What, how, why? Three little words. Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle*….the magic formula for inspiring energy, motivation and performance in teams. Sinek says:

“Every organisation knows what they do. These are products they sell or services they offer.”

“Some organisations know how they do it. These are the things that make them special or set them apart from the competition.”

“Very few organisations know why they do what they do. Why is not about making money, that’s the result. Your WHY is the reason you exist.”

High Performance Leaders have a habit of “starting with why” – they start each new conversation by painting a compelling picture that motivates teams to rise to the challenge and overcome obstacles in the pursuit of their vision. They say things like…

“OK team, we have a real opportunity here. We need to be the first to market with this brand new product and take advantage of new legislation opening the way for us. We’re going to need to innovate faster than we’ve ever done before and leverage new technology we’ve never used. Why? Because we exist to push the boundaries of innovation, and we now have a chance to prove we are still on the cutting edge”.

We need to constantly reinforce our why. But why? (ha ha…existential loop!)

Because being a high performing team is bound to be a bumpy ride. High performers have high expectations of themselves and others. They see mountains to climb and set out for the summit. But just like climbing a real mountain – it’s bloody hard. It takes grit. Perseverance. Sacrifice. It’s uncomfortable. And unless there’s someone pointing to the top and telling us all how good the view is going to be up there, how proud we will feel and how strong we will get, it’s easy to throw down the backpack and blame them for insisting on climbing this stupid mountain in the first place.

At the age of 22, my partner (now husband) and I, after having been together for all of 3 months, decided to travel by bike and tent through Spain and Morocco. We saved every dollar, bought all the equipment, and after 6 months of planning, said goodbye to our jobs and homes in Melbourne to set out on our big adventure. We landed in Barcelona, pulled the bikes together and finally set off. Up until that point I hadn’t anticipated how tough it was going to be. It was December in Spain; bloody cold. Rain and wind battered us on our first day. After our first 20km, with another 60km to go to our destination for the night, I was already off the bike, throwing a tantrum, wishing I could dump whole disastrous idea and jump on the next passing Contiki bus.

Clinton was frustrated with me…yes…but managing it. He didn’t let me get away with being small then, and he still doesn’t now. Clinton got off his bike and reminded me why we were there. He held my face and told me we are in this to have a real adventure together. He didn’t know any other girl brave enough to even suggest this crazy idea, let alone follow through with it. And besides, if we kept going, I was going to get a really sexy bum! That cinched it.  I sucked up my tears, drew a deep breath, and got back on that bike. And, while it was still physically, mentally and emotionally challenging every single day for the next 6 months, we were indeed having the adventure of our lives. I’d never felt more free.

There are still moments I reflect back on that bike ride – the orange groves of Valencia, the endless desert road of the Saraha, the majestic gates of Fez. I remember what it felt like to have clear purpose and to let that carry me like a strong wind at my back.

“Motivating people by articulating a compelling purpose is a well-established leadership task. Leaders who remind people of why what they do matters – for customers, for the world – help create the energy that carries them through challenging moments” quotes Amy Edmonson, in The Fearless Organisation.

Nothing worth achieving comes easy. The only thing that pulls us through is being clear on the purpose, the reason, the why behind it. When used – when reminded at exactly the right time, it ignites in us an energy we never thought we had.

If you want to learn more about how to ignite purpose; talk to me about becoming a Team Alchemist.

*Reference: Sinek, S. (2018) “Start With Why”. Penguin Books. 

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