In our previous posts we’ve considered the importance, as a leader, of Knowing Where You’re Going – if you don’t, how can anyone follow you? And, we’ve considered the need to earn and maintain TRUST, and how that requires you to live and breathe (as well as competence, and having benign motives) INTEGRITY and AUTHENTICITY. The ultimate goal, I’ve argued, is to create an enterprise that is “significant and purposive”. In other words, one that infects people – your Team, your Clients, your partners – with the sheer attractiveness of your proposition.
So how to do that? Whether you’re starting something new – a project, a business – or need to get an existing enterprise back on track, or whether you’d just like to get more productivity, better results – I’d argue that you need to find the PASSION in your PURPOSE. And to do that, you need to be clear, not just what you are doing, not just where you are going, but WHY: WHY you get up in the morning. WHY you will do anything it takes to be successful. And, WHY others should follow you and buy from you.
Author Simon Sinek’s first TEDx Talk on “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” is the third most viewed video on TED.com. His 2009 book on the same subject, Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action delves into what he says is a naturally occurring pattern, grounded in the biology of human decision-making, that explains why we are inspired by some people, leaders, messages and organisations over others. Sinek argues that significant and sustainable success comes from knowing, and communicating, WHY you do what you do – not least because the part of the human brain that drives action, trust, and decision-making responds only to feelings and “has no capacity for language”.
Thus, the reason people buy phones and MP3 players from Apple (“a computer company”) is that Apple, from its earliest days, focused on and communicated not just what it did, but WHY it did it. Watch the video for more. For me, Sinek’s point is best summed up in the following sentence: “Remember that Martin Luther King gave the ‘I have a dream’ speech not the ‘I have a plan’ speech!” He goes on to observe that mainstream politicians today tend to be from the ‘I have a plan’ school, and consequently fail to inspire trust, support, and loyalty.
A few years ago I had the pleasure of working with a unique training company called CragRats. Much of their work involves using actors to bring concepts to life; to immerse participants in what it ‘feels’ like to move from one place to another. Based in the village of Holmfirth, Yorkshire (the setting for ‘Last of the Summer Wine’), today it is an award-winning company with an enviable Client list. CragRats’ stated Mission – their ‘WHY’ – is simple: “Life-changing Learning”.
I well remember the founder of the company Dave Bradley, telling me that CragRats was conceived 25 years ago when he, a teacher, and his partner, an actor, became passionately frustrated at the lack of inspiration in the nation’s education and training provision (as they saw it). Exemplifying Tom Peters’ observation that “All innovation comes from pissed-off people”, they decided, there and then, to DO something about it. To create “Life-changing Learning”. Note that the HOW, the WHAT, (i.e. to set up a training company) came later: in that (for them, and subsequently, for many others) life-changing moment, they found their ‘WHY’.
To discover your ‘WHY’ – unless you already know what it is (in which case congratulations!) – author Carmine Gallo suggests, “Ask yourself, ‘What makes my heart sing?’ Your passion is…something that is intensely meaningful and core to your identity….can you say it influences your daily activities?” If you (and your Team) can identify (or refocus on) what it is in your enterprise that makes your heart sing, if you can focus all activity on promoting that and communicating that and being renowned for it, then you will truly connect with your organisation’s PURPOSE, and make that purpose your PASSION – and that of your Team and your Clients too.
In the words of the song, “If you don’t have a dream, how you gonna make your dreams come true?”