Change management: Start with Why

By | May 25, 2014

There is a famous TED talk by Simon Sinek called How Great Leaders Inspire Action. 17 million have watched it so far. If you have an interest in consulting, management and persuading people into action, you need to watch it here.

Simon Sinek - Start with Why

The concept is basic, but powerful. Book by the same title here (affiliate link)

Start with the Why. What is your purpose, cause and mission? As Sinek says, “Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?”

Most companies market their products and services in a generic way. This is WHAT we do and HOW we do it. Please buy from us. It’s boring and predictable. For all the talk of unique selling propositions, it’s corporate brochure-ware and vanity.

If you read the mission statements of most companies, it will put you to sleep.

A better approach is to communicate WHY you are doing something.  What is the cause and drive empathy from the listener. Story-telling is motivating. Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Later in the talk, Sinek talks about the law of diffusion of innovation with examples of the Wright brothers, Tivo, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. If you want to really dig into this idea, you should read Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore here.

So, how does this apply to professional services?

Client lead

  • When you start a project, connect with the client project lead, so that (s)he understands your intention. WHY their success = your success
  • Some clients want you to move faster (fewer PowerPoints, and more action), but you can explain WHY it is important to follow the process and do the analysis first

Client organization

  • At the start an interview, give context and explain WHY you are interviewing them
  • Have a formal communication plan to explain WHY changes are being made and who people should email with questions

Team

  • When giving feedback, explain WHY the junior consultant should do it differently
  • When editing a document, explain WHY you made the changes you did

Self

  • When you deal with losers, remind yourself WHY you are in the business and WHY it does not make sense to let other people get under your skin
  • Explain to your spouse or family the good parts of the job, and WHY it helps achieve the larger family goals

 “No one cares what you know, until they know you care.”

– Theodore Roosevelt, US President

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