I came across the above diagram in Simon Sinek’s book, Leaders East Last. It is a very simple picture but one that helps me explain to leaders the importance of having a ‘Why’ in their business.,When my colleagues and at Know+Do are asked to work on a problem a client has in their business - whether that is about the performance of people or their processes or strategies - we often get puzzled looks when we ask a questions like:
Tell me about the vision of the business, what is it aiming to achieve?
What is the purpose of the company and why does it exist?
How do your values help you achieve your mission?
The normal response is along the lines of, ‘that is not important right now, so can we get back to looking at the problem?’ However, our interest in the ‘why’ is because it is usually the best starting point to solving the problem.
In his book, Simon Sinek is referencing the challenge of bringing others with you and expanding the capacity of a business. If too few people have the authority to make the right decisions at the right time, performance will suffer; customer satisfaction will drop; employee motivation and confidence cannot rise, and so on. But if the leader sets out a vision and articulates why the company exists, they can share authority with those who are closest to the daily information in its context; they can expand their influence and empower their people within the framework of a vision.
That is why if a company has a senior management team that is not functioning as well as it should, we ask about the mission, vision and values of the business. These terms set the tone for how the business operates and provide the guide to what makes a decision appropriate or not. Knowing these gives an objective perspective to reference, which is needed to re-set a team’s goals and behaviour.
When a business is struggling to organise its key processes effectively, we ask about the core purpose of the company to ascertain what should be the common thread of motivation for all systems and procedures. Then when we look at the detail of a process, the blocks present or missing steps, we can focus everyone upon the task of achieving the bigger purpose. This puts the everyday challenges into the right perspective and gives a common language everyone can use to work together.
If a leader feels they need to micromanage their team because things are never done right or to their standards, we’d check how the leader is using the company’s goals and values to develop their team. Are they sharing and promoting a mission that enables others to deliver on the company’s goals or are they just trying to make subordinates act in their own image? The values gives descriptions for behaviour and mindset that can go beyond one leader and be embraced by all if the conditions are correctly set.
Even when we run training courses and open events for leaders we start with the purpose. Get the purpose clear and a high performing business can follow. To help frame this thinking we have a tried and tested tool we use with leaders to map their company purpose and confirm how it influences their planning and performance.
This is the reason that ‘why’ does really matter. It is the foundation upon which a business can build success. Thus to solve a problem it always starts with the question, ‘Why?’
So, my question to a business leader reading this post today is: What is your organisation’s purpose and how does it drive performance? If you know what it is that is great, well done; now try looking at how you are using it everyday. Do you see the values explicitly expressed by people? If you are not sure about the purpose, then it is time to start searching for one. Either way, Know+Do enjoy sharing ideas and inspiration so contact us today to ask how we can ensure your why really does matter!