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The why


So much has happened since last week. The resilience and humour of the Nigerian has kept us all forging ahead. These are qualities that very few employers even recognize as assets.

Thank you for the positive responses from last week’s article on Vision. Please bear in mind that you can use the tips to craft personal vision as well as corporate vision.

I listened to a Ted Talk recently that helped me understand why some companies succeed phenomenally where many others just exist and eventually just die. This shows how even though you must craft vision (which principally talks about the ‘what’ and ‘how’) you must also talk about the ‘why’.

Companies can all tell what they do. Most can tell you how they do it. Many cannot tell why. People think the ‘why’ is to make a profit but that is a result of doing business.

In other words, why do you get out of bed every morning and why should anyone care. The ‘why’ question is really asking for what your cause is, what your belief is and why do you or your company exist.

So you find that the more successful and inspired companies start with saying why they do what they do and not just saying what they do and how, which is what the regular companies say. So, for example, I could say I write an excellent column by bringing ideas you have not heard of before. This is true, it is the what and the how but it is totally uninspiring because it does not include the why.

The inspired leaders and companies start with the ‘not so clear and obvious’ and work to the clear and obvious. People buy why you do things better than what you do. A good example is Apple computers. They say “ in everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo, we believe in thinking differently. The way we do this is to beautifully design our computers and make them simple to use. “There why is challenging the status quo and thinking differently.

This explains why very many people are comfortable buying not just computers but phones, watches, tablets, TV media streamers, so many things that people would not buy from another computer company. This is because people believe in Apple since the ‘why’ of what they do is known. What the actual product is, does not matter. People know it will challenge the status quo and be different.

Biology tells us how this relates to the human brain. The brain is also divided into three. The outer part is the neocortex which is responsible for rational and analytical thoughts and language.

The other two parts are in the limbic brain which houses feelings, where trust, loyalty and all human behaviour comes from but it has no capacity for language. So when language is used to communicate facts, figures, features and benefits people still say, ‘hmm it does not feel right’. The limbic brain controls behaviour but not language. If you don’t know why you do what you do people will not respond with their behavioural side.

The goal when hiring staff is to sell your organization to people who believe in what you believe, they will work for you with sweat, guts, blood and tears. If you hire people just because they can do a job, they will work only for your money.

Usually, when businesses fail they site undercapitalization, bad market conditions and the wrong or bad workers. When your ‘why’ is in place, financing, equipment, staff and sales will follow easily.

There is an example of the Wright brothers who were the first to take flight. At that time there was another man Samuel Pierpoint Langley who was experimenting with also taking flight.

Langley was very well educated and very well connected. He got a grant of 50,000 dollars for the research but he was doing it for the fame and possible money he could get out of it. He had the press on his tails reporting everything he did. He was in hot pursuit of money.

The Wrights brothers, on the other hand, were not rich, well connected or doing it for fame and fortune. They were doing it because they genuinely believed flying t would change the world. It has!! They were ready to put all they had into it. Not a single person on their team had a college education. They had no sponsors and no money. They did not have any press following. They were driven by a cause, a belief. However, people worked for them with sweat, guts and tears. In 1903 the brothers took flight for the first time and no one knew because they were not about fame and fortune.

Langley quit the very day the brothers took flight. He was in it only for the money not for the long haul. He could have carried on to try to improve on what they did but his ’why’ nonexistent.

If you believe in something and you talk about it, you will attract those who believe the same thing as you. People follow those who lead not because of them but because they see themselves in the leader. It is those who start with the ’why’ who inspire those around them.

Why are you doing what you are doing? Why are you setting up that business? Why are you heading up that company?

At this point, I guess I must say why I am writing this column. In this country, many people call our worker force lazy, dishonest, unskilled, uneducated, stubborn, even crazy to mention a few adjectives.

This same workforce, go to other countries and excel much to the annoyance of the indigenes of those countries. I know our workforce are resilient, hardworking, innovative, self-starting, compliant where necessary, ambitious, quick learners, to give a few adjectives.

We are ahead in fashion, make-up, IT, manufacturing, logistics and events management, construction, comedy, film making ,to mention a few. This is not taking into consideration what we have to work with, the non-existent infrastructure, almost non-existent healthcare, poor education, rife poverty, non-existent labor laws, to mention a few.

I have a dream of Human Resource Management (HRM) becoming strategic, where only professionals who understand what they are doing will dabble in it. I dream that HR managers will not just rubberstamp the whims and caprices of senior management but stand up for what is right. I dream that HR managers will be taken deadly seriously, that one day the Nigerian Labor laws will be meaningful and will actually lead to the employees being valued by all.

In order to hire the best people, be sure you know the ‘why’ of what you are doing to ensure you get the right people who are coming in with their hearts and souls, not just a half baked enthusiasm and have the potential to leave for a 2% pay rise.


Olamide Balogun

Balogun is the founder of Box & Cedar Ltd a boutique Recruitment and  HR Consulting firm

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