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Start With Why by Simon Sinek

Finding the Why in your company can flip your business practices upside down, resulting in an entire new and powerful focus.

Mining for valuable insight in the pages of good books is a passion of mine. I am always on the lookout for recommendations from friends, family, and business associates. Some of these recommendations are invaluable and have literally changed the course of my existence. Such is the case with this month’s selection. The title itself sparked my interest, as I am always intrigued by verbiage that takes the form of a command. Start With Why is a remarkable volume from the mind of Simon Sinek.

With a BA in cultural anthropology from Brandeis University, Sinek began his career at the New York ad agencies of Euro RSCG and Ogilvy & Mather and later launched his own firm, Sinek Partners. He has authored four books, with his fifth scheduled for release on December 31st of this year. His TED talk is the third most watched talk of all time. Start With Why was released in 2009, and has passed the million copies mark.

Why is more than just words on a page, it is the genesis of a movement. It is more than inspirational; it teaches leaders how to inspire. It creates a sense of wonder that is often lost in business and can reinvigorate an entire organization. Finding the Why in your company can flip your business practices upside down, resulting in an entire new and powerful focus.

Sinek points out that discovering this thing called Why came at a very dark time in his existence. A time where work, while providing a substantial financial reward, was no longer personally fulfilling. In a word, it wasn’t “fun” anymore. Sinek states, “…finding my own Why restored my passion to a degree multiple times greater than at any other time in my life. It was such a simple, powerful, and actionable idea that I shared it with my friends. That’s what we do when we find something of value, we share it with people we love.”

Fortunately, that effort resulted in a book that has inspired millions. Not only can it motivate leaders to reexamine their company’s strategic practices, it can literally change the personal thought process and motivation of the individuals themselves. It not only provides the key to the lock, it reveals the lock itself in such a way so as to illuminate a path that you may have never before considered.

Sinek’s research has exposed a substantial flaw in the focus of most companies. Ask an employee what their company does, and you will get a fairly straightforward answer. Only slightly more difficult is to answer how the company does what they do. However, when asked why the company does what they do…now things get a bit dicey.

The fact is most companies cannot clearly and precisely explain why they do what they do. The fallback position is usually “for the money.” Sinek posits that money should never be the Why. Money is merely the result. It is a reward for effectively doing the what. The Why is often more elusive simply because nobody bothered to sincerely ask, “Why are we doing this?”

His suggestion is to clearly define why you do what you do. He goes on to explain that the more noble and principled the Why, the greater effect it will have on the company’s success. Once the Why is established, every decision, large or small, will be affected by it.

For example, you have decided the Why for your company is, “To enhance the lives of our customers.” Sounds rather broad and maybe a bit vague, don’t you think? But consider your next major decision. Should we move into a larger and more attractive facility? Now ask yourself, “Will it enhance the lives of our customers?” Maybe a larger warehouse with more stock will speed up the installation process and reduce the time your customers need to wait to enjoy their new systems. Or perhaps you will include a better demo facility, so they can experience more and better options for their homes. You can see how the process works.

This same process can work for you personally. I implore you to be very introspective. Remember, the more noble the Why, the greater the impact on your life. The book includes numerous real-world examples from major companies. It has had a major effect on my life and I am confident it can do so for you as well.