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Five Reasons to Start with Why

I recently read an entry on LinkedIn by Ryan Zerfas, a marketing guru out of Mishawaka, Indiana. I was struck by these words: "Your 'why' can be supported by trends, but trends shouldn't dictate your 'why.' Know who you are, what you're passionate about, and the niche you want to inhabit, and then stay true to your 'why.' In the end you'll feel more connected to your work, your community, and have long-term success over flash-in-the-pan success."

Yes! Yes! Yes! And I think Simon Sinek, author and inspirational speaker, would agree. Known for his 2009 TED Talk, Sinek has built a career around studying the patterns of great leaders and sharing those patterns to further develop leaders in all kinds of organizations. His book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action is a great guide to building an organization that others want to be part of, and it all starts with knowing your why.

Below are five impactful quotes from the book and a little application to take for the journey.

#1 - "There are leaders and there are those who lead."

We often equate leadership with title or position, but frankly we've all worked for 'leaders' who leave us uninspired and questioning whether or not the organization is sustainable. Those who lead are individuals who know how to inspire people both inside and outside of the organization, ultimately developing relationships and brand loyalty. According to Sinek, we can all learn to lead, but we have to leave the idea of manipulations behind.

#2 - "People don't buy what you do. They buy why you do it."

The average person makes 35,000 choices each day. With an overabundance of ways to spend our money, our time, and our energy, ultimately we want to spend all three of those on things that matter. And why matters. According to Sinek, your product should be tangible proof of your why. When you give consumers or participants a peek into your passion or beliefs, it builds a relationship that goes beyond dollars and cents and transforms into loyalty.

#3 - "It is not logic or facts but our hopes and dreams, our hearts and our guts that drive us to try new things."

In marketing a product, service, or organization, you must appeal to both the rational mind and the limbic, feeling part of the brain. Verbalizing the why, the purpose, vision, and mission behind the product or organization, accomplishes this and then motivates the consumer or audience to share their experience with others. Product facts are great but they do not move us to take action.

#4 - "You don’t hire for skills, you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills."

Knowing the why behind your business or organization clarifies the hiring process and finding the right fit. And ultimately, it's not about skills but about finding employees and members who share the vision and are motivated to uphold that vision. Skills can be taught but intrinsic motivation and a right fit for the culture are either present or not. A business's employees are its greatest asset because their attitudes become a reflection of the product or service.

#5 - "The goal is to ensure that as the measurement of what grows, the clarity of the why stays closely aligned."

For companies of every size, one of the greatest challenges is success. You see, it threatens the why. How often do leaders burn out? How often does growth lead to poor quality product or service? These happen because we get so focused on measuring output that we forget why we're even in the business or organization to begin with. The answer to this problem is to continually return to and evaluate the why. If it's not longer evident in the products, processes, and marketing, there is danger ahead.

What Next?

If you own a small business, lead a non-profit organization, or simply want to learn more about effective leadership, check out Start with Why or any number of Sinek's leadership books and TED Talks. You just might find yourself inspired to lead.

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