Finding your workplace “why”

By October 7, 2019 Solutions

Inspired by: Start with Why and Find Your Why     by Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek wrote two best-selling books to motivate and inspire people to achieve their goals and ambitions by instructing them to look first for personal fulfillment rather than mere money or other tangible measures of success.   In short, he wanted people to start with what he called their “Why” to discover their purpose.  He believes that each of us all has our “Why”; we just need to find it!

The very same motivation to find your personal “Why'” can be utilized to find the purpose of your workplace or your “Workplace Why.”  For a workplace to fully succeed, each individual must contribute to the overall purpose of the workplace through own personal purpose, or their own personal “Why” to fully support the greater “Workplace Why.”

Sinek believes that while everyone is motivated to an extent by rewards for a job well done or punishment for a task that perhaps isn’t accomplished, they are far more compelled to be driven by their calling or their personal “Why” to succeed. An excellent example given by Sinek is the Wright Brothers who built the very first engine-powered airplane back in 1903.  Did they do this for personal wealth or fame? No, in fact, the Wright Brothers accomplished this great feat for their sense of purpose, nothing more, nothing less.  Just 65 years later, Neil Armstrong was the first person to step foot on the Moon!  So from the Wright Brothers “Why” in little Kitty Hawk North Carolina, evolved quickly into President John F Kennedy’s “Why” when he inspired NASA to put the first man on the moon!

So how does one find their “Why” and get themselves to their own lunar adventure?  Better yet, how do we get everyone in our workplace to share our common “Workplace Why”?  Through Sinek’s “Golden Circle,” he describes where to start and how to find your “Why.”  The “Why” is the bullseye which is encircled by the “How” and finally encapsulated by the “What’.  Too often we allow human nature to guide us, to begin with, “What” is needed, then think “How” it gets done, and finally we may get to the reasons “Why” we are doing it, or its purpose.  This, Sinek believes it is not efficient and exactly the opposite of how we should think so that we get the very best results through emotionally driving our calling or purpose.  Hence, start with “Why” think about “How” and end up with “What.”

“Why” fosters a sense of belonging, whereas “What” is purely rational and has no emotional impact on your sense of self or accomplishment.  By starting with “Why,” leaders communicate on an emotional level of why something is required. They then describe “How” to do it and finally, “What” it is that they are doing.

By following this order and starting with your “Why” you communicate to others inherent need to engage with you based on emotions rather than just logic.   They will follow you because they feel emotionally engaged to whatever the “What” might be.

Have you ever noticed that small children always inherently ask WHY?  Why this, why that, but why can’t I stay home from school, why can’t I go swimming now, why do I have to finish my dinner before I can eat dessert.  Well, this is quite normal and natural, but parents can be a bit short of time or patience or perhaps both.  So rather than explain the “Why” you often hear them say “because I said so.”  Does this change a child’s behavior, now or even in the future?  The child’s behavior usually doesn’t change until the child learns the answer as to why?  Which pretty much sums up Senick’s entire hypothesis of the need to start with “Why.”  Moreover, this is no more important than in the workplace, where we daily communicate and relate to each other on the most basic and primitive levels.

Putting “Why” in Your Workplace

An example of “Why” in your workplace might be, “Why” does our Reception Team need to ensure that every single guest that enters is made to feel so welcome and at ease.  Well, the quick answer is that the guests require an emotional reason to come back and truly look forward to the experience of visiting our workplace.  Furthermore, the “Why” in this case would be that guests that feel welcome are more apt to return and guests who return engender loyal business for the company, which sets the company apart from competitors.  The “How” would follow, which may include a plan for intensive training on the importance of natural and welcoming body language for the team and how through a simple smile or welcoming hand gesture this is achieved.  Finally, the “What” would circle back to the objective of making sure every guest that enters the office feels welcome and at ease, by ensuring that the entire Reception is “on-stage” every moment of every day to welcome their customers and guests.

“Why” in the Wonderful World of Disney

A further example would be Disney, they put the “Why” in just about every task that their staff or “talent” as they refer to them do, no matter how simple on the surface the task may seem.  For example, when a guest walks down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, they will rarely if ever stumble upon a piece of rubbish or trash, not even a cigarette butt or an empty water bottle.  Why?  Quite simply Disney starts with “Why” when educating each cast member, the very first thing a member of the janitorial team is made aware of is the importance of the “Magic of Disney” that must be experienced by every guest.  So yes, the “Magic” starts with NOT stumbling on a piece of trash or rubbish in the Magic Kingdom.  The “How” Disney accomplishes through precise detail and precision of each custodial cast member as they “pop-up” from the underground service area to clean the streets and simply “pop-back “underground,” rarely even noticed by guests, as if by Magic!  So finally, the “What,” which is where most other theme parks start and end their training, which only ensures that all the public areas open to visitors a are kept as clean and tidy as possible at all times.  However, when you stress “Why”, this seems like quite a low bar of achievement, which is how Disney gets their “cast members” to “Aspire Higher” think that every task, no matter how minor it might seem on the service, adds to the Magical Experience of Disney for every guest.  Does this cost Disney more, to do twice the education and have more members of staff on its custodial teams? The quick answer to the question is a holistic NO.  All you need to do is check out the cost of admission and the total revenue and profit of a Disney Theme Park compared to its closest competitor.  Their emphasis on “Why” actually make them much more profitable and ensures that they stay far ahead of their rivals if there even is one.

If you began with the final objective, your “What” without explaining or communicating your “Why” members of the team may not fully understand or feel fully invested in the importance of making their guests comfortable.  The “Why,” describes the fact that the guest is more likely to return very willingly, which relates to each member of the Reception Team the importance of the objective on an emotional level, providing them a purpose for the task at hand.

A workplace that has a clear “Why” or purpose that is ingrained in every aspect of the working day has no trouble effortlessly achieving their goals.  The direct result that all members of the team become emotionally invested as a group with a clear purpose of “Why” they are there in the first place.  The additional benefit is that it is almost impossible for your competitors to imitate your “Why,” while your “How” and “What” are quite easily copied.  A perfect example would be the guest experience at Disney World is nearly impossible to copy, even though the competition tries and tries to do it, but they don’t have the “Why” or the “Magic.”

Your “Workplace Why” is often right under your nose, all you need to do is identify it, pay attention to it, cultivate it and then communicate it to your stakeholders. Once discovered, keep an eye on it, and make sure that you never waiver from your “Workplace Why” to sustain the continued success of your business’ workplace over the long-term.  Your “How” and “What” may evolve and transform over time, but your “Why” rarely changes.







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