Employer Branding

Your “Why” is Important to the People You Lead!

A recent post I did, Why Are You Doing What You’re Doing? got a most amazing response. It clearly hit a nerve with so many of you who commented directly to me and through social media.

It also made me realize how important it is to the people you lead.

The comments ranged from those of you who really wanted to share their why with me, others who had lost sight of theirs and the article gave them the nudge to do something about it, and many who complained that the companies you work for either had no clear why, or was certainly never communicated to you.

Sadly, over half of the comments were from those lamenting where their own organizations, or organizations that they once respected, had no real sense of their why.

We all need a why:

This really made me realize how we all hunger and need to have a clear why articulated to us so that we can feel engaged, and the negative impact it has on an organization of any size where it is not clear, or does not exist.

It also clearly indicated the acute hunger that we all have to understand the “why” of the person we follow.

The primary negative effects of the lack of a clear “why” to my mind are:

  • No sense of belonging. If I have no idea why we are in business then I am only contributing to the greater good, i.e profit, of the owners. There is no higher cause and I am only of value for as long as I am delivering. But I am not part of anything.
  • I am just a number. Similar to the above, but since I am not part of any why, my relationship is purely transactional. I produce, they pay – there is nothing more to the relationship than that.
  • Poor commitment. Commitment comes from an emotional connection, and that emotional connection is strongest when linked to a higher cause or purpose.
  • Lack of trust. Being clear on the why helps me to understand the motivation and the values of an organization, and if I cannot understand these, then I have no basis for trust, which is foundational to any business. Lack of trust is a cancer in any group.
  • Poor culture. The culture of an organization is determined by it’s leaders and those leaders will only have true followers when they are open about their why, and their values which informs what they stand for. Without this there is no anchor for the culture, and a culture unattended to is a poor one.

There are others but suffice to say that any business that suffers from any, all or a combination of the above is in real trouble! The same can be said of anyone in a leadership role.

The other element of the negative impact of the absence of why is on your clients. Now, there are some businesses where this matters less than others, but most certainly if you are in a service industry your why is critical.

We all want to do business with organizations where we believe there is a “fit” between our cultures, and having your why in sync is a fundamental element of that “fit”. Sometimes it can be hard to explain in exact words, and that is because your why is not a left brained exercise – it comes from within.

We also want to do business with companies where we know what they stand for, so that we can be confident that our values, and theirs, are aligned. What is the source of these values? Yes, the why!

So being clear on our why is just not something that is important to you to motivate you to jump out of the bed and hit the day running with a high sense of motivation and drive.

It is also fundamental to the people you work with – your staff and your clients. If your role includes being the one who is trusted to lead, you must clearly articulate your why.

If you work for a business that has not got a clear why, then why not ask? Could be an interesting discussion.

Check with your people – do they know your why? If they don’t what are you going to do about it?

By John Murphy

John Murphy is founder of JohnMurphyInternational, a specialist online coaching business. John specializes in advising and mentoring entrepreneurs and senior executives on how to build their business and be effective as a leader and manager.

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