Why you should start with why?

Wouldn’t you like to call a job you love your own? Although just about anyone would answer “yes” to this question, in reality most people don’t even entertain the possibility of loving their work. They figure it’s a waste of time to try to find their dream job – the one project that would change everything.

But is it really impossible? Can’t we all find some task that fulfills us?

Yes, we can. But only by looking for something that excites us, something we believe in. In short, we need a WHY – a goal or purpose that gives our lives a deeper meaning and makes everything else secondary.

Simon Sinek, the author of the book, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, is a good example. Although he was leading a successful career in advertising, he only began to feel fulfilled by his work when he discovered his own WHY. And he launched his own business with the aim of leading a movement to inspire everyone to find their own WHY.

Essentially, his goal is to inspire others to pursue what excites them – which, in turn, inspires others to do the same. The underlying idea is that we can all find our WHY without any special resources or a whole lot of luck: all we need to do is stick to a few easily applicable principles that anyone can learn.

At some point or another, every person or organization needs to motivate others to take action, whether it’s to work more effectively, to get involved in a charitable project, to vote for a certain party or to donate to a relief organization.

And yet, most businesses and organizations stick to the same old strategies to motivate their employees: they give them incentives to do something and threaten the ones who don’t with negative consequences.

On the contrary, good managers who want to get the people around them to take action don’t resort to rewards or punishments: they inspire others, instilling in them the will to take action.

Hence, we don’t follow others for rational reasons, but because we feel compelled to do so. This type of motivation goes much deeper than material incentives. People who are enthusiastic are personally invested and stay that way.

Enthusiastic employees will bring personal resources to the table and sacrifice themselves to achieve the common goal without being prompted. They don’t act for the sake of rewards or incentives, but because they recognize a deeper meaning in their actions. They feel their calling.

Sinek’s Golden Circle is loosely based on the golden ratio, a mathematical concept describing proportions that are considered particularly pleasing to the eye. The Golden Circle consists of three concentric circles with the WHY as a bull’s eye in the center, the HOW wrapped around that, and the WHAT as the outermost circle.

The WHAT describes the activities of the business or organization. Usually, the WHAT is pretty self-explanatory – say, manufacturing a product or offering certain services.

The HOW illustrates the way in which the WHAT is achieved: How do you handle everything? What is it that, for example, turns a particular manufacturing process or business culture into something special?

The WHY describes the mission of a business or organization. Why was it founded? What is its main goal?

Although all three of these factors should be well known and thought out in advance, many businesses and organizations don’t have a clear idea of their WHY. Yielding profits is, for example, not a WHY: it’s the result of the WHAT and the HOW.

In order to cooperate effectively with others, we should adopt the perspective of The Golden Circle and understand all three of its rings. Some people may naturally see the world like this, but those of us who don’t have that innate inclination can learn it.

The Golden Circle provides a leadership model that can serve as a basis for creating a business or organization and for inspiring and leading others. Ultimately, leaders must make an effort to not only communicate WHAT is being done and HOW, but also the often-forgotten WHY.

When we make decisions, we base them more on the WHY than the WHAT – because only the WHY fosters a sense of belonging. As for the WHAT, it’s purely rational and hardly stands a chance against the emotional impact of a WHY.

For that reason, people in leadership positions who want to get others to take action always begin by explaining WHY something has to be done. That way, they create a sense of belonging which makes others want to take action.

When people are emotionally invested, they join movements, buy products and brands – and even use them as symbols to show others who they are and who they support. The more clearly you describe and communicate the WHY, the more people will like it, because people don’t buy WHAT people make; they buy WHY people make it.

And so, leaders communicate by starting in the core of The Golden Circle and working their way out: they first explain WHY they do what they do, then HOW they do it and, only at the very end, WHAT their product is.

When a WHY excites people, the product itself usually doesn’t matter as much: customers are convinced by the business itself and happy to buy whatever it sells.

Successful businesses don’t stand out because of their business strategies or unconventional thinking. They are simply able to excite their employees and customers and begin every decision-making process by asking WHY. That’s the only way for them to successfully realize their ideas. Even factors like financial and other resources are only secondary to their success.

By inspiring others we establish a following. Whether they’re clients or employees, excited followers are the most loyal. And, backed by them, we have the capacity to change an entire industry – or even the world.

The American motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson, for instance, has built up a huge community of loyal followers over the course of its more than 100-year existence. For its customers, a Harley isn’t just a motorcycle, but a symbol so important to them that they’re willing to wait several months for a bike they’ve ordered – and, in the meantime, get the company’s logo tattooed onto their arms.

Businesses with a clear WHY generally don’t have trouble distinguishing themselves from others, which gives them the luxury of largely ignoring the competition. As a result, they can be more authentic and imaginative than others and don’t need to depend on imitating the competition.

In addition, when businesses have a definitive personality and convey a clear WHY, they are also able to attract the best employees – which is priceless when it comes to securing the survival of a business.

Check out my related post: Have you read Abundance? – Part 2

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