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Answering the call of Simon Sinek and Richard Branson

Posted on October 8, 2020
Simon Sinek and Richard Branson

A week or so ago, Richard Branson invited author Simon Sinek to speak to his team at Virgin Startup on the future of business. In their conversation, Richard asked Simon:

“If you were starting a business right now, what problem would you be setting out to solve and why? 

See Simon’s response in this short video clip.

Spoiler alert! Here is Simon’s answer:

“The problem I would like to help solve these days is how we relate to each other.”

Here it is again: how we relate to each other.  

One of the biggest global problems we face, according to both Simon and Richard (who agrees) is a relationship problem.

Simon says the problem is rooted in how judgmental we’ve become, how poorly we listen, how we don’t acknowledge the complexity of issues and how we see so much of our world and each other as either right or wrong. Empathy is missing. The ability to stay and be in difficult conversations is lacking. It’s increasingly an either/or world.

So why write about this? Because CTI and Co-Active exist to help solve that problem. It’s been the case since CTI was founded in 1992 and throughout our entire history as one of the world’s foremost coach training companies.

CTI exists to evolve how people around the world relate to each other, for the sake of creating a world steeped in wholeness, responsibility, and love. Relationship is the point — it’s what has always been the core of what we’re about and what we’re up to in the world.

In April of this year, I wrote about how CTI was putting our attention on relationship during the pandemic — specifically, three domains of relationship: relationship to self, relationship to other(s), and relationship to the greater system (world) we are all a part of. The pandemic started to paint a clear picture of how these domains of relationship are interwoven (e.g., any choice I made for myself, like wearing a mask or traveling, directly impacted the health and well-being of others and beyond). This picture of relationship interdependency is even more vivid today, given the social, political, health, and economic circumstances we find ourselves in.  

So, given all of this, what I would say to Simon if he asked (please ask, Simon!) is, “Yes, Simon, you are right! There is a big problem with how many of us relate to each other right now. And it doesn’t start or end there. In fact, we need to become more aware of how to creatively relate in all three domains of relationship to address the challenge you call out.”

This is what CTI has been up to for 30 years, reaching more than 70,000 customers and working in some of the world’s largest organizations. Born out of a longing to transform the human experience, CTI has been leading experiential programs richly steeped in relationship contexts. Our programs transform how people relate to themselves, others, and their world. We do this through our unparalleled technology of Co-Active, which is a “both/and” technology that evokes creativity and wholeness. At its essence, Co-Active stands for the being and doing of life, together, in relationship. Some of the core skills and principles we train, as seen in the Co-Active Model, are curiosity (the antidote to judgment), listening, and self-management (which helps us stay in difficult conversations). This is just a taste of what Co-Active offers as a path to solving the challenge Simon illuminates. There’s so much more to add.

For now, I’d like to offer Simon and Richard a starting place that will create even more “stick” as we insist on creating a healthier, more vibrant relational world.

Start with self, and start with why

Our belief is that to be in creative, empathetic, resilient, synergistic relationships with others, you must first be in the right relationship with yourself. Put another way, what goes on in my inner world will play out in my outer world (with others). The amount of openness, curiosity, patience, and compassion that I hold for myself will be directly reflected in my behavior with others.

Here is an opportunity to reference Simon’s seminal work, Start With Why, along with a few of the concepts and practices we train people in, all over the world, so they can develop this high-quality relationship with self (which we call our Inner Leader):

  • Life, or Leader, Purpose. This is CTI’s version of what Simon calls a person’s “Why.”  When we have a rich feel for what our life is about, or our raison d’etre, we begin to tap into our innate sense of purpose, authentic expression, and service. This leads to more clarity, more fulfillment, and what our customers also call “flow.” It also helps us know what larger “Why”s to serve in our world as we hook into the synergies of shared purpose (e.g., which organizations or communities to join).
  • Values. We further bolster this creative relationship with self by helping customers access a set of values that keep them in the flow of their life. Values help us make empowered choices and live a life of integrity. Developing an intimate relationship with oneself in this way can be deeply revealing and has the impact of being set free. It’s also, at times, not an easy relationship to develop, as we’re forced to confront some hard truths. That said, our experience shows that even with these difficult choices, we end up living a life that is more resonant and compelling. 
  • Inner Critic or Saboteur. A third tool we offer training on to help foster the right relationship with self is to develop familiarity with the Inner Critic, or what we refer to as the Saboteur. This is the part of our inner dialogue that criticizes, reprimands, and belittles ourselves no matter how or what we do. I assert that for people to relate better to others, this work on the inner critic is essential. For as critical as we are of ourselves (vs. curious, compassionate, understanding, etc.), so we will be with others. If I were a betting man, I would wager that if we could see into the inner landscapes of many people’s lives, we would see as much or even more torment going on within as we see playing out in many of today’s current political, environmental and social scenarios. For some wonderful, in-depth work on the Inner Critic, or Saboteur, please visit our friend Shirzad Chamine and his work with Positive Intelligence.

