Why do some succeed where others fail?
Why are some organizations so successful where other organizations fail ? Why for example is Apple so innovative year after year after year whereas other computer manufacturers such as Dell or Gateway have failed in various initiatives to diversify?
Why should customers buy your products or services in a market place where your competitors have the same access to talent, the same agencies, the same marketing tools, the same market conditions, the same resources, the same technical expertise? What makes you different?
Start with “Why” and not with “What” or “How”
Simon Sinek, author of “Start with Why: how great leaders inspire everyone to take action” answers these questions in a very clear and simple way. The reason why some organizations succeed where others fail is for one simple reason: those who succeed are those who think, act and communicate in a totally different way and follow what Sinek calls the principles of the Golden Circle. Successful and inspirational leaders start by defining “why” they do what they do before explaining what or how they do it. In other words, they define their purpose clearly and act and communicate aligned to that purpose. They communicate from the “Inside out”.
Communicate from the “Inside-Out”
Most organizations communicate from the “Outside-In”: they describe what they do, how they do it and then expect or hope customers to make a decision based on the facts presented. In fact, many organizations proceed this way because they don’t know “Why” they are doing what they are doing.
But this “Outside-In” approach as Sinek point out is very uninspiring and doesn’t capture the minds and hearts of the largest audience and certain doesn’t set us apart from the rest. Indeed, if you don’t know “Why” you are doing what you are doing, how can you hope to inspire others to buy your products or follow your lead?
Rather provocatively and counter-intuitively, the goal of business, Sinek reminds us, is not to do business with people who need what we have, the goal is to do business with people who believe what we believe.
When we communicate from the Inside Out and get others to buy in to our Purpose, we speak to the fundamental drivers of human decision making, the “emotions” and we inspire those who think the same way as we do, feel the same as we do, see the world as we do, who are ready to trust us because we share something in common more than simply a basic business need.
Apple is so innovative because it succeeds in inspiring those of us who share the same purpose and see the world as Apple sees it. Apple doesn’t first try to sell us technology or extra functionalities. Indeed, their products as a whole are perhaps no better than those of its competitors. But what they do best is sell a vision and a purpose which many customers buy in to perhaps even despite the short comings of the products themselves.
Indeed, the Golden Circle principle can be applied to all areas of human endeavor.
Hire people who share the same goals and values
From a Human Resource point of view, when seeking to build a great team, we shouldn’t simply seek to hire people who can simply do the job. As Sinek says, attracting people who want to work for the paycheck is not enough. We must seek to attract people who believe what we believe, who share and identify with the goals and values of the organization because only those who share the same goals and values will go beyond the simple actions required to earn the paycheck and will engage fully with the organization, especially when the going gets rough. How do we find those people? By talking about who we are and by communicating from the “Inside-out”, we will attract more people who share the same values as us.
The perhaps apocryphal advertisement supposedly placed by the Irish Arctic explorer, Sir Edward Shackleton in the Times newspaper illustrates how building a strong and effective team depends on much more than simply knowing how to perform the tasks required. The ad is supposed to have been published as below:
“MEN WANTED: FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY. SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS, CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOUR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS. SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON”
Perhaps this ad was never indeed placed but it captures what all high achieving teams really need. Going the extra mile, making the extra effort depends on much more than simple technical competencies and in Shackleton’s case, his team survived because they shared the vision, the same goal and values.
Leadership by authority versus Leadership by inspiration
From a leadership point of view, Sinek makes the difference between those who are in leadership positions because they have power and those who are leaders because they manage to capture the hearts and minds of their audiences. Power is not enough to inspire others and all the great leaders in history, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, JFK, Churchill (to name but a few), were effective leaders because they managed to capture the hearts and minds of their audiences through a shared vision and purpose rather than through any exercise of pure power. As Sinek so provocatively suggests, leaders inspire us to follow them for ourselves and not for them, because they personify what we believe.
Check out Simon Sinek on TedTalks for a fascinating and charismatic presentation of his views on how answering the question “Why” makes such a big, big difference.