Sign in
Choose languageLanguage

Best motivational advice ever? Always start with Why

Always start with why
Blaz Kos
10 minute read

Most business endeavors and projects usually start with a leader’s novel idea or vision. But visions and ideas alone are far from enough to succeed in business, and even less so when trying to motivate team members to embark on a new business journey.

If a vision or an idea isn’t backed up by a mission, strategy, tactics, execution and dedication (a highly motivated team), it’s only an illusion. But how can a leader boost motivation among their team for new business endeavors? 

Well, it’s quite simple: every vision or new idea must be accompanied by a powerful Why. As a leader, you must help your team members find the answers to the following questions:

  • Why should we fight for that vision? Why us?
  • Why do we care? Why does it matter?

When a team has a powerful Why, only then can they become more passionate, innovative and execution oriented. A powerful Why is the best motivational tool in business and can give people one more important reason for waking up in the morning.

The Golden Circle and the philosophy behind start with Why idea

Simon Sinek wrote the book Start with Why, which introduces us to the so-called Golden Circle, with Why in the center. Only once you have an answer to Why? should you find the answers to the questions How? and What?

The general idea, as already mentioned, is that you have to find that powerful Why which gives your (business) life a deeper meaning and makes everything else secondary. A powerful Why makes you motivated and enthusiastic, and an enthusiastic person is always personally invested, and so stays that way much longer. 

It’s much better to work when you feel that work is your calling, rather than just for an incentive.

Now, if we look at the golden circle in more detail, we have three rings:

  • Why? – Describes the mission of a business organization, the core belief of a business. It’s why the business exists. This is where management should start when strategizing.
  • How? – Illustrates the way in which the Why is most often achieved, it’s how the business fulfills its core belief. It’s about processes and similar aspects.
  • What? – Describes the activities of the business or the organization, it’s what the company does to fulfill their core beliefs. It’s a product or service that you offer on the market.

Of course, for the golden circles to work, you have to be consistent in what you say and do. Just pretending that you care about something never really works.

Why is a belief, How is the action you take to realize that belief and What is the result of those actions.

It’s not enough if you only know your Hows and Whats

Most organizations know their How and What, but only a few organizations have a powerful Why. However, the companies that start with Why are usually much more successful, because they have a sense of mission and purpose and that can be seen in their products and services.

They don’t just use their profits as the Why, instead profits are seen as the consequences of a powerful Why. By inspiring people, they establish a following.

The important thing is that as an entrepreneur or manager, you base all your decisions on the Golden circle, starting with the innermost ring. Everything you do must resonate more with Why than with How and What, because no matter how good the rational What is, it can’t compete with the emotional Why.

In management practice and successful communication with subordinates it’s therefore really important to explain why something has to be done, not only what has to be done.

The more clearly an organization describes and communicates their Why, the more people will like it, and that goes for all stakeholders, especially customers. The truth is that people don’t buy what people make, they buy things because of why people make them.

The best thing about having loyal customers in business is that you don’t have to use any marketing tricks and gimmicks, because loyal customers prefer the products and services of their favorite business even if they’re not the best or the cheapest among the competitors.

 “People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.” Simon Sinek

Therefore, to be really successful in business, you have to first explain why you do what you do, then how you do it and, in the last step, what your products are. Of course, having a powerful Why must be also incorporated into your marketing message.

Apple is Simon’s perfect example. Their slogan “Think different” talks about their Why, and that is challenging the status quo. The How comes next with user-friendly and nicely designed products. Finally, their What is computers, smartphones and other electronic devices.

All the advantages of starting with why

1. Having a real differentiation

If you have a powerful Why, you have no problem in distinguishing yourself from other businesses as being different and better. 

With a powerful Why, you can definitely innovate more, and you can be more authentic and imaginative than your competition, therefore there’s no need for imitation.

2. Attracting the best employees

A business with a powerful Why is also able to attract the best employees, and enthusiastic employees are the most powerful resource that any business can have. The main reason for that is because a powerful Why enforces a strong feeling of trust and loyalty, it brings people who believe in the cause together.

There are two ways of influencing human behavior:

  • you can manipulate it or
  • you can inspire it

Inspiring others works so much better, be it with your customers, employees or other stakeholders. The same goes for yourself. You want to act out of a sense of mission and inspiration, not trick yourself into doing work with incentives only. 

3. Leading with charisma

A powerful Why also brings the power to really lead people using charisma; people don’t follow you only because they have to, but because they want to. 

As Simon Sinek explains, charisma has nothing to do with energy, but comes from a strong and clear Why.

