Why you should lead with your 'why'

Lucienne Miller
Our “why” is the reason we get out of bed in the morning, our motivation and inspiration. How do we make sure that our “why” follows us to the workplace? And how do we ensure business benefits from leading with “why”?

Purpose and fulfilment are changing the workplace as more and more people are choosing personal happiness over a secure and hefty bank balance. Millennials are leading the way with a greater emotional, ethical and value driven attitude towards work – which begs the question, should the workplace lead with their values first and bottom line second?

At the forefront of all of this is Simon Sinek, Optimist, Inspirational Speaker and Author of Start With Why who delivered a TED Talk in 2009 which, with over 55 million views since its release, has had business leaders and managers all over the world questioning the “why” behind their business. This viewpoint challenged the money centric view from the 1980s and 90s where many people placed their value in the assets they owned and the size of their bank balance, and showcased the power and benefit of leading with your “why”.
“Leaders are those in a position of power or authority and then there are those who lead. Those who lead inspire us. We follow those who lead not because we have to, but because we want to.”
Simon Sinek - Optimist, Inspirational Speaker and Author
Can an established business become value-led?

There is a growing trend of businesses that lead with their values at the forefront of everything. And one that stands out above the rest is Seattle based Gravity Payments, founded by CEO Dan Price, who made the conscious decision to raise the minimum salary for everyone employed by him, including himself, to $70,000 USD. The decision came after a conversation with a friend regarding the state of her financial affairs.

As a millionaire, Dan Price re-evaluated his why and started to put his employees wellbeing and financial security first. The result has been an increase in happier, healthier, more hardworking employees which in turn has led to the economic growth of his business.

And he is not alone. Google ranks No1 in the world of the best companies to work for, and this in part is due to the fact that at the heart of the company are its values, the ‘why’. Famous for its perks, Google has fostered an environment of creativity, employee autonomy and a feeling for those that work there, that they are not simply selling a product, but making the world a better place

If CEOs, business leaders and managers are all investing in their ’why’ in order to create authentic brands that appeal to the beliefs of their consumers, then what about the people helping to run the machine. How does an employee express their ‘why’ and bring it to the table?
The employee’s why

By 2030, the largest population in the workforce will be Millennials, accounting for just over 36.7% of the workforce.

Born between 1981 and 1996, this generation is the product of a time of peace and prosperity and as a consequence seek purpose behind what they do. They are more likely to appreciate an experience rather than a product and are more loyal to the job than to the employer. Looking to the future they want to work a day's work and be home in time to have dinner with their family. It is these values that are shaping the future workforce, developing loyal staff means sharing these values with them and producing a business that supports the person as an individual as well as provides career potential.

Whilst Millennials are dictating their own values and ideals they will soon be overtaken by Gen Z, those born between 1995 and 2010, and are the largest population entering the workforce. As they step onto the world stage, their arrival will have a swift and significant impact. Born with technology freely available they are the more politically, socially, and environmentally active for their age than the generations before them and that is reflected in their attitude to work. Incredibly value driven, they share the same desires of the millennials to have a good work-life balance and are highly driven by the ideal of being a good global citizen.

And whilst salary is important, if they are bored they will move on. According to the Deloitte article Understanding Generation Z in the workplace diversity is an important value that transcends beyond race and gender to include identity and orientation. These values of inclusivity will ripple across business ethos as well as the need to stay on top of technological development. Gen Z has grown up with the rapid evolution of devices and accessible technology that connects to the masses. As a business, there is a responsibility to incorporate this as a core value. 

The key to expressing your “why” is down to clarity, honesty and authenticity. By creating an open and accessible environment in the office allows employees to feel comfortable to express themselves honestly. 

A recent article by Tracey Bower in Forbes magazine defined finding purpose at work as a combination of three elements; feeling connected to something bigger, knowing your work matters, and understanding how your work affects others.

As the saying goes ‘The standard you set, is the standard you walk past’, and so business leaders and managers set the tone that employees follow.

Helping your team find purpose

The jobs we do matter, there is a reason for everything and so it is important to nurture that sense of purpose but is it easier said than done?

Transparency with the company goals and vision. 

Whether you use to do this via a company wide mission statement which explains your values or via a series of workshops which allow values to be discussed and shared. It is important to embed these values into company life.

Embrace everyone’s strengths

A workforce contains a huge array of talent which should be nurtured. Encourage employees to understand and embrace their character strengths. A growing tool that supports personal development and ensures individuals are working to their strengths is to actively engage with them. Businesses such as the VIA Institute on character offer courses and guidance to enhance a person's key strength, and in some cases, uncover key strengths that they didn’t realise they had.

Support Staff Well-being

Those who have a sense of purpose at work are often passionate, motivated and committed. By supporting staff well-being, in a manner that is authentic as opposed to ticking a box is important. By integrating support, such as offering personal coaching sessions, providing time to hit the gym at lunch, supplying the office kitchen with healthy snacks and drinks, introducing a mandatory out of hours policy where employees know that they do not need to be accessible at all hours of the day. The reason that google ranks no 1 of the top places to work in the world is because their approach to staff well-being is treated with the same regard as achieving deadlines.

Stand by your “why”

Successful leaders know that leading with your “why” encourages inspiration and empowerment for employees. By setting an example that is values based allows individuals to find purpose and provide a higher standard and more creative level of work. Sinek says “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it” and so, organisations that hire people who believe in the company's core values find that these people are more likely to make valuable contributions.

Knowing your “why” is integral to future business growth and development, the future workforce is more knowledgeable, confident and passionate about their values and so, to lead with your “why” sets up future success.
author bio

Lucienne Miller

Lucie first came face to face with anxiety disorders in her teens. OCD became her closest friend until her early 30's, when she came across resilience and positive psychology. Then everything changed. She had found a way forward. From this turning point, Lucie regained control. She is now a mum of four, wife, business owner and eternal student. Finally she has discovered the strength in her stress. 
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