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Your WHY is the Foundation of What You Do: An Interview with Simon Sinek

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Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with Simon Sinek, who I am humbled and grateful to count as one of our advisors here at 15Five.

For those of you who know me and the 15Five team, you know how influential Simon’s ‘Start With Why‘ philosophy has been to the growth and development of our organization, the creation of our product and in our daily lives.  We’re excited to have snagged a moment of Simon’s time as he’s finishing his next book, to candidly share some wisdom and insight with the 15Five community.

Become Obsessed With Your Why

Simon’s story is similar to that of many entrepreneurs. He started a business, very aware of the statistics that show that most small businesses fail in the first three years. Still, he forged on through year one, year two and year three – enjoying success along the way. But when he arrived at year four, something was missing. He became filled with uncertainty and was convinced that he was going to fail. That is when he came to understand that every single business (or career) must function on three levels in order to be successful:

– We need to know what we do
– We need to know how we do it
– We need to know why we do it

We live in a world where ‘how’ and ‘what’ are king, but as Simon discovered, it is truly the WHY that differentiates the simple do-ers from the fiery, passionate leaders that are disrupting industries and changing the world we live in.

Leadership Is a Compass (Or Why Simon Has a Star Wars Figurine on his Desk)

It’s one thing to articulate your why, and another entirely to keep it alive and at the center of every single business activity that you undertake on a daily basis.

He explains that leadership is the act of being a compass –that leaders must base their actions, thoughts and words off of the organization’s ‘WHY’. It even comes down to the way you refer to your business. From the Boba Fett figurine on his desk reminding him of the importance of the rebel spirit, to his decision to refer to his business not as a ‘company’ but as ‘the movement’, Simon demonstrates the importance of a deliberate, consistent decision to keep our WHY at the center of all that we do as leaders.

It can be all too easy to lose sight of the impact that our daily words and actions have on our company while we are busy working on the bigger picture. But at the end of the day, it is those small actions and behaviors that define your leadership and shape your organization.

Answering Questions With Questions

Naturally, I wanted to ask Simon if he had any favorite questions that he liked to ask his team to get the pulse of the movement. And in true Sinek style, he turned my question on it’s head.

Here are my two favorite take-aways from Simon’s response:

1. Questions Encourage Independence

Simon explained that whenever a team member comes to him with a question, he typically responds by throwing the question back to them. “The temptation to tell somebody what to do is so high” he explained, “but what happens is that people become very good at doing as they’re told, but they don’t get very very good at thinking or solving problems”.

2. The Power Is In the Reason

“I want people to act with intention”, explains Simon. In order to encourage his team to act with intention, all team members know that they need to be prepared at the drop of a hat to explain the reason behind the actions and decisions. As Sinek explains, this encourages intention and helps make sure that every action is taken with the goal of moving their WHY forward.

Personally, I have come to the conclusion that your WHY is your power. It is the drive, the fuel, the passion that propels you – and your business – forward. It can never be damaged, broken or taken away from you. But above all, it is your responsibility to nurture that why with every word you speak, every step you take and every decision you make.

So from one CEO to another, I encourage you to find your WHY – and tap into your limitless potential.

I’d love to know: What was your biggest takeaway from the interview? Looking forward to reading your answers in the comments below!