I’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?