by Greg McDonough, an EO DC member and CEO of EEI
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of raising children, you’ve begun to dread a little word called “why?” Although it may not have meant much to you before, it certainly comes as a shock when you realize how much meaning that word actually has. You’re forced to turn off autopilot and actually provide valid reasons for everything that you once thought was just accepted.
Having found the same theme in Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, by Simon Sinek, I can officially say the word “why” is actually underused.
Sinek breaks down the questions in business, in which the what represents the product, the how indicates the processes, and the why is what establishes the value. Most businesses fail to acknowledge the why because it’s not necessarily a part of their sales strategy. But that indicates that their sales strategy is a choice of manipulation over inspiration—both of which influence human behavior.
When businesses choose manipulation they’re likely to increase sales, but not loyalty. Instead, loyalty comes when you influence human behavior using inspiration. And there’s nothing I strive for more in my employee, supplier, and customer relationships than loyalty.
This theme translates to leadership and the value of internal motivation for my employees. You have to want someone to want to do something, or they’ll be the ones on autopilot without a real sense of engagement. So how do I do that?
By asking why, I’m able to seek a deeper understanding of not only the individuals I work with, but also what my business needs in terms of leadership. Moving from the CFO to the CEO required me to shift my thought process from details to concepts, and leadership is a vital concept. So focusing on asking these whys has built a foundation of trust between my employees and myself.
With that trust, I’m able to give more responsibility and trust to each team member, and know that they’re genuinely passionate about producing the same great results as I am.
And in fact, Sinek discusses the value behind establishing passion first and evaluating skills second. If your employees are passionate, they’re more innovative, more capable of enhancing your product or service rather than producing it. That excitement and love of a brand is palpable, and only attracts more valuable, loyal customers and employees.
Companies with a clear sense of why, from the top to the bottom, are always on the cusp of something great, and never concerned with competition. When you’re passionate and loyal to what you do, there’s not much room to focus on anything else but improving your brand for the sake of your customers.
So, I must give a huge thank you to my children, Sasha & Simone. I’ll probably kick myself for saying this later but I hope you never stop asking why.