Tip #326: Start With “Why”

“Those who are able to inspire give people a sense of purpose or belonging that has little to do with any external incentive or benefit to be gained.” Simon Sinek

I recently watched a TED presentation by Simon Sinek in which he stressed that people are inspired by Why we do what we do rather than by What we do.

He explained this through his concept of the Golden Circle. Imagine three concentric circles:

* The center circle represents Why we do it.
* The middle circle represents How we do it.
* The outermost circle represents What we do.

According to Sinek:

Why is the “single purpose, cause or belief that serves as the unifying, driving and inspiring force for any individual or organization.

For an organization, the why inspires the products, services, marketing, culture, hiring profile and partnerships the organization makes or performs.

For an individual, the why guides the ideal and most fulfilling decisions- finding a job you love, maintaining friends you trust and buying the brands to which you’re most loyal.”

How is the “guiding principles or actions an organization or individual takes to bring to life their why. Hows are written as verbs as they are actions to be performed and not just inactionable values to be admired, e.g., do the right thing vs. integrity.”

What is the “results of actions taken to bring the why to life; tactics; everything tangible an organization says or does. Everything outsiders can see, hear or experience, e.g. products, services, partnerships, marketing, etc.”

Sinek says that the three levels of certainty in the decisions we make are based on the levels of the Golden Circle. The levels of the Golden Circle relate to the Triune Brain:

In the outer (What) circle, rational decisions [made in the neocortex] are justified on the basis of facts and figures. Although rational decisions are the lowest level of certainty (“I think this is the right decision”) they are easily explained.

In the middle (How) circle, gut decisions [made in the limbic system] are justified on the basis of a “gut feeling” (“I feel this is the right decision.”) Gut decisions have a higher level of certainty than rational decisions, but the reasons that justify the decision are not entirely clear or easily explained. Gut decisions are highly individual.

In the center (Why) circle, Why decisions [also made in the limbic system] “feel right” and can be justified with facts and figures (“I know this is the right decision.”) Why decisions are the highest level of certainty. Multiple people who are driven by the same belief will all agree that the decision feels right and will agree with the facts to justify the decision.

According to Sinek, “People don’t buy What you do, they buy Why you do it. What you do- your products and services- and how you communicate serve as the proof of what you believe.

When you communicate with What, people can understand the facts, figures, features and benefits- but it doesn’t drive their behavior. When you communicate from the inside-out, starting with Why, you influence behavior, and the tangible things you say and do enable people to rationalize their decisions.”

He uses Apple as an example of a company that “follows the principles of the Golden Circle, which is what earns them the ability to inspire innovation and loyalty. If Apple were like everyone else, a marketing message from them would start with What, then try to differentiate with How. But here’s how Apple actually communicates: ‘In all we do, we believe in thinking differently- we challenge the status quo by making our products beautifully designed and simple to use. We just happen to make great computers.'”

Interestingly enough, Apple has just topped Microsoft in market value…

Over twenty-five years ago, I remember visiting the Small Business Development Center at UW-Madison. I wanted to go into business, but I was very concerned about the number of training consultants already in the marketplace. I’ll never forget what Steve Pinkowitz, the Director at that time, told me. He said, “It doesn’t matter how many other training consultants there are, as long as they’re good so that the industry has a good reputation. People will choose to work with you because of who you are as a person and what you stand for.”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but Steve was essentially saying the same thing as Simon Sinek. People (employees, customers, friends) are initially attracted by your beliefs and ideas (your Why). They rationalize their decision to work with or spend time with you based on how you deliver on those beliefs and ideas (your What and How).

You can watch Simon Sinek’s 20-minute presentation at <http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html>

May your learning be sweet.


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