How to Find Your “Why” as a Business Leader
Those of us who own businesses or lead teams are always looking for ways to inspire our people and improve our impact on our clients and customers.
Like many of you, I have been a student of leadership throughout my career. So many excellent principles and thought leaders have greatly influenced me.
None has had as significant of an effect on me and my organization as Simon Sinek’s Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Action.
In his book, Simon examined the critical traits of innovative leaders such as the team at Apple, Dr. Martin Luther King and the Wright Brothers. He found they thought, acted and communicated the same way, and it is opposite to the way most of us think.
Innovative leaders know — and share — “why” they do what they do.
We all know “what” we do, most of us know “how” we do it, but very few of us consider and communicate “why” we do it.
But the inspired leaders and the inspired organizations, regardless of their size or industry, all think, act and communicate from their “why.”
It’s easy to get sucked into needing to get the work done: the “what” and the “how.” Simon helped me re-focus on the heart of “why” I get up every morning and who we truly are at Allegiant.
By thinking about your “why,” he means:
- What’s your purpose?
- What’s your cause?
- What’s your belief?
- Why does your organization exist?
As a business owner, I always like to see how others answer these questions, so I now want to share with you how we did it.
How We Found Our “Why”
As I approached thinking about our “why,” I found the following to be helpful:
- As a founder, examine your “why.” You have to take the lead and live it.
- Ask your leaders about their “why.” They have invaluable insight, and it helps create ownership.
- If you can, ask your clients/customers their “why” for choosing you. In the end, you exist to serve them.
As we processed these questions, it was clear that our “why” wasn’t about technology, although it is critical to what we do. Instead, we found that what mattered to me, my team and our clients were trusted relationships and enjoying our experience working together.
As described below, our “why” was about empowering the people on my team and the clients we support by 1) having fun, 2) earning trust and 3) helping others.
Providing technology support and service can be challenging and demanding. Many times, we get calls when people are having a “bad” day with their technology.
Keeping things lighthearted and optimistic helps relieve stress and build lasting relationships within our firm and our clients. I have fun doing what I do, and I want my team and clients to have fun too.
This is where the rubber hits the road. Earning trust is hard to do. It takes hard work and a consistent daily commitment to earn and keep it.
We need to be knowledgeable and transparent and provide an exceptional experience in our office and to our clients.
We must always strive to do the right thing and to do it right.
At the core of doing our jobs well, we need to have the spirit to help others. That applies to supporting each other and our clients’ IT teams in the demanding work we do together.
We cannot be successful if we do not truly help each other and our clients.
What Is Your “Why”?
I am sure many of you have been exposed to Simon’s approach. However, for those who haven’t, I highly recommend watching Simon’s September 2009 TEDx talk.
Going through this exercise has been one of the best things I have done in my firm. It has allowed me to set a clear focus for myself and my team that drives our daily behaviors and helps us live up to the spirit of our purpose at Allegiant.
If you have gone through this process, I want to remind you of the importance of living your “why.” If your organization or team is anything like mine, the daily whirlwind constantly pulls you into focusing on your “how” and your “what,” often leaving the “why” unsaid.
By reminding you, I am also reminding myself of the importance of doing this and keeping our “why” at the forefront of how we think, act and communicate.
Bryan Dancer is the president of Allegiant Technology, an integrated IT, communications, cloud and cabling company. Bryan and his team of support staff help business owners simplify, plan and operate technology in integrated and economical fashion, tailored to their unique requirements.