“I feel like a cog in a wheel. All I do is enter data. I never even talk with customers unless they’re upset. I feel so replaceable.”
As a leadership coach, I’ve heard this sentiment from many clients over the years. Does one of your employees feel this way?
Chances are, more than one does. Gallup studies tell us that 70 percent of employees are dissatisfied and/or disengaged at work, even top performers. A big reason for this – the motivator for starting my company, in fact – is that people feel disconnected from the bigger picture, the purpose. We long for meaning and purpose at work but often struggle to find it, and the results can be devastating to our economy, our relationships, and our human psyche.
Simon Sinek wrote his bestselling book "Start With Why" around the concept of knowing your purpose. “People don’t buy WHAT you do,” he argues fervently, “they buy WHY you do it.”
Inspiring leaders know that they must first clarify the why – the purpose – behind an initiative, product, or action. Once the why becomes clear, then the details (how, what) can take the front seat.
If you believe in inspiring people into action rather than manipulating, valuing people over numbers (including those with a dollar sign in front), and building a successful business with heart, you will devour this book.
In addition to offering practical tools for discerning your organization’s why, Sinek shares thought-provoking examples of purposeful organizations achieving extraordinary measures of success. Imagine working for a financial firm, for example, that awards its agents bonuses not based on production numbers but on the number of thank-you cards they send out!
While reading "Start With Why" I found myself often thinking back to one of Patrick Lencioni’s statements in his excellent resource, "The Advantage": “All organizations exist to make people’s lives better… Every organization must contribute in some way to a better world for some group of people, because if it doesn’t, it will, and should, go out of business.”
Purposeful organizations don’t just happen by chance – they are intentionally built. A few questions, inspired by "Start With Why", to help you move towards purpose:
- Why are you in business? Hint: “To make money” is not a purpose, it’s a result.
- How does your organization make lives better? Knowing how you contribute to a better world strengthens every aspect of your business, from marketing to HR to product design and everything in between.
- Do your employees know why you are in business? We all want to know our work matters. Understanding how you, as one individual, contribute to the bigger picture increases engagement, trust, and passion for the work.
- How safe do your employees feel with you? As a leader, you set the tone. When people feel protected, your organizational culture exudes a sense of belonging, support, and the space to innovate.
- Do you hire primarily for skill, or for passion/cultural fit? “Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them,” asserts Sinek, “they hire already motivated people and inspire them.”
Once you know your why, you can make decisions – including hiring choices – using purpose as your anchor. As Sinek writes, “When you fill an organization with good fits, those who believe what you believe, success just happens.”
This month, make clarifying your why a top priority. When you know your purpose, you have the foundation to become much more productive, streamlined, meaningful, and successful.
Start with why!
Do you agree that knowing your purpose is crucial to success? What’s YOUR why? Share your thoughts below.