Start With WHY

By: Simon Sinek

In this book 'Start With Why', Simon Sinek beautifully illustrates how the work we do both at an individual level & organizational level should have a deeper meaning to it if we want to truly make an impact and inspire others while doing so. He discusses the Golden Circle rule which clearly shows us how most people/organizations are not thinking of the 'Why' behind their actions and teaches us how to utilize this simple concept. Simon provides several examples of companies that have really embodied their Why and those that haven't.

 

Overall - I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who is building any sized business 

Summary PDF >

6 Key Takeaways

  1. There are a few leaders who choose to inspire rather than manipulate in order to motivate people. Whether individuals or organizations, every single one of these inspiring leaders thinks, acts and communicates exactly the same way. And it’s the complete opposite of the rest of us. Consciously or not, how they do it is by following a naturally occurring pattern that Simon calls The Golden Circle which has 3 layers: 

    1. WHAT: Every single company and organization on the planet knows WHAT they do. This is true no matter how big or small, no matter what industry. Everyone is easily able to describe the products or services a company sells or the job function they have within that system. WHATs are easy to identify.

    2. HOW: Some companies and people know HOW they do WHAT they do. Whether you call them a “differentiating value proposition,” “proprietary process” or “unique selling proposition,” HOWs are often given to explain how something is different or better. Not as obvious as WHATs, many think these are the differentiating or motivating factors in a decision. It would be false to assume that’s all that is required. There is one missing detail:

    3. WHY: Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. When I say WHY I don’t mean to make money—that’s a result. By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief? WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?

  2. Studies show that over 80 percent of Americans do not have their dream job. If more knew how to build organizations that inspire, we could live in a world in which that statistic was the reverse—a world in which over 80 percent of people loved their jobs.

  3. When a company clearly communicates their WHY, what they believe, and we believe what they believe, then we will sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to include those products or brands in our lives.

  4. Those with an ability to never lose sight of WHY, no matter how little or how much they achieve, can inspire us. Those with the ability to never lose sight of WHY and also achieve the milestones that keep everyone focused in the right direction are the great leaders.

  5. Every company, organization or group with the ability to inspire starts with a person or small group of people who were inspired to do something bigger than themselves. Gaining clarity of WHY, ironically, is not the hard part. It is the discipline to trust one’s gut, to stay true to one’s purpose, cause or beliefs. Remaining completely in balance and authentic is the most difficult part.

  6. Leaders don’t have all the great ideas; they provide support for those who want to contribute. Leaders achieve very little by themselves; they inspire people to come together for the good of the group. Leaders never start with what needs to be done. Leaders start with WHY we need to do things. Leaders inspire action.

Notes

Introduction: Why start with why?

  • With a little discipline, any leader or organization can inspire others, both inside and outside their organization, to help advance their ideas and their vision.

  • Great leaders, in contrast, are able to inspire people to act. Those who are able to inspire give people a sense of purpose or belonging that has little to do with any external incentive or benefit to be gained.

  • Those who truly lead are able to create a following of people who act not because they were swayed, but because they were inspired.

  • Studies show that over 80 percent of Americans do not have their dream job. If more knew how to build organizations that inspire, we could live in a world in which that statistic was the reverse—a world in which over 80 percent of people loved their jobs.

 

Part 1: The world that doesn’t start with why

Carrots & Sticks: Manipulation Vs. Inspiration

  • If you ask most businesses why their customers are their customers, most will tell you it’s because of superior quality, features, price or service. In other words, most companies have no clue why their customers are their customers. This is a fascinating realization.

  • If companies don’t know why their customers are their customers, odds are good that they don’t know why their employees are their employees either.

  • There are only two ways to influence human behaviour: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.

  • When companies or organizations do not have a clear sense of why their customers are their customers, they tend to rely on a disproportionate number of manipulations to get what they need.

  • 6 Ways in which companies manipulate :

    1. Price: Playing the price game, however, can come at a tremendous cost and can create a significant dilemma for the company. For the seller, selling based on price is like heroin. The short-term gain is fantastic, but the more you do it, the harder it becomes to kick the habit. Once buyers get used to paying a lower-than-average price for a product or service, it is very hard to get them to pay more.

