Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action – by Simon Sinek
How strongly I recommend it: 8/10
See my lists of books for more.
Go to the Amazon page for details.
If you ask most businesses why their customers are their customers, most will tell you it’s because of superior quality, features, price or service. In other words, most companies have no clue why their customers are their customers. This is a fascinating realization. If companies don’t know why their customers are their customers, odds are good that they don’t know why their employees are their employees either.
Peer pressure works not because the majority or the experts are always right, but because we fear that we may be wrong.
What companies cleverly disguise as “innovation” is in fact novelty. And it’s not only packaged goods that rely on novelty to lure customers; it’s a common practice in other industries, too. It works, but rarely if ever does the strategy cement any loyal relationships.
WHY: Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. When I say WHY, I don’t mean to make money—that’s a result. By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief? WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care? When most organizations or people think, act or communicate they do so from the outside in, from WHAT to WHY. And for good reason—they go from clearest thing to the fuzziest thing. We say WHAT we do, we sometimes say HOW we do it, but we rarely say WHY we do WHAT we do.
People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. When an organization defines itself by WHAT it does, that’s all it will ever be able to do.
As any company forced to compete on price, quality, service or features alone can attest, it is very hard to differentiate for any period of time or build loyalty on those factors alone. Plus it costs money and is stressful waking up every day trying to compete on that level alone. Knowing WHY is essential for lasting success and the ability to avoid being lumped in with others.
Our need to belong is not rational, but it is a constant that exists across all people in all cultures. It is a feeling we get when those around us share our values and beliefs. When we feel like we belong we feel connected and we feel safe. As humans we crave the feeling and we seek it out.
No matter where we go, we trust those with whom we are able to perceive common values or beliefs.
we want to be around people and organizations who are like us and share our beliefs.
when a company clearly communicates their WHY, what they believe, and we believe what they believe, then we will sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to include those products or brands in our lives. This is not because they are better, but because they becomemarkers or symbols of the values and beliefs we hold dear.
We are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe. Their ability to make us feel like we belong, to make us feel special, safe and not alone is part of what gives them the ability to inspire us.
Absent a WHY, a decision is harder to make. And when in doubt we look to science, to data, to guide decisions. Companies will tell you that the reason they start with WHAT they do or HOW they do it is because that’s what their customers asked for. Quality. Service. Price. Features. That’s what the data reported. But for the fact that the part of the brain that controls decision-making is different from the part of the brain that is able to report back that decision, it would be a perfectly valid conclusion to give people what they ask for. Unfortunately, there is more evidence that sales don’t significantly increase and bonds of loyalty are not formed simply when companies say or do everything their customers want. Henry Ford summed it up best. “If I had asked people what
It all starts with clarity. You have to know WHY you do WHAT you do. If the leader of the organization can’t clearly articulate WHY the organization exists in terms beyond its products or services, then how does he expect the employees to know WHY to come to work?
Once you know WHY you do what you do, the question is HOW will you do it? HOWs are your values or principles that guide HOW to bring your cause to life.
Everything you say and everything you do has to prove what you believe. A WHY is just a belief. That’s all it is. HOWs are the actions you take to realize that belief. And WHATs are the results of those actions—everything you say and do: your products, services, marketing, PR, culture and whom you hire.
In business, like a bad date, many companies work so hard to prove their value without saying WHY they exist in the first place. You’ll have to do more than show your resume before someone finds you appealing, however. But that is exactly what companies do. They provide you with a long list of their experience—WHAT they’ve done, whom they know—all with the idea that you will find them so desirable that you will have to drop everything to do business with them.
Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them. People are either motivated or they are not. Unless you give motivated people something to believe in, something bigger than their job to work toward, they will motivate themselves to find a new job and you’ll be stuck with whoever’s left.
The feeling of trust is lodged squarely in the same place as the WHY—the limbic brain—and it’s often powerful enough to trump empirical research, or at least seed doubt.
It is the percentage of people who share your beliefs and want to incorporate your ideas, your products and your services into their own lives as WHATs to their own WHYs. They look to WHAT you do as a tangible element that demonstrates their own purpose, cause or belief to the outside world. Their willingness to pay a premium or suffer inconvenience to use your product or service says more about them than it does about you and your products.
If you have the discipline to focus on the early adopters, the majority will come along eventually. But it must start with WHY.
The cone represents a company or an organization—an inherently hierarchical and organized system. Sitting at the top of the system, representing the WHY, is a leader; in the case of a company, that’s usually the CEO (or at least we hope it is). The next level down, the HOW level, typically includes the senior executives who are inspired by the leader’s vision and know HOW to bring it to life. Don’t forget that a WHY is just a belief, HOWs are the actions we take to realize that belief and WHATs are the results of those actions. No matter how charismatic or inspiring the leader is, if there are not people in the organization inspired to bring that vision to reality, to build an infrastructure with systems and processes, then at best, inefficiency reigns, and at worst, failure results.
Most companies have logos, but few have been able to convert those logos into meaningful symbols. Because most companies are bad at communicating what they believe, so it follows that most logos are devoid of any meaning. At best they serve as icons to identify a company and its products. A symbol cannot have any deep meaning until we know WHY it exists in terms bigger than simply to identify the company. Without clarity of WHY, a logo is just a logo.
It is not a company or organization that decides what, it symbols mean, it is the group outside the megaphone, in the chaotic marketplace, who decide.