Defining your WHY – Transform Your Work and Personal Life

February 3, 2016

Defining your WHY will transform the way you conduct your business and manage personal relationships.

How often do you ask yourself ‘WHY?’. We highly recommend you take the time to watch Simon Sinek’s 18-minute TED talk: How Great Leaders Inspire Action. His presentation is based on his award winning book, Start With Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.

This video transformed the way the people here at Castle Rock Microwave think about leading people and operating our business. We believe it will have a positive impact on your personal life. After all, our role as leaders is really limited by how well we lead ourselves.

As business leaders and entrepreneurs we generally lead with WHAT we do, and sometimes HOW we do it, instead of the WHY that truly drives us. For example, if you are in the business of selling microwave radios you probably start most customer visits by stating the capabilities of the product, sharing data sheets to highlight the features and express the company’s relevant expertise. These define the WHAT. From there, many go on to cite examples of impressive projects to prove the quality, workmanship and reliability (the HOW).

Sinek, in his talk, challenges that customers don’t really buy WHAT we do or HOW we do it, they buy WHY we do it. Our WHY, when properly communicated, has the power to inspire people to take action. Think about that for a second.

I remember taking a job in a highly competitive market, with a company no one had ever heard of, who didn’t have a single product yet, but set out with an audacious goal of not just challenging status quo in its industry, but also leading the industry through innovation, creativity and tons of prior experience. We were certain that we would take the market by storm, and we did! Had the recruiter just sent me a few data sheets of prospective products and bios of the executive team members, I probably would have just filed the email and kept looking. Instead, I bought into the WHY. I was inspired!

Clearly, the WHY has to resonate with your potential customers or followers. There’s a fine line between inspiring people, and manipulating them. Inspired people become loyal, and loyal people are willing to follow you at the cost of a higher price, inferior feature set and popularity. On the contrary, appealing to someone through a trade, a sale or discount, special offer or at the promise of receiving something back in the future is a manipulation. Manipulation in the business sense isn’t necessarily inappropriate, but you have to be able to recognize the difference between truly inspiring someone and getting someone to take action on the basis of getting something in return. The downside of the latter is that these people will continue to expect the same deal each time. Likewise, exchanges that occur as the result of a manipulation tend to be very transactional and don’t foster loyalty. People want to be inspired. The greatest bond will be with people that buy into your WHY.

We’re convinced that people buy the WHY, not the WHAT or HOW, and the WHY has the power to inspire people to take action. The last thing I’ll mention is that a clearly defined WHY creates a powerful filter we can use to make good decisions.

A clearly stated WHY solidifies our cause and our core conviction in business and personal relationships. In the face of difficult, important decisions the WHY can move the needle on determining the best course of action. It will also enable more reliable decision making when the pressure is on and stress is high. The WHY should create a sense of accountability and discipline to ensure that we stay committed to it.

If you’re a business owner or you lead an organization, think about what gets you out of bed each morning. The thing that gets you fired up about what you do. My guess is that it’s not just to make money. If you’re like me, it has to do with relationships and relational experiences, a desire to please people and solve problems. Perhaps you enjoy empowering people to provide for their families, or you sincerely want to enrich lives through technology.

Before you move on to the next thing you do, ponder your WHY and write a quick comment to share it with us. If you haven’t thought much about this in a while, the few minutes you spend to think about this might be one of the best investments of time you ever make. And sharing your perspective can inspire others too!

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