Leadership

Your Golden Circle.

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Your Golden CircleI’ve been very taken lately by a simple piece of wisdom from Simon Sinek, who many of you may know. His breakout moment was a short, informal TED Talk about “The Golden Circle.”  The premise is simple:  draw three circles on a piece of paper, one inside the next, so that it resembles a target with a bull’s-eye in the center.  At the center of the target – the Golden Circle – is the word “why?”  The next circle out is marked “how?” and the final, outermost circle is labeled “what?”  Most companies and organizations define themselves from the outside-in:  They start by telling you what they do – we can all throw up a lot of product and capabilities data on the customer’s desk – then perhaps they’ll get around to how they do it.  Why they are in this particular business – call it mission, purpose or motivation – is rarely discussed or is, at best, an afterthought.  But according to Sinek, the best companies and leaders ALWAYS start with “why?” – Apple, the Wright Brothers and Martin Luther King, to name just three.

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There’s obviously a massive leadership lesson in The Golden Circle.  Speak first about the meaning of what your company does and you will stand out from the crowd.  If customers connect with why you do what you do, they may ultimately buy many different things from you – in Apple’s case, everything from computers to phones to music to software to whatever is next.  Employees who sign on to build what you make end up working for a paycheck, and will likely leave you for a bigger one.  But those who join the company because of why you do it end up working for a cause.

But I want to use the rest of this post to personalize the concept.  This is about you, the individual seller or contributor.  We should all start telling our customers why we do what we do.  Imagine a seller who starts with “I get a lot of fulfillment from simplifying my customer’s lives.  When things click for them and become clear, that means a lot to me.”  Now consider the potential employers you’re either talking to now or may connect with in the future.  Are you nothing more than what you’ve done?  Or is there a powerful story about why you get out of bed every morning?

I’ve gone through this exercise myself.  On the surface level, what my company does sounds pretty pedestrian:  we conduct workshops, host events, and publish a blog.  Meh.  Why do we do all this?

We believe that sales is the economic engine that underwrites so many of the good things that media and technology have to offer.  We respect sellers and want to help them fully participate in a better future by making things clear and actionable.  Sales has given us a very good life and sharing the keys with others brings us a lot of joy.

That’s our Golden Circle.  What’s yours sound like?

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Help us, Mr. Wizard!

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As a kid in 1960s Los Angeles I ended up watching the same show every week. The UCLA men’s basketball team would play even-up with some other college for the first ten minutes of the game. By halftime, they’d have a double digit lead. Then a romp. Game after game, season after season…victories…NCAA Championships. An astonishing ten of them in a twelve year stretch. The ironic part was the guy running the team: dark suit, horn rim glasses, every so often shouting out “goodness gracious sakes alive!” In the middle of the turbulent 60s and 70s, at the apex of the protest movement, in ultra-trendy L.A., the guy in charge looks like…a schoolteacher!

The recent death of this ‘schoolteacher’ – John Wooden, ‘the Wizard of Westwood’ – got me to thinking how much we could use such a schoolteacher in the turbulent 2010s, at the apex of the digital age, in ultra-trendy internet land. A few of Coach Wooden’s greatest bromides for your perusal (I’m sure he’d like nothing better than for us to pass them on to one another):

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”
Far too many of us – individuals and companies – focus on what’s missing, what we lack. Winning is about making the most of our strengths.

“Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.” The economic crucible of the past three years was a great time of learning. What did you learn…about you?

“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” The great people and great companies don’t over-react to failures and they always adapt. In fact, they celebrate their ability to adapt.

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” Time management tip: Slow down.

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” Many people in our business are crippled by the weight of their own knowledge and experience. The only guy who really worries me is the one who thinks he’s got it all figured out.

“Never mistake activity for achievement.”
Question your own process constantly. Much of the sales day is taken up by “stuff we’ve always done” that’s not really making any difference.

“The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.”
Sustainable, long term success is always built across carefully cultivated team environments. Always. So whenever you think it’s just your own mad skills that are making it all happen, remember that…

“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

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