    2. Promotion: They offer extra incentives to purchase their product/service

    3. Fear: When fear is employed, facts are incidental. Deeply seated in our biological drive to survive, that emotion cannot be quickly wiped away with facts and figures.

    4. Aspirations: If fear motivates us to move away from something horrible, aspirational messages tempt us toward something desirable. Aspirational messages can spur behaviour, but for most, it won’t last.

    5. Peer Pressure: When marketers report that a majority of a population or a group of experts prefers their product over another, they are attempting to sway the buyer to believe that whatever they are selling is better.

    6. Novelty: Motorola had successfully designed the latest shiny object for people to get excited about . . . at least until a new shiny object came out. And that’s the reason these features are more a novelty than an innovation. They are added in an attempt to differentiate, but not reinvent. It’s not a bad thing, but it can’t be counted on to add any long-term value.

  • Leadership requires people to stick with you through thick and thin. Leadership is the ability to rally people not for a single event, but for years. In business, leadership means that customers will continue to support your company even when you slip up.

  • There is a big difference between repeat business and loyalty. Repeat business is when people do business with you multiple times. Loyalty is when people are willing to turn down a better product or a better price to continue doing business with you.

 

Part 2: The Golden Circle

  • There are a few leaders who choose to inspire rather than manipulate in order to motivate people. Whether individuals or organizations, every single one of these inspiring leaders thinks, acts and communicates exactly the same way. And it’s the complete opposite of the rest of us. Consciously or not, how they do it is by following a naturally occurring pattern that I call The Golden Circle.

  • The 3 Layers:

    1. WHAT: Every single company and organization on the planet knows WHAT they do. This is true no matter how big or small, no matter what industry. Everyone is easily able to describe the products or services a company sells or the job function they have within that system. WHATs are easy to identify.

    2. HOW: Some companies and people know HOW they do WHAT they do. Whether you call them a “differentiating value proposition,” “proprietary process” or “unique selling proposition,” HOWs are often given to explain how something is different or better. Not as obvious as WHATs, many think these are the differentiating or motivating factors in a decision. It would be false to assume that’s all that is required. There is one missing detail:

    3. WHY: Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. When I say WHY, I don’t mean to make money—that’s a result. By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief? WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?

  • It’s worth repeating: people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.

  • Knowing WHY is essential for lasting success and the ability to avoid being lumped in with others.

  • Good quality and features matter, but they are not enough to produce the dogged loyalty that all the most inspiring leaders and companies are able to command. It is the cause that is represented by the company, brand, product or person that inspires loyalty.

  • When a WHY goes fuzzy, it becomes much more difficult to maintain the growth, loyalty and inspiration that helped drive the original success.

  • Instead of asking, “WHAT should we do to compete?” the questions must be asked, “WHY did we start doing WHAT we’re doing in the first place, and WHAT can we do to bring our cause to life considering all the technologies and market opportunities available today?”

  • When a company clearly communicates their WHY, what they believe, and we believe what they believe, then we will sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to include those products or brands in our lives.

  • We are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe. Their ability to make us feel like we belong, to make us feel special, safe and not alone is part of what gives them the ability to inspire us.

  • Great leaders are those who trust their gut. They are those who understand the art before the science. They win hearts before minds. They are the ones who start with WHY.

  • We trust our gut to help us decide whom to vote for or which shampoo to buy. Because our biology complicates our ability to verbalize the real reasons why we make the decisions we do, we rationalize based on more tangible factors, like the design or the service or the brand. This is the basis for the false assumption that price or features matter more than they do. Those things matter, they provide us with the tangible things we can point to rationalize our decision-making, but they don’t set the course and they don’t inspire behaviour.

  • Clarity of why: It all starts with clarity. You have to know WHY you do WHAT you do. If people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it, so it follows that if you don’t know WHY you do WHAT you do, how will anyone else? If the leader of the organization can’t clearly articulate WHY the organization exists in terms beyond its products or services, then how does he expect the employees to know WHY to come to work?

