“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”
– Simon Sinek
Figuring out what motivates people has been at the centre of leadership talk for as long as I can remember.
It used to be simple.
People were motivated by food, shelter, and clothing. But, life has changed and motivating people has become an art and skill on its own.
Some people are motivated by money, recognition, fame, freedom, authority, creative freedom and the list goes on. When you understand what motivates someone, you understand WHY they’re working and what they’re working so hard to accomplish.
Simon Sinek brought this conversation to the forefront with his internet-famous Tedx Talk: How great leaders inspire action.
In Sinek’s talk he refers to the idea that we all know what we do, some of us know how we do, but those who know why we do what we do are most closely aligned with our purpose. And, through that alignment we can better connect with, motivate, and inspire others.
One of our fantastic clients is an executive with one of the largest insurance firms in the USA. Steve began his career as an insurance agent. When we began working together he was in his early 30s, a relatively new partner of the firm with a two year goal of becoming Managing Partner of one of the company’s regional offices.
Becoming a Managing Partner would require Steve to accomplish many things.
He had to motivate, inspire and drive a diverse group of agents to accomplish great feats of sales without being able to actually sell anything himself.
He had to continue to recruit new talent and, of course, he had to stay connected and engaged in the corporate network, not to mention meeting ongoing expectations from his Managing Partner and senior leaders, on top of passing a bunch of regulatory exams.
There was no doubt that Steve is a smart and capable and one of those folks who is a natural leader with a keen interest in others. And yet, we knew what got him here wouldn’t necessarily be enough to get him where he wanted to go. As we explored what was needed, we discovered he had his “why” without ever having really articulated it.
You see, when Steve was a junior in college his much loved Dad passed away – a devastating blow that obviously rocked his family. While he, his sister, and Mom struggled to cope with the terrible loss, it turned out one thing they wouldn’t have to worry about was money.
His Dad had had sufficient life insurance to take care of his family should anything ever happen. Where others might have had to drop out of college and support a parent, he was able to continue. His Dad had talked to him about the insurance and how important it was to have and so this had become a driving force for him.
He was determined to help families be protected from the devastating financial blow that can follow on top of the loss of a family member. While he was “just selling insurance” he was actually driven by a bigger force, a bigger goal than just making money or selling policies. Steve wanted to protect people so they had bright futures.
Once he was able to bring his “why” out into the open and he was able to see this is what he had been trying to accomplish — he was able to own it.
He was able to use it to propel him.
Steve shared his story with his team of agents, highlighting the importance of their work. He was more motivated than ever to become a Managing Partner. Not because he wanted to be “the boss” nor because of the bump in salary but in fact, he knew that by becoming a Managing Partner would have wider reach to lead a larger team and protect even more families.
Keeping that “why” in the forefront while we coached through the victories and challenges of leading a diverse team, meeting consumers expectations, delivering goals for his boss, Steve achieved his goal of becoming Managing Partner with this massive, hugely successful company. And, only 21 months after we started working together — beating his already ambitious goal by three months.
We, above all else, want to know and understand each other and identifying your “why”can bring you closer to your goals than any “how” or “what” ever could — and it might just help your team too.
What is your “why?” What is your organization’s “why?” Are they aligned? What can you do right now to make both of those as clear as possible for yourself and your team??
If you’d like some help, by working with one of our coaches, click here to schedule a complimentary introduction.