How to find the why of what your company does?

The WHY of a business or a movement has to be clear so that people who believe in the same thing have a chance to develop trust and loyalty. Once that happens, they’ll be willing to follow – not just because they feel obligated or expect rewards, but because they believe in the cause.

Followers that have a common goal and trust their leader will voluntarily work harder and longer than those who don’t, since they feel it’s worth it for them to work overtime. That’s why we should always make it our mission to find supporters and employees who believe in a shared WHY, and not just people who have certain qualifications or skills.

In other words, businesses shouldn’t hire people purely for their qualifications and start motivating them later. Instead, they should always make a point of looking for motivated employees and then get them inspired.

Southwest Airlines has always put this philosophy into practice in an exemplary way. Back in the 1970s, when the competition to have the best flight attendants was at its peak, they decided to only hire cheerleaders and dancers to fill the positions. And, as it turned out, they were the ideal candidates: it was simply in their nature to spread joy and make people feel at ease.

Such enthusiastic employees are not only better with customers, but also attract similarly minded staff by actively vouching for their company and its WHY.

In an atmosphere of trust, employees feel freer to innovate and go out of their way to contribute to achieving the common goal. This is what makes a business or organization stand out from the rest.

In the real world, it’s no small challenge to keep all three rings of The Golden Circle in check. Especially because when success becomes the norm and an organization is no longer in its euphoric initial phase, the WHY often gets neglected.

It’s right at this moment that people start prioritizing numbers over all else, and short-term thinking and quick wins become more important, even though none of it reflects the business’s actual goals.

In addition, the success of an organization leads to growth, which leads to an increasing number of people being involved. And the more people are involved, the higher the risk of watering down the original WHY, which can, in turn, have a negative impact in the long run.

That’s why it’s important to preserve the WHY established by the founders in an organization’s culture: future leaders will be able to adopt it if it’s part of the organization’s identity.

An organization runs the highest risk of letting the WHY – its raison d’être – fall by the wayside when the founder leaves.

Take Wal-Mart, for example: its original WHY was to serve customers and its staff. Once the founder died, the focus was shifted towards maximizing profits at the employee’s expense. Consequently, dozens of employees sued the company for being severely underpaid and Wal-Mart ended up paying hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties and settlements.

The lesson is: the hardest part isn’t finding the WHY, but staying true to it and keeping it alive.

The majority of businesses rely on methods of manipulation to influence potential customers – usually to get them to buy their products. By doing this, these businesses ignore the true motivations of their customers – the WHY – rather than using them to excite the customers.

They manipulate customers by applying generic sales tactics that don’t have any special connection to a product or a service.

The tactics range from alleged clearance sales, limited-time offers and two-for-one deals that trick us into believing they’re once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, to announcements that don’t quite tell the truth or that exert social pressure – for example, “Four out of five dentists use this toothbrush.”

These tactics are used for one simple reason: they work. For a little while. But their success is short-lived. Ultimately, a business can’t benefit from these scare tactics because they don’t generate a sense of trust or loyalty.

Because once you have truly loyal customers, you don’t need to bother with tactics like these. Loyal customers will always prefer the product of their favorite business even if it’s not the best or cheapest in its class.

And so, customer manipulation can boost sales in the short-term, but it’s not a sustainable strategy.

Businesses, individuals and movements of all kinds should always start with WHY – their reason for doing something. This WHY should be the basis for every decision its leaders make and every message they transmit. By doing so, they will attract loyal supporters and garner long-term success.

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

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