Inspire your employees with a strong ‘why’

Leaders play a critical role in engaging and retaining the best talent within organisations. How do they get it right?

Leadership expert Simon Sinek has spent a lot of time studying leaders with great influence. He discovered that the most notable leaders appear to think, communicate and act in a similar way. They do not coerce, nor do they manipulate. Rather, they inspire others to action. And they do so by communicating in an ‘inside out’ way. Sinek calls it the Golden Circle. He says that most leaders, and businesses, start by telling you ‘what’ they do, or ‘how’ they do what they do. But very few start with ‘why’ they do what they do.

It is the ‘why’ that matters to humans at work, and yet too often we find leaders and organisations are not clear on their ‘why’ to start with. If you want to inspire your employees, you would do well to discover and communicate your ‘why’ as a business, says Sinek. Making money is not a ‘why’, but rather a result. A ‘why’ is a purpose, a cause or a belief. The why is about our contribution to impact and serve others. Here is one formula for getting to a ‘why’ statement:

To: _______ (contribution)

So that: ______ (impact).

Here are a few examples:

Simon Sinek’s personal why: “To inspire people to do the things that inspire them so that, together, we can change our world.”

Prezi: To reinvent how people share knowledge, tell stories, and inspire their audiences to act.

Tesla: To accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy.

Airbnb's mission statement: To connect millions of people in real life all over the world, through a community marketplace– so that you can Belong Anywhere.

Great leaders communicate the ‘why’ first, staking out a common focus or goal to attract the right people for the organisation and what it aims to achieve.

Clarity on the ‘why’ aligns the activities of the organisation, tapping the deeply human need to make meaning. If you know why your organisation exists, you can identify the role you play in achieving it, and engage and contribute on a more meaningful level. Once the why is clear, and well-communicated, aim to make space and time for new ideas to be heard. And to retain the best employees, create opportunities for growth, so that employees have a path for their progress and achievement in line with this larger ‘why’.

Having a strong ‘Why’ statement is key to staying motivated and focused. Have you explored yours?

If you would like to watch the TED talk that launched the principle of the Golden Circle so that you can apply it in your own work, you can view it here.

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