It comes from a strong inspiring belief in an ideal bigger than oneself. Energy, on the other hand, comes from a good night’s sleep. Energy can excite others, but only charisma can really inspire people. You have to win hearts before you can win minds.

Communicate your Why exclusively with verbs

One important thing to take from Simon Sinek’s book is that in order for values and guiding principles to be truly effective, they have to be verbs. You must communicate your Why exclusively with verbs. By doing so, you give everyone a clear idea of how to act in any situation.

It’s not “integrity”, it’s “always do the right thing”. It’s not “innovation”, it’s “look at the problem from a different angle”.

Verbs, not nouns (integrity vs. always doing the right thing), are probably the best way to describe emotions empowered by a powerful Why.

Putting your feelings into words is very difficult, and that’s why PEOPLE have a hard time explaining why they love their spouse, or parents, or siblings. 

We have a gut feeling that something feels right, but if we want to put it into words, we have to rationalize it. The same thing happens when a decision feels right but we have a hard time explaining why we did what we did.

The reason for that is because decision-making and the ability to explain those decisions exist in different parts of the brain. A gut decision happens in the limbic brain, which is also responsible for feelings. 

That is why when you communicate with others from your powerful Why, you’re talking directly to the part of their brain that controls decision-making, so they have a gut feeling to make the right decision. As a consequence, the language part of the brain allows them to rationalize the gut-feeling decision.

In the long-term, the hardest part isn’t finding your Why, but staying true to it and keeping it alive. Find your Why and you’ll always be fulfilled in your work. As you can probably see, the same concept can be used in almost all areas of life.

Having a powerful Why gives people a sense of mission

All successful people in business are really passionate about something, be it work or a cause they’re fighting for. In other words, they have a powerful Why. The same concept that’s valid for organizations is also valid for teams and individuals.

A powerful Why will give you a sense of mission, excitement and value. It’s something that drives you through all the obstacles that are encountered on a new endeavor. A powerful Why motivates a person when they wake up in the morning and encourages that person to read and think before they go to sleep. 

Having a powerful Why definitely contributes to our happiness and the quality of our personal and professional lives.

As a team leader, don’t only think about ideas, projects and objectives. Think also about the Whys, the emotional charge that’s needed for execution.

  • Why would your team fight for something?
  • Why would you invest your time and other resources in that particular idea?
  • Why does it matter to you and why should it matter to your team?

We already mentioned all the benefits of having a clear Why for an enterprise (better leadership, attracting the best talent, boosting motivation among team, having real differentiation from competitors). And here are all the benefits that employees enjoy when following a team leader that starts with Why:

  • They feel more alive and valuable
  • They have a much easier job prioritizing tasks
  • They can connect more easily and communicate with others
  • Work brings much more enjoyment
  • They can innovate and be creative much more easily
  • They become more charismatic and energetic people, and probably become happier as well

You can start with why also when initiating smaller projects in your organization

Having a powerful Why on the level of whole organization (a mission) is a huge advantage, but it also makes sense to start with Why on the product and project level when talking about core strategic objectives. It gives an additional emotional charge which is needed in execution.

Let’s look at an example of how to start with Why on the project level. We will also show the difference between a real Why and a simple explanation of a goal. Let’s say your objective is to implement project time tracking in your organization. There are two ways you can present the project to your employees:

Objective with only an explanation

We, as management of the company, have decided to implement project time tracking. We need project time tracking to improve productivity and have better analytics on how we spend our work hours. Please make sure you’re consistent in using the tool.

Objective starting with why

We appreciate every one of you, and all the time you dedicate to your work at our company. Spending time wisely is one of the most important skills to have in life and business. This is why we want to introduce a new tool that will help us all to make even better time management decisions. 

Why is such a tool really important? A simple project time tracking tool can help us all become even more productive and valuable at work; it can help with setting priorities, not overdoing things, and being better organized. 

Such a tool can help us to be aware on a daily basis that time is our most important asset. It brings better transparency to the workplace and to our clients and very actionable data on where and how we can all improve. And the bottom line is that being more productive will give us more time and money to invest in you, our teamwork, and creating an amazing workspace.

Which approach feels more motivating in the case where you decide to implement a project tracker? By the way, if you ever decide to do so, don’t forget to check My Hours.

Last but not least, don’t forget to read Start with Why, by Simon Sinek, one of the greatest business books ever written. Why should you read the book? Because it will give you clear instructions in a detailed way to help you find your Why and How and shape them into a clear corporate message.

New ideas & Best tips
How to create a productive and organized working place, where people love to perform