start with why

Start With Why

In case you have not yet seen it, in 2009 Simon Sinek – a leadership guru and professor at Columbia University – gave a TEDx Talk called Start With Why. This talk is now the 3rd most watched Ted Talk of all time. 

One of the core concepts from his talk is this: the best way to inspire others is to always start with your own “why” first. This idea is both brilliant and simple, but is often lost in the midst of all the benefits and sales tactics used when trying to build a loyal following. He also focuses on the idea that having employees who are excited about the mission at hand are the best resources for any business, and that you don’t need sleazy sales tactics to bring in more business so long as you communicate your why first.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek

Every business out there can tell you what they do – this is usually the first thing they showcase. However, just reiterating the benefits of your product over and over again will only get you so far. This is because you’re not communicating on the emotional plane, which is where many decisions tend to be made.

What we have to know is that emotions are MUCH stronger than reason.

We feel a true sense of belonging when we know why we do what we do. In fact, this is a much better way of getting people to decide if they want to be a part of your movement or not.

If an idea really resonates, human beings will go completely out of their way to support that idea. Think about Apple, a computer company. If Apple communicated like the majority of businesses, their message would sound similar to this: “We make great computers. They’re beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. Want to buy one?”, Sinek says.

Rather than taking this approach, here’s what Apple is actually telling us, according to Sinek:

“Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”

Throughout history, the greatest leaders and businesses have naturally followed a pattern of why they do things, followed by how they do things, until finally revealing what it is they actually do.

Apple succeeds because first, they tell us why they’re here (to shake things up), then they tell us how (with easy-to-use, beautifully designed products), and finally we find out what they make (computers, phones, tablets, and mp3-players). By the time they get to their what, we’re already long sold on their cause, and are prepared to enthusiastically lend our support. If you want to inspire others, start by telling them why you do things – instead of what you do – and you’ll see a massive change in engagement.

As a business it is crucial to communicate your why with your team, and to make sure it’s a cause that all team-members believe in. Clear-cut goals play a very important part in running a successful company. That said, goals may not always be enough to motivate your team to do their best work. “We’ve got to hit these numbers at the end of this quarter” sounds different from “The reason why we have to hit these numbers is to do our part in building facilities to help develop cures for serious disease and illness.” Now that’s a cause I can get behind. The idea then, is to keep this purpose of why we are doing what we do in EVERYTHING we do. When we remember our entire vision, drive, and purpose before diving into a task (no matter how commonplace!), success in that specific task becomes the only option.

The one thing we have is our focus…this is the only thing we can control. Remembering the importance of our why will help your team to direct their focus on the present task, leading to greater vision and business that betters the world.

I don’t think that there is a single business that wouldn’t want to try to get the best out of their employees. As we’ve said, the most effective way you can do this is by developing a cause for your team to get behind. Gather the people who share your why. Instead of relying on big paychecks, save your business some money by finding people who are already motivated by your common cause, and inspire them even more.

When hiring people look for their cause, not just their craft, and watch your business grow significantly.

The businesses that use sales funnels, limited time offers, and other social proofs to trick you into buying their products will not have lasting success. Their short-lived strategies only focus on the next sale, instead of building a community of repeat customers who believe in what you do.

Communicate from the inside out. Start with why. When you do this you’ll build a group of customers that trust you and follow you. This will keep your business running for a very long time.

People will always prefer the quality product from their favorite business over cheaper or sometimes even better solutions, all because they believe in you and your why.

Don’t waste time with sleazy sales tactics. Spread your why, and let true connections follow in order to grow your business. Simon’s TED talk has impacted much of what we do here at Acuity Process, and has been a key contributor in the efficient action that we enact for all of our clients. If you’re looking to take your business to the next level, starting with why could be just the approach that takes you there.

If you have not watched the TEDx Talk: go watch it here – You’ll be happy you did.