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The Power of Why

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23/28/14 | Posted by SysAdmin

So why do you do what you do? And does the answer really matter?

If you answered the first question with “money”, you are certainly not alone. But can changing your motivator make you more successful? A growing number of business analysts agree that it does.

Rebecca Melville, founder and director of Leadership Toolkit, a Melbourne-based firm specialising in leadership development, strongly believes in the power of Why as a motivator.

“It’s increasingly apparent that many people have forgotten the reason for the work- the why,” says Melville. “Inherently, people want to make a difference in this world but they lose track of this, distracted by unrelenting deadlines, bills to pay, emails chiming in their pockets and just ticking the boxes.”

In one of Melville’s most popular seminars, teams are instructed to build an unidentified object. Halfway through the project, the teams then watch a moving video that identifies the objects they are building as prosthetic hands meant for actual landmine victims. The teams’ levels of engagement increase dramatically once they understand the Why behind the project.

“This experience is more than just a teambuilding process,” says Melville. The program is a radical re-examination of what work is and why we do it. The power of any team comes from purpose.”

But can focusing on the Why take an entire company from good to great? Simon Sinek, author of “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”, claims that identifying and expressing the Why is crucial to the success of a company. Sinek has created the concept of the Golden Circle, a diagram that illustrates the difference between how average companies see themselves versus how extremely successful ones do.

According to Sinek, most companies start with the What and work inwards. For example, We have an accounting firm (What) and we provide accounting services (How) because we hope to make money (Why).

Sinek believes extremely successful companies use the Golden Circle model by starting with the Why and working outward. E.g. We wish to challenge ourselves daily to create value for our customers and gain expertise for ourselves (Why). We will do this by providing top-notch accounting services for our customers (How). Would you like to use our Accounting firm and partake in our journey? (What).

Consider the Australian retail company, Lorna Jane, which sells active wear for women. With profits of $19.6 million in 2013, it arguably does quite well. But there are lots of companies that sell fitness wear; what makes Lorna Jane so much more successful than its competitors?

It only takes a quick perusal of the company website to find the Why: “Our aim is to inspire woman to live their best life through active living.” There is no mention of sportswear in that vision; the company is promoting an inspirational belief. As Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

To further apply the Golden Circle concept to Lorna Jane, it is only when one moves beyond the Why that active wear comes into the picture. “We will provide fitness wear that accords with our vision of an active women (How) and we will do so by opening stores throughout Australia and the world” (What).

A company that can’t identify or fails to communicate its Why provides little incentive for future customers or employees to believe in it. But a company that has identified its Why and clearly believes in it will have an edge. And those are the companies that attract clients and employees alike.

So think about it. Why do you do what you do? And why does your company?