating, imagine something that might possibly happen, if something changes in the wider world.)
- What might you do to prepare your company for this change? How might you adapt in order to stay true to your Just Cause and continue to provide a solution for the greater need you’ve identified, over and above your specific product or service?
Exercise 5: Align Your Just Cause to Your Actions
To truly lead with an infinite mindset, your Just Cause must be more than merely words; you must act on it. Otherwise, it’s nothing but a marketing slogan.
- Think of a company—either one you’ve worked for or one you’re familiar with—that does things that don’t align with their stated mission. (For example, you might think of a national company that advertises excellent worker relations but is often in the press with labor problems, or a local restaurant that proclaims their commitment to customer service but employs surly waiters.)
- How has this company experienced negative consequences of the misalignment of its actions with its stated beliefs? (Does it get bad reviews? Does it have high employee turnover?)
- How would you advise that company to change if you were in charge? What steps would you take to align the organization’s actions with its Just Cause?
Questions for Leaders Eat Last
All leaders have responsibilities they have to manage, from motivating their subordinates to planning the long-term trajectory of their company. But which of these responsibilities is the most essential to success? In Leaders Eat Last, Sinek argues that a leader’s primary responsibility is to prioritize her subordinates’ needs above her own. In business, this usually manifests as a manager prioritizing her employees’ needs above immediate profit. By empathizing with her employees, she creates a supportive environment that encourages them to collaborate and find innovative ways to support the whole group, helping the company—and its leader—to be more successful.
Exercise: Combat Abstraction
According to Sinek, when you don’t have social contact with other people, they become an abstract idea to you, rather than a person. This means you’ll be more likely to act in your own self-interest instead of considering how your actions may affect other people. Thus, combating abstraction is important for maintaining a supportive environment.
- Describe an area of your job that involves communicating with people remotely, rather than in person. (For example, you might spend time emailing customers or communicating over the phone with coworkers who are based in different states.) How close do you feel to these individuals, as opposed to the people you interact with in person?
- Describe a situation where you’ve behaved differently toward these remote contacts compared to your in-person contacts. (For example, you may have treated a supplier you talked to in person more politely than a remote supplier who you talked to over the phone.) How did these differences in behavior cause problems for you or your remote contacts?
- Make a plan to combat the abstraction you’re experiencing with your remote contacts. Come up with a plan for each individual or group you described above. (For example, plan to hold meetings in person rather than remotely or communicate through video calls instead of email.)
Questions for Start With Why
Although there are thousands of successful companies and leaders, only a few ever really change the world. What makes these different from the rest?
They start with WHY—the vision and mission behind their efforts. Starting with WHY yields benefits like a more inspired team, more loyal customers, and enduring long-term success. In Start With Why, learn how to discover your WHY and communicate it through your organization and to the outside world.
Exercise 1: Learn to Identify the WHY
Now that you’ve had a brief introduction to why a person, movement, or company’s WHY is important, let’s think of some other examples.
- We’ve seen three examples of people and companies that start with WHY, i.e. a core idea that motivates them and inspires others. Can you think of another example of a person, movement, or company that starts with WHY? What is their WHY?
- Now let’s think a little bit more about the WHY and its function. For the company or person you identified, list at least two ways their WHY sets them apart from their competition. (Some reasons might be loyal employees, a world-changing vision, or radical authenticity.)
Exercise 2: Apply the Golden Circle to Your Organization
Apply the Golden Circle to what you do. Start with WHY, go to HOW, and then to WHAT.
- Think about your business, organization, or personal work. What is your WHY?
- What is the HOW? How do you achieve your WHY?
- Finally, what is the WHAT? What are you actually producing that’s of value to others? Does this match your HOW and your WHY?
- Now, take a step back. Do you feel WHY is the center of how your organization thinks about work or how you think about your work? What changes could you make to put WHY first?
Exercise 3: Trust Your Gut
Consider when your gut might have triumphed over your rational brain.
- Think about a time when your gut instinct triumphed over the more logical, rational choice when making a purchase. What was the outcome? How would the outcome have changed if you went with your neocortex (or rational brain) instead?
- If you tend to overthink things, what is stopping you from listening to your gut? What can you do to gain more confidence in what your intuition tells you?
Exercise 4: Operate with Discipline and Consistency
Consider whether your business is operating with a balanced circle in mind.
- Now that you know your organization’s WHY, do you think your company clearly and consistently articulates its WHY? Why or why not?
- It takes discipline to start with WHY, which involves articulating your values as verbs or actions. List two of your organization’s values, then rephrase them as actions. (For example, if one of your company’s values is “honesty,” you can rephrase it as “do the right thing.”)
- When has your organization contradicted its own WHY? What caused the departure from what the organization stands for?
Exercise 5: Start a Tipping Point
Reach the right people to create a tipping point for your new product or service.
- In the work that you do, who are the early adopters? Why does your WHY resonate with these people? What would make them become loyal supporters of your mission?
- How can you best reach these early adopters?