Identifying the “WHY”: Taking the Focus on the Forest Message to the Next Level

By Rose Epperson

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it” – Simon Sinek

In our January issue, I shared with our readers a new perspective for 2016 – focusing on the forest, not the trees. In other words, looking at the big picture of our organizations and striving for growth and success. I went on to say that to gain a big-picture view of your company, look at the “why,” “how” and “what.”

Let’s define the “why.” I stated that the “why” of an organization defines its purpose and mission. Businesses exist to make a profit, but they also exist to make a difference or to provide a service or product that meets a need. But our true “why” can be defined as what makes us tick – purpose, cause, belief.

Employees must understand how their daily activities help to achieve the purpose. Once you and your employees have identified the “why,” communicate the purpose and live by it. Create a culture that illuminates it. Do the people who work for you genuinely care about the cause? Are their daily activities contributing to that purpose?

Defining your own purpose and mission may seem like a daunting task. Mission and vision statements are concise, inspiring statements that clearly communicate the direction and values of an organization. These statements can powerfully explain your intentions, and they can motivate your team or organization to realize an inspiring vision of the future.

When developing and adopting them, make sure that you tap into the passion and knowledge of all your team. Many great ideas come from the least expected places. Gaining a 360 degree view of your company can help lead you to success.

The two statements do distinctly different jobs. Mission statements define the organization’s purpose and primary. These statements are set in the present tense, and they explain why you exist as a business, both to members of the organization and to people outside it. Mission statements tend to be short, clear and powerful.

Vision statements also define your organization’s purpose, but they focus on its goals and aspirations. These statements are designed to be uplifting and inspiring. They’re also timeless: even if the organization changes its strategy, the vision will often stay the same. Together they help define the culture or “why” of your organization.

Organizational culture is a system of shared values, assumptions, beliefs, and norms that unite the members of an organization because it reflects, “What it’s like to work here.” This becomes apparent through the visible level of the culture, the espoused values that are not observed but rather explained and justified, and through the core beliefs that are widely shared through the organization.

Organizational culture guides the company through employee self-management and socialization, plus it supports the firm’s strategies and implementation efforts . These processes create stability and continuity. Socialization begins prior to arrival. From there the individual learns to adapt as the culture is absorbed. Culture is sustained through symbols, rituals, ceremonies, stories, and heroes, along with the language, leadership, policies, and decisions that are present. When the individual fits with the culture, the relationship becomes more powerful and enduring.

Last fall, I attended a Leadership Workshop at the International Society of Arboriculture headquarters in Champaign, IL. I have been participating for over 10 years with this diverse group from all over the world and each year I bring home to our corner of the world a tidbit or two of new leadership knowledge.

ISA introduced us to a TED talk from Simon Sinek, the author of Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. The take away was that it is not what you do, but why you do it that attracts customers, employees and success.

In the video clip, Sinek exposes a new way to think, act and communicate. He makes an example of Apple and their keen innovation. They sell computers, just like everyone else. Most organizations communicate from the outside in, but inspired organizations such as Apple communicate from in the inside out. Sharing their beliefs at the center of their message builds relationship. The relationship leads to success.

The connection isn’t about needing what you have to offer. It’s about doing business with people that believe what you believe. Sinek goes into the science of the connection. I would invite you to Google him and look into his methods to inspire action as a leader. (add graphic: WHY TARGET)

What’s your “why”? And how do you communicate it with your employees and customers?

Next issue, we will look at the “how.” It’s not just what you do in life that matters; it’s how you do it that can make the difference. We establish roles and procedures that keep us working toward common goals and quality service. Of course as managers we need to overlay management principals such as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to the equation to make sure we are utilizing the right keys for motivating employees and inspiring them to also focus on the forest.