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Uncovering your Why

Simon Sinek is one of those thought leaders who has had amazing cut through in the world of business strategy, including recently in relation to millennials in the workforce (if you haven't looked at this video yet, it is worth 15 minutes of your time).

I was therefore keen to see what he had to say when he presented to a packed house at The Growth Faculty forum in Melbourne recently.

Sinek was the morning attraction and for me reinforced much of the value in his 'Start with Why' model (click here for an overview of the model). He also spent a lot of time around leadership. One quote that had real resonance related to how you build and engage your team as a leader.

We are all familiar with the concept of "getting the right people on the bus" and its various variants. He had a different spin to it. As he said, "it’s not about the right people, it’s about the right bus!". And, of course, that's the leader’s role - both in ensuring the bus is 'safe' and 'sound', but also as leader being a great driver!

The afternoon session was presented by his colleague Peter Docker whose focus was on how do you harness the "Power of Why". That is, how do you uncover your Why? 

This is something that has not always been clear to me, and I have had varying degrees of success in working with clients on this very issue. It is, in part, an iterative process. A process that Sinek identified as being about the origin of the business and why it exists. For some companies this may or may not still be relevant. 

Docker outlined 4 steps to help with the Why discovery process; less scientific, more reductive:
  1. Identify the Human Connection. To do that ask your team to identify specific stories about the organisation when it is at its best, when it makes them feel proud. Not about $ and cents per se - but what you have given, less so received.
  2. Isolate the Contribution - in those stories what was the specific contribution the organisations made in the lives of others. Collate and cluster these stories into themes - describe them as verbs, not nouns.
  3. Find the Impact - determine what that contribution enabled others to go on to do, or to be. How were their lives different because of this contribution - however small or large it may be.
  4. You can then start to draft potential WHY statements. A simple structure for a WHY statement is: To (what your organisation does - its contribution) so that (the effect you want to have in the world - the impact)

From there you will have some clarity on your WHY. You can iterate or road test to ensure it has resonance and, of course, relevance to who you are, and what you want to be as an organisation.

During the day, I sat next to a leader from one of the big 4 banks. She told me an amazing WHY story. It related to a client who had superannuation with them and had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. The client rang the personal banker to inquire about their insurance only to find that the super account didn't include appropriate cover. Rather than leaving it at that the bank manager took it upon herself to look for so called 'lost' super with other organisations. Subsequently she identified one super account that did include insurance cover that would be of real value to her client. No direct value to the bank. Not an additional product sold. But a true human connection and contribution that would have real impact and benefit for that customer. Inspirational! 

You can see how that story would be a strong foundation around which to build the bank's WHY. A WHY in action - helping their clients have a secure, stronger financial foundation that supports them throughout their life - no matter what it throws at them. 

A day well spent - equal doses of inspiration and practical application!

by James Atkins, Vantage Strategy & Marketing
This article is linked to James' Google+ profile

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