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ASSOCIATION LEADERSHIP: HAVE YOU LOST YOUR WHY?

A few years back, I knew I needed to step up my commitment to regular exercise. I decided that what would motivate me to exercise consistently would be to enroll in a class, so I could enjoy the challenge while getting to know some other women with the same goals. As I have gotten to know these ladies over time, I’ve found that we share many common interests about health, exercise and family life. We even go out to dinner together at the end of program sessions. I have found my place in a group committed to aging gracefully through exercise.

WHAT IS LEADERSHIP

Our need to belong is a basic human need that cuts across cultural lines. We are drawn to leaders who understand this need. All leaders have two things: (1) they have a vision of the world that does not exist, and (2) they are able to communicate their vision clearly. They understand that they are not able to achieve this vision by themselves.

Leaders know how to inspire people to come together for the good of the group. They don’t start with what needs to be done. Leaders start with WHY we need to do things. They inspire action!

THE IMPORTANCE OF WHY

Most of our decisions are made at a gut level. And there is a very good, biological explanation for this. Our brain can be divided into two distinct regions, when it comes to decision-making—the neo cortex and the limbic brain. The neo cortex is our region for rational, factual thinking. It’s where we organize information according to WHATs. However, it’s in the limbic region of our brain that we house our feelings and emotions, like trust and loyalty. It is also responsible for all human behavior and gut-level decision-making, yet has no capacity for language. That’s why we can’t explain some of the decisions we make other than to say, “It just feels right.”

Talking about WHY speaks to that gut level in all of us that is looking to be inspired, and looking for a group to belong to. Clearly communicating your WHY gives others a way to relate to your cause, your purpose, and what you believe.

We join groups because we share a common set of values and beliefs. When we share the same values and beliefs in a group, trust is built. Remember, leaders that start with WHY inspire action!

TRUST ISSUES

Trust is the bedrock for advancement of our own lives, our families, our companies, our societies and our species. Those within a community, or an organization, need to know that their leaders provide a net—practical or emotional.

Leaders start with WHY we need to do things. They inspire action! When we share common values and beliefs, we form trust. If the WHYs of your association correspond with the WHYs of your members, they will see your products and services as tangible ways to prove what they believe.

The goal of your association should not be to just enroll anyone who wants what you have. It should be to build your membership with people who believe what you believe. Loyalty, trust and a sense of value exist in the brain of the member, not the association.

THE GOLDEN CIRCLE: WHY, HOW, WHAT

In his book, Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Simon Sinek explains the concept of The Golden Circle and how every good leader starts with WHY. “The Golden Circle finds order and predictability in human behavior. Put simply, it helps us understand why we do what we do.”

THE WHY

Building with The Golden Circle begins with answering the question, “Why does your association exist? What is your purpose, cause or belief?”

When your WHY is clear, it becomes the benchmark for all your decisions. You spend less time “shopping” for the right ingredients for success and have more time to execute the solutions that make sense for your association. It also becomes a powerful indicator of which decisions will put you out of balance.

“With a WHY clearly stated in an organization, anyone within the organization can make a decision as clearly and as accurately as the founder. A WHY provides the clear filter for decision-making. Any decisions—hiring, partnerships, strategies and tactics—should all pass the celery test.” (see about celery test below)

THE HOW

As you focus on answering that question of WHY, you begin to identify HOW the association should operate: “HOWs are your values or principles that guide HOW you bring your cause to life.”

For every great leader, for every WHY-type, there is an inspired HOW-type to take the intangible and build the infrastructure that can give it life. That infrastructure is what makes any measurable change or success possible.

HOW we do things manifests in the systems and processes within an organization and the culture. It is the partnership of a vision of the future and the talent to get it done that makes an organization great.”

THE WHAT

HOWs lead you to understand your WHATs: “(the) WHATs are the results of actions—everything you say and do: your products, services, marketing, PR, culture and whom you hire.” Having a clear answer to the WHY portion creates a filter that helps you identify the WHATs that make sense for your organization. Sinek calls this the Celery Test. He explains that copying what other’s are doing will not necessarily work for you. This is not a one-size-fits-all situation. Many will advise you to do one thing or another that worked for them, but success cannot be guaranteed.

THE RECAP

When you start with WHY, members are drawn to your organization for very personal reasons, understanding that they believe what you believe. It is a natural prerequisite that we share the values and beliefs of groups and cultures that we belong to.

When leaders communicate consistently, starting with WHY as the reason to join, the HOWs as the actions we take to realize that belief and the WHATs as the results of those actions, The Golden Circle is in balance. Trust is built and value is perceived. Your role is to be crystal clear about what purpose, cause or belief you desire to champion and to show how your products and services help to advance that cause.

In part II to this blog series, we will share some examples from Sinek’s book that demonstrate many of these characteristics of great leadership and starting with WHY. Part III will talk more about what happens when your organization’s WHY becomes “fuzzy” and how to get back on track.

Comments 4

  1. Excellent post, Kathi! I believe the golden circle concept can also apply to many nonprofit organizations. Far too often the “how” takes precedent and the “why” gets lost.

    I’ll be forwarding this to the leaders of several of the nonprofits I’m involved with, and am looking forward to the next two posts!
    Regards, Diane

    1. Hi Diane. Thanks for your feedback. You are so right. The Golden Circle concept really applies to all business! Reading the book, we were convicted here at slice-works that we needed to re-visit this for ourselves!

      Thanks for the share as well =-=

  2. GREAT post Kathi – thank you! I will also be forwarding this and look forward to the next two posts also!

    1. Hi Deb, thanks for taking the time to stop by and sharing! There’s a lot of golden nuggets in Simon Sinek’s book. Getting the “WHY” piece is so important, don’t you think?

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