Online and at meetings these days, there’s a lot of discussion about a little word: “Why.”
Following on the success of Simon Sinek’s mega-bestselling book, “Start With Why,” many entrepreneurs, business leaders, and professionals are currently asking themselves what is the “why” of their business or their careers.
In his book, Sinek espouses that when we start with “why” – Why are we in business? Why do we get out of bed in the morning? Why does our company exist? – we begin the process of becoming more valuable.
- Sinek proclaims, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
I respectfully – but vehemently – disagree.
The burgers at Shake Shack are unbelievably good. I don’t give a damn why they make them so delicious – I just care that they do.
My pal, author, speaker, and “Five Friends” colleague, Joe Calloway, has brilliantly observed that even in a company like Apple (that Sinek cites as a primary example of starting with the “why”), this approach does not work.
As Joe has said, “Go into an Apple Store and ask an employee at the Genius Bar about his ‘why’ of being there – and he probably won’t cite any Apple corporate ‘why.” Instead, he’ll probably say it’s to pay off his student loans. In any business – large or small – there are many varied ‘whys.’ People DO buy what you do – and how well you do it. The key is not the ‘why’ – it’s to be the best at what matters most.”
- My take is that the problem is NOT your “why” – it’s that you need to ask a better “how.”
In most of the organizations I’ve observed, three “hows” frequently being asked include:
- How do we sell more?
- How do we cut overhead?
- How do we enhance our profits?
Notice what all of these statements have in common? They’re all inwardly focused.
What if the questions were changed to something like:
- How can we be of greater service to our customers?
- How can we make the experience of doing business with us more compelling?
- How will the steps we are taking impact the prospects we want to convert to clients?
“Why” questions certainly provoke contemplation – and, there’s not enough of that going on in business today. We get so busy doing what we do, we aren’t taking enough time to think about what we do.
The crucial point here, though, is that “how” questions focus upon action steps – what can we DO to make this happen?
Your success as a professional, a leader, and an organization will be the result of your actions…not merely your contemplations.
When we change the manner in which we approach the “how,” we will create significantly more impact than starting with why.