Why, How, and What: Going Deeper with Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle

Why, How, and What_ Going Deeper with Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle

Over the past month in my posts about risk, I’ve repeatedly referred to knowing your “WHY”. Over the next four weeks, we’re going to go deeper into the concept Simon Sinek shared in his TED talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action and book, Start with Why.

Sinek defines a hierarchy of increasing awareness that defines success in answer to the questions Why, How and What. They are portrayed in his Golden Circle seen below.

Golden Circle Diagram

Smart companies know WHAT they do. They understand the products they sell or the services they offer. Some companies can articulate their company’s HOW. They know what sets them apart from their competition, their strategic point of difference or unique selling proposition. It is a rare company, however, that can articulate their WHY, the reason they exist as a company, why they get up in the morning and go to work.

Your WHY is the purpose or cause or belief that underlies everything you do in your organization. “Making money is NOT a Why. Revenues, profits, salaries and other monetary measurements are simply results of what we do. The Why inspires us.”

Working From the Inside Out

The majority of organizations work from the outside in, rather than the inside out. Sinek says that’s backwards. When you work from the inside-out, you know your WHY. You attract the people who believe in your products and they are loyal to you and what you believe in. Your team/employees and your customers believe in your purpose. They are committed to your organization, along with what you stand for.

The Connection is in WHY and HOW

It’s not easy to uncover the HOW and WHY of your business. Defining the “How” and most importantly, the “Why” is a struggle, but that’s where the connection is. Knowing your WHY provides clarity in what you do and how you do it. That’s where you find the purpose, the context and the emotion that motivates you and your team to do what matters and make a difference.

A Fascinating Parallel

As Sinek explored this concept, he discovered a fascinating parallel that explains why defining the HOW and the WHY isn’t easy. Sinek’s diagram with WHY at the center, commonly referred to as the Golden Circle, is the same as a simple diagram of the brain and how we process information. This diagram of Sinek’s Golden Circle and the brain shows the similarity.

Golden Circle to Brain Diagram

The WHAT is related to our Neocortex, the Homo Sapien brain. It’s the newest part of our brain, the center of logic, analytical thought and language. The HOW and WHY are part of the limbic brain. The limbic brain is responsible for our feelings. It’s also responsible for all human behavior and decision-making. To me, the critical piece of information about this part of the brain is it has no capacity for language.

So how are we to express our WHY? This is the reason our WHY doesn't come easily. The lack of language in this part of the brain explains the lack of understanding of WHY and often HOW by most organizations. It’s difficult to put into words!

Difficult Doesn't Mean Impossible

But difficult doesn't mean impossible. Over the next few weeks we’ll explore ways of developing the Golden Circle for your organization – and your own personal WHY – so you, too, can build the connections to the people who will relate to your WHY and provide you with the team and customers that are your tribe, your raving fans, willing to support your organization.

When you clarify your WHY, you’ll reach a new level of meaning and true authenticity in your work. You’ll also be able to articulate and share your vision with your team, leading to a thriving organization focused on bringing your purpose, your WHY to life. What does this organization look like? Sinek says the Golden Circle moves from 2D to 3D to reflect a cone that can be used as a megaphone. It looks like the third image.

Golden Circle to Cone Diagram

When the team knows the WHY, they can bring it to life. They translate the WHY, articulated by the leader into the HOW – the discipline of bringing it to life. The WHAT at the bottom of the cone are the tangible products and services that bring the WHY to life. The WHAT results are the consistent output of the WHY and HOW of your purpose and belief system.

Everything the organization does clearly communicates its WHY to the world. Stick with us over the next three weeks as we bring your Golden Circle to life.

How would articulating your WHY change your organization?

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