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Your ‘Why’ is more important than ever

Why. It's the three-letter word that we always come back to. Ever since Simon Sinek's 'Start with Why' landed on our shelves more than a decade ago, it's been a word never far from our minds.


A quick reminder of Sinek’s Golden Circle…

Why: WHY is all about your purpose. Why does your company exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?

How: Whether you call them a ‘differentiating value proposition’ or a ‘unique selling proposition’, HOWs are often given to explain how something is different or better.

What: The WHAT is the products or services your company sells, or the job function you have within the company.

When we start with ‘Why’, we go from the inside out of the circle. ‘Why’ is the reason to buy and the “What’s” merely represent the tangible products as proof of that belief. “Whats” are the reasons we can point to rationalize why we so much like a company over another.

But should your ‘Why’ still be steering the course of your business? Is it still as relevant to leadership? Let’s introduce another three-letter word here: yes.

Here’s why…

We’re operating in a period of crisis

We’ve weathered the Covid Storm but there’s still war raging, a cost of living crisis and many struggling with the aftermath of the pandemic. Uncertain times bring into even starker focus questions around ‘why’. Why are we getting up in the morning, why is the world ordered as it is, and why do what we do. On an individual level, our ‘why’ can be a guidepost that helps us navigate challenges and live with uncertainties. And on an organisational level, it can help our teams regain focus and our clients re-establish the role we play in their lives.

There’s a trust vacuum

Politicians, authority figures, brands, even science… over the past couple of years trust has been eroded and at best misinformation and at worst, deceit is rife. We’re all looking for people, services, and products we can trust.

As Sinek says – when you align ‘Why’, ‘How’, and ‘What’ you can build that much-needed trust.

Take Patagonia for example. Instead of saying ‘Buy our quality jacket, it will last a really long time’ they tell you why that’s important. They put their sustainable purpose at the heart of everything they do, and that makes you trust that the jacket is great quality, and it will last you a lifetime.

When we find our why, we can use that authentic purpose to develop trust and credibility both with clients and with our team.

Competition is high

Sometimes the competition for new clients and new talent can feel overwhelming, and when that’s the case it’s easy to fall into the trap of putting your focus on your competitors and not on you.

As Sinek puts it ‘you are your best competition’. That stands on an individual and a business level. If we’re always comparing ourselves to others who have different skill sets, different backgrounds and different circumstances, we’re doing ourselves a disservice. 

But if we instead focus on ourselves, on how we can perform at our best every day, on how we can leave the organisation functioning better and more focused on our purpose, we’ll continue to improve.

When we do this, we avoid the trap many businesses fall into. They establish a ‘why’ but this is gradually lost. Eroded over time when the focus shifts to competitors and short-term wins. Even when competition is high it’s key to run our own race.

Strong foundations

Keeping your focus on why is keeping your foundations strong. It’s ensuring you, your team and your business are heading for your North Star. It helps your customers connect, gives your team a vision and gives you the clarity to chart your future. And when your journey is charted it’s much easier to weather storms, navigate uncertainty and take on unpredictable challenges. Have you got your Why nailed down? Does it run through every part of your business? There’s never a bad time to take stock and see if your foundations are ready for what lies ahead.