• Thursday, July 25, 2024
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Six golden rules for starting with “why?”

Six golden rules for starting with “why?”

A few days ago, I got to the office late for an appointment. Clients were already waiting, and so was the thick atmosphere that I could cut with a knife. While I was attending to one of them, I learned that the other lady almost left because she didn’t feel the right vibe from the therapist she met on duty. However, by the end of their sessions, the client, who almost walked away, was ready to book another session in a couple of days. You may wonder what made her change her mind so drastically that she was willing to book another session that soon.

Read also: The leadership imperative: Rethinking evaluations and reward systems

In his book titled Start With Why, Simon Sinek explained that this is the most profound way that all leaders, entrepreneurs, and investors should pay attention. Using the human brain to explain his golden circle, he clarified the reasons every organisation should know their WHY and market their products from that standpoint. At a conference, Sinek revealed that the Wright Brothers, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Apple appealed to the limbic system of the human brain first and the neocortex last to record such success. As he would rightly say, “People don’t buy what you do, but why you do it. The goal is not to hire people but to have people who believe in what you believe in.”

In the summer of 1963, two hundred and fifty thousand people turned up at the Washington Mall to hear Dr. King speak. This era had no email or website to check for time and date. There wasn’t even a publicised invitation in the media, yet 25 percent of the crowd was made up of white people who showed up because they believed in his dream, too. Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream was to see human-created laws aligned with God’s rules for justice and fairness prevail in America. According to Sinek, Dr. King wasn’t the best orator or the only activist in the pre-civil rights era. He didn’t go about America telling people what to do or how to change the country; it was just about why he was having the movement, which was a huge success.

 “Please note that making money or being profitable is an outcome of what you do, not why you are in business.”

The same holds true for Apple today, or how else would one explain people staying in line for six hours to buy a device that they could get off the shelf in a few weeks? It was all about hitting the point on the innovation curve by letting people know why you are in business. So here are six golden rules for starting with why, in my opinion:

Know your why:

Knowing your why is critical to differentiating your products and services, creating a niche, and appealing to customers from that standpoint, which guarantees trust and loyalty. Please note that making money or being profitable is an outcome of what you do, not why you are in business. Hence, your why should not be about you or benefit alone; it must be for the greater good.

Be hands-on:

As a business leader, you must be highly skilled and hands-on to the point that you can roll up your sleeves to join in the work if need be. A leading leader doesn’t only give instructions but must also carry out such instructions. So, how do you do this if you are not hands-on?

Get involved:

Being hands-on is not enough, as getting involved daily with check-ins, encouraging openness, and becoming accessible are just a few ways to be involved in workplace activities. A Dangote Cement distributor said something profound about the chairman that stood out the most for him in the company. He said he could reach out to Alhaji Dangote directly, and he would pick up the call and mention his name. And if Alhaji was very busy, he would excuse himself with a promise to return the call, and he always did. That is how involved the wealthiest man in Africa is in his business.

Over-communicate your why:

As the visionary or founder, you only know and appreciate why you are in business the most. Telling your employees once or twice will not cut it; more than having it as a creed on your office walls may be needed, too. Therefore, a systematic way of over-communicating the why at every opportunity, such as through meetings, newsletters, posters, workshops, and digital platforms, is required. No matter how gifted your employees are, they will unknowingly de-market your products or services if they are not as passionate.

Read also: Leaders on the brink

Be fair and patient:

It’s often advised that change must be communicated at least seven times so an average individual can get used to it. If this holds, we can imagine how much patience is required to see employees become as passionate as you are about your reasons. Coaching, training, explaining, and learning must be a continuum if the attitude is right. Also, being seen as fair and understanding toward everyone is essential.

Groom a successor:

Being the only one passionate about the why is riskier and more challenging. While everyone else is still trying to figure it out, it’s crucial to identify a person or two who can easily step into your shoes, just in case anything happens. The civil rights movement wouldn’t have achieved so much after Dr. King’s death if there weren’t capable hands to keep his dreams and hopes alive. Succession is essential for continuity, and just like Frances Frei said, “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”


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If you would like to book a session with me to discover your WHY, please email [email protected].

Olayinka Opaleye is a Wellbeing Specialist and Corporate Wellness Strategist. She writes from Lagos. Tel: 09091131150 or follow her on www.linkedin.com/in/olayinkaopaleye.