Start With Why
A Book By Simon Sinek
Why is your (the organization’s) purpose, cause, or belief? Do you know why you do what you do? I believe those who join the emergency management profession (or any other first responder profession) are driven by a sense of service and a desire to be a force of good. Is this our why? Is it clear to you, to the community, to stakeholders, and to public officials why your organization exists? Are you inspired by the work that you do? And as a leader, how do you inspire others? It all starts with Why.
If you find it hard to explain why you do what you do, it is hard to do so; your why is your purpose, cause, or belief and exists in the Limbic Brain, an area of the brain that is biologically hard to translate into speech. Like love, your Why can live without being able to put it into words. It just feels right. It is much easier to articulate how we do something or the results of our efforts because those exist in the Neocortex, an area of the brain where rational thought is processed, and speech is formed. When we use the phrase winning hearts and minds it refers to the Limbic Brain (heart, feeling, WHY) and Neocortex (rational, How, What). This is important for us Emergency Managers to understand when we are developing our messaging to inspire action, so we can get better results, starting with Why we are doing what we are doing. In the book, Simon Sinek expresses the relationship of Why, How, and What as the golden circles and talks about an inside-out approach to leading. Many organizations start with how and what they do (or produce) because it’s easier to explain how and what does not inspire loyalty and passion, only short-term compliance. When an organization can express Why they are doing what they are doing, they attract people with similar whys and build lasting relationships, and in Emergency Management, relationships are everything.
As leaders, “Why” is extremely important. We must articulate to subordinates why the organization does what it does. Why will it help attract more driven employees, improve employee retention, and increase productivity even through hard times. Why is the difference between an employee that comes to work to “punch a clock” and do as little as possible (quiet quitting) driven only by a paycheck versus an employee who shows up early and is passionate about making every second of the workday count and is proud of the work they do. If we invert the golden circles upright, we see the Why at the top of the cone. Why is where leaders are. It is up to them to continuously articulate and display the WHY. How are the employees achieving the Why and producing the What. Suppose an organization understands the Why it can better filter through the many extra efforts and focus on the essential tasks in line with the Why. The book refers to this as the celery test. The celery test is a supermarket analogy to depict decision-making when filtered through your Why. As leaders, Why is our vision and our idea it is only as good as our ability to communicate it. We are just visionaries without the ability to share our vision; leaders must do both.
So, why are you an Emergency Manager? Why does your organization exist?
Know your Why and use it as a filter for your decisions. Take some time as the year ends to reevaluate why you do what you do and is what you’re doing is in line with your why. If your efforts and why are not aligned, it's time to make adjustments for the new year.
Know why the organization you work for exists, and be decerning when choosing an organization to invest your time in. If your why does not align with the organization’s, it will be tough to be motivated to do your best. If you dread Mondays, it may be because your why does not align with the organization.
As a leader, know the Whys, your Why, the organization’s Why, and the employees’ Why. Communicate your and the organization’s Whys and teach your employees to communicate theirs