  • Discipline of how: HOW we do things manifests in the systems and processes within an organization and the culture. Understanding HOW you do things and, more importantly, having the discipline to hold the organization and all its employees accountable to those guiding principles enhances an organization’s ability to work to its natural strengths. Understanding HOW gives greater ability, for example, to hire people or find partners who will naturally thrive when working with you.

  • For values or guiding principles to be truly effective, they have to be verbs. 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.” Articulating our values as verbs gives us a clear idea . . . we have a clear idea of how to act in any situation.

  • The consistency of WHAT WHATs are the results of those actions—everything you say and do: your products, services, marketing, PR, culture and whom you hire. If people don’t buy WHAT you do but WHY you do it, then all these things must be consistent. With consistency, people will see and hear, without a shadow of a doubt, what you believe.

  • There are many ways to motivate people to do things, but loyalty comes from the ability to inspire people. Only when the WHY is clear and when people believe what you believe can a true loyal relationship develop.

  • In business, like a bad date, many companies work so hard to prove their value without saying WHY they exist in the first place.

  • The goal of business should not be to do business with anyone who simply wants what you have. It should be to focus on the people who believe what you believe. When we are selective about doing business only with those who believe in our WHY, trust emerges.

 

Part 3: Leaders need a following

  • Trust begins to emerge when we have a sense that another person or organization is driven by things other than their own self-gain.

  • Those who lead are able to do so because those who follow trust that the decisions made at the top have the best interest of the group at heart.

  • A Company is a culture. A group of people brought together around a common set of values and beliefs. It’s not products or services that bind a company together. It’s not size and might that make a company strong, it’s the culture—the strong sense of beliefs and values that everyone, from the CEO to the receptionist, all share. So the logic follows, the goal is not to hire people who simply have a skill set you need, the goal is to hire people who believe what you believe.

Finding people who believe what you believe

  • What all great leaders have in common is the ability to find good fits to join their organizations—those who believe what they believe.

  • Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them.

  • People are either motivated or they are not. Unless you give motivated people something to believe in, something bigger than their job to work toward, they will motivate themselves to find a new job and you’ll be stuck with whoever’s left.

  • Average companies give their people something to work on. In contrast, the most innovative organizations give their people something to work toward.

  • The role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen. It is the people inside the company, those on the front lines, who are best qualified to find new ways of doing things.

  • There are smart, innovative thinkers at most companies. But great companies give their people a purpose or challenge around which to develop ideas rather than simply instruct them to make a better mousetrap.

  • People who come to work with a clear sense of WHY are less prone to giving up after a few failures because they understand the higher cause.

  • only when individuals can trust the culture or organization will they take personal risks in order to advance that culture or organization as a whole. For no other reason than, in the end, it’s good for their own personal health and survival.

  • For those within a community, or an organization, they must trust that their leaders provide a net—practical or emotional. With that feeling of support, those in the organization are more likely to put i the extra effort that ultimately benefits the group as a whole.

  • You don’t just want any influencer, you want someone who believes what you believe. Only then will they talk about you without any prompts or incentives.

  • When you start with WHY, those who believe what you believe are drawn to you for very personal reasons. It is those who share your values and beliefs, not the quality of your products, that will cause the system to tip. Your role in the process is to be crystal clear about what purpose, cause or belief you exist to champion, and to show how your products and services help advance that cause.

 

 

Part 4: How to rally those who believe 

  • Energy motivates but charisma inspires. Energy is easy to see, easy to measure and easy to copy. Charisma is hard to define, near impossible to measure and too elusive to copy. All great leaders have charisma because all great leaders have clarity of WHY; an undying belief in a purpose or cause bigger than themselves.

  • Loyalty among employees is when they turn down more money or benefits to continue working at the same company. Loyalty to a company trumps pay and benefits.And unless you’re an astronaut, it’s not the work we do that inspires us either. It’s the cause we come to work for. We don’t want to come to work to build a wall, we want to come to work to build a cathedral.

