This post by Jan Bruce, CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium, first appeared on Forbes.com.
You believe that you’ve got something great to offer. That your business is built on the quality of your product or service. You believe that because that’s what most people believe. Features, benefits, warranties—in fact, none of this has much to do with what draws customers or clients to you. That’s because it’s what you stand for, not what you sell, that matters.
I’ve watched Simon Sinek’s 2009 “Golden Circle” TED talk a few times now, and it’s a real game changer. In it, he says that “as it turns out, all the great and inspiring leaders think, act, and communicate in the exact same way, and it’s the complete opposite of anyone else.” Getting into the Golden Circle entails starting with your why and working your way out to the what, rather than the other way around.
“People don’t buy what you do,” he says. “They buy why you do it.”
Case in point: Apple. Because they don’t lead with “Hey, we make great computers.” Apple challenged the status quo with their innovation, their vision of what technology is and could be, and have become the market leader. We don’t buy Apple products just because they’re a quality product; we buy them because we believe in why they do it.
Know Why They’re There
While the Golden Circle approach is a critical shift for anyone trying to get business in the door, it’s just as important to keep it in mind as you engage your employees and grow your team. Because if you and they are there for the money alone, your loyalty, your growth potential, and ultimately your impact, will be limited.
In helping powerful teams to up their resilience, we’ve seen the power of the purpose-driven business: having a connection to what you do not only elevates your sense of worth and contribution; it builds your resilience so that you can cope with stress and setbacks. Without any inner alignment or connection to your work, why even bother getting up in the morning? Why would your team show up when the going gets tough?
There’s being there for the money, there’s being there for the company, and there’s being there because you believe what you do matters and makes a difference. That is the sweet spot. And just as cost-driven models of business (i.e., competing for lowest price) don’t tend to build loyalty or profit (unless you’re WalMart), teams built on paychecks alone also do little to create growth. Anyone driven by money alone will go wherever they find the best offer. So why does your team keep showing up?
We are each responsible for finding our own path, of course—but it is the job of a leader to provide the context, the vision, the purpose for the organization. You know this. But as Sinek says, there are leaders, and there are those who lead. And so the question is, are you providing authority or leadership? An authority figure sets rules, signs checks, keeps the lights on and the wheels of business in motion, and all the cogs in place. But leaders give us someone to follow. Someone we seek not just to please, but to emulate. Or, as Sinek says, not because we have to, but because we want to.
So really none of this Golden Circle stuff can pan out if you’re pasting on a mission after the fact, or trying to find a “reason” why you do what you do after you’ve done it. It must be driven by something bigger.
Find your purpose. If you don’t know why you’re there, no one knows why they’re there, either. Every year or so it’s worth revisiting these four questions to ask yourself how true you are to what you believe, and how much your actions are paying it off. There will be some distinction between your personal goals and beliefs, and your vision for your organization, but there’s going to be an overlap—there must be something personal in it for you or you’ve got no skin in the game.
Communicate it. But it’s not enough just to know it, to write it down in a journal. It needs to be shared and made clear–not just to your clients, but to your team as well. Articulate and affirm the values you stand for, and the vision you have for your collective effort.
Live it. And if knowing it and saying it are one thing, none of it holds water if you don’t walk your talk. That also means you must be consistent. If your organization stands for quality of life but everyone works 12 hours a day with no lunch breaks, you’re not in alignment. If you believe in promoting gender equality, but you have no women in your C-suite offices, you’ve got a problem. Make sure that when it comes to your “why,” the rubber meets the road.
Hire people, not resumes. Resumes showcase where someone’s been, and not necessarily where they want to be. So ask the questions that matter most to you, not just the ones that seek to limit or qualify experience. The most loyal employees won’t be won just by a good offer (though a lousy one won’t do much), but by the opportunity to connect with something bigger. Just as you’re not looking for a cog, she’s looking for more than a wheel.
Make room for others. If your vision is big, it will take many hands and minds. Take pleasure in making room for others in your purpose-driven business. When you can strongly communicate and exhibit how aligned with your mission you are, you’ll not only attract great talent; you’ll keep them. And they will help you bring your biggest goals to fruition.