Now, this is not to say that some core training in the skills of curiosity, listening, and finding value with ideas and others aren’t helpful and needed right now. They absolutely are. In fact, our Co-Active Fundamentals course brings much of this work to life in what customers commonly call one of the most transformational training experiences of their life. And, in a world as complex and dynamic as the one we have, having the grounding of a strong Inner Leader brings a level of resilience and stamina that lasts. It’s an investment we stand behind.

This is but a snapshot of the Co-Active way to improve relating in our world that CTI offers in response to Simon and Richard’s call, and there is more to share on how to develop this empowered relationship with self. What’s to come, however, are some thoughts on what we see is needed to develop relationships more powerfully with others and with the larger system (our communities, world, etc.). Please join the conversation by sharing, in the comments below, your thoughts on solving how we relate to each other — and stay tuned for our blogs in the weeks ahead.

Finally, Simon or Richard, if you end up reading this and want to dig into our technology to address this fundamental challenge, please give us a call. We have Co-Activists all over the world, and CTI is on a mission to work with partners who want to take on this relationship challenge at scale.

Thank you for your great work and for naming one of the great truths of our time.

What People Are Saying

  1. I LOVE this. How do we open our minds and be present to what is showing up in every moment? What’s tricky for me is watching my mind try to make “patterns” with what’s happening or being said at any given moment instead of allowing (scary) what’s really there to show up and be birthed. Our human brains are designed to see things and create patterns out of it. I love this invitation to be in the flow, bolster our values and create a meaningful relationship with self. This is when the magic happens for me! Thank you, Carlo for the writing and Simon and Richard for the conversation.


  2. YES! So many of our modern social technologies are over-simplifying relationship so much that I feel we’ve lost touch with others and ourselves. We are so much more than the superficial representations of ourselves that we project on social media, but we’ve allowed the digital construct to be our reality. The result of this, it seems, is unidirectional communication. We’re talking ‘at’ one another instead of talking ‘with’. We’ve become a world that is no longer experienced in how to be in relationship (with self, with other, with the greater system). I’ve found using the “technology” of Co-Active is a wonderful way to train and build tone and definition in my own relationship muscles. Especially realizing that the Inner Leader and our relationship with self are fundamental to our interactions with the world around us. I’m looking forward to the deeper looking into what is needed to develop relationship to the larger system.


  3. Co-Active has had a tremendous impact on my life. Once I got a taste for what it’s like to be at choice and take responsibility for my impact on the world (of self, other, and the greater system) I never want to go back to living a life that feels like I’m sleepwalking through it.


  4. Thanks for this post Carlo – and to Simon and Richard for kicking off the discussion. At this time in our history, our world needs us more than ever. In order to show up fully, we need to dig deep within, to find our purpose. This means being in a kind and compassionate relationship with ourselves first and then connecting with others who share our values. Now is the time!


  5. I still find the work that I learned at CTI on the inner critic to be very impactful. It is so true that the stories we tell about ourselves is often the story we see in others, and rewriting those stories is a worthwhile challenge.


  6. This is powerful and truly appreciated now more than ever! I find “how we related to one another” to be so important and more specifically how we show up with ourselves, with others and within greater systems. One area I find the most success is in how I show up. This statement “the amount of openness, curiosity, patience and compassion that I hold for myself will be directly reflected in my behavior [actions] with others” says more than I could absorb in one sitting. I look forward to growing my own learning in Co-Active and doing more than making a difference but being the difference. Thank you for posting and sharing… I hope Simon sees this and chooses to engage in the conversation.


  7. I love Richard’s question, Simon’s answer and Carlo’s reminder and invitation. We are on the brink of creating a better world, a new way of relating to one another including ourselves by operating at a higher level of intelligence. CTI is like Michelangelo, revealing what is already there and what has been covered by the wear and tear of time, habits, patterns, (former) relationships and past experiences (and the truths we made up about those experiences). When we give ourselves permission to let go of saboteurs and what we know (reactivity), getting wildly curious about the relationship and our world and what we both want for it and WHY while tapping into our leader within/Sage, purpose and values (our best selves), building our skills and building one each other’s strengths and visions, we will get to a higher level of connection and the output will be magical.


  8. one of the most meaningful and valuable characteristics I’ve developed and continue to use as my “go-to” when building relationships in my personal life AND for my professional community outreach is curiosity.
    I used to default to being “defensive” and nowadays, i’m finding so much peace in my heart when I’m able to shift to being inquisitive- truly in a place of “wonder”.
    I have noticed a difference in my relationship with myself, others, and the global communities I serve.
    This feels great and it’s so validating to see how you “unpack” the messages brought to us by two leaders I have always admired, Branson and Sinek.
    Thanks, Carlo!


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