  • To reach the billion-dollar status, to alter the course of an industry, requires a very special and rare partnership between one who knows WHY and those who know HOW.

  • In organizations able to inspire, the best chief executives are WHY-TYPES—PEOPLE who wake up every day to lead a cause and not just run a company. In these organizations, the best chief financial officers and chief operating officers are high-performing HOW-types, those with the strength of ego to admit they are not visionaries themselves but are inspired by the leader’s vision and know how to build the structure that can bring it to life.

  • Great organizations not only excite the human spirit, they inspire people to take part in helping to advance the cause without needing to pay them or incentivize them in any particular way.

  • Great organizations don’t just drive profits, they lead people, and they change the course of industries and sometimes our lives in the process.

  • For companies to be perceived as a great leaders and not dictators, all their symbols, including their logos, need to stand for something in which we can all believe. Something we can all support. That takes clarity, discipline and consistency. For a logo to become a symbol, people must be inspired to use that logo to say something about who they are.

  • With a WHY clearly stated in an organization, anyone within the organization can make a decision as clearly and as accurately as the founder. A WHY provides the clear filter for decision-making. Any decisions—hiring, partnerships, strategies and tactics—

 

Part 5: The biggest challenge is success

  • Those with an ability to never lose sight of WHY, no matter how little or how much they achieve, can inspire us. Those with the ability to never lose sight of WHY and also achieve the milestones that keep everyone focused in the right direction are the great leaders.

  • The School Bus Test is a simple metaphor. If a founder or leader of an organization were to be hit by a school bus, would the organization continue to thrive at the same pace without them at the helm? 

  • To pass the School Bus Test, for an organization to continue to inspire and lead beyond the lifetime of its founder, the founder’s WHY must be extracted and integrated into the culture of the company. What’s more, a strong succession plan should aim to find a leader inspired by the founding cause and ready to lead it into the next generation. Future leaders and employees alike must be inspired by something bigger than the force of personality of the founder and must see beyond profit and shareholder value alone.

  • When the person who personifies the WHY departs without clearly articulating WHY the company was founded in the first place, they leave no clear cause for their successor to lead.

 

Part 6: Discover why 

  • The WHY does not come from looking ahead at what you want to achieve and figuring out an appropriate strategy to get there. It is not born out of any market research. It does not come from extensive interviews with customers or even employees. It comes from looking in the completely opposite direction from where you are now. Finding WHY is a process of discovery, not invention.

  • Every company, organization or group with the ability to inspire starts with a person or small group of people who were inspired to do something bigger than themselves. Gaining clarity of WHY, ironically, is not the hard part. It is the discipline to trust one’s gut, to stay true to one’s purpose, cause or beliefs. Remaining completely in balance and authentic is the most difficult part.

  •  The few that are able to build a megaphone, and not just a company, around their cause are the ones who earn the ability to inspire. In doing so, they harness a power to move people that few can even imagine. Learning the WHY of a company or an organization or understanding the WHY of any social movement always starts with one thing: you.

  • When you compete against everyone else, no one wants to help you. But when you compete against yourself, everyone wants to help you.

  • Now think about how we do business. We’re always competing against someone else. We’re always trying to be better than someone else. Better quality. More features. Better service. We’re always comparing ourselves to others. And no one wants to help us. What if we showed up to work every day simply to be better than ourselves? What if the goal was to do better work this week than we did the week before? To make this month better than last month? For no other reason than because we want to leave the organization in a better state than we found it?

  • All leaders must have two things: they must have a vision of the world that does not exist and they must have the ability to communicate it.

  • Being a leader requires one thing and one thing only: followers. A follower is someone who volunteers to go where you are going. They choose to go not because they have to, not because they were incentivized to, not because they were threatened to, but because they want to.

  • Leaders don’t have all the great ideas; they provide support for those who want to contribute. Leaders achieve very little by themselves; they inspire people to come together for the good of the group. Leaders never start with what needs to be done. Leaders start with WHY we need to do things. Leaders inspire action.

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