Hint: Ask the right question
Leadership expert Simon Sinek has made a living encouraging business owners, managers and entrepreneurs to do one REALLY SIMPLE thing: Figure out why you do what you do.
Most of us, Sinek says, have a good handle on the what. For example, our "what" is IT management and support. That's what we do each day to pay the bills and keep the lights on. But Sinek believes we find true inspiration only when we have a clear understanding of why we do what we do. He's right. In our case, we get up each day because we love helping small businesses use technology to be more successful and efficient.
That's our why. What's yours?
Sinek's formula, like all good ideas, is embarrassingly obvious -- much too simple to satisfy our odd desire for complexity. But simple isn't always easy. Slowing down, contemplating the "why" -- and communicating it with the rest of your team -- is challenging. We're usually stressed and busy with day-to-day demands. The idea of stopping to explore such "touchy-feely" notions is perceived as a costly distraction from business. However, consider that one of Sinek's favorite case studies is Apple, the most profitable tech company in the world. According to Sinek, Apple has always made its "why" known, perhaps most clearly in its old Think Different campaign, which featured notable figures throughout history, Gandhi, Einstein and MLK, Jr. Their why? We want to help people change the world for the better.
If you're looking to motivate your workforce -- and motivate your customer base -- make an explicit tie between what you do and why, on a deeper level, you do it. Identifying the why isn't a one-time thing. For sustained impact, the why must infuse a company's culture as well as its daily operations. The reward, Sinek believes, is well worth it, because the why fuels passion, and passion, in turn, fuels productivity and innovation -- the key drivers of any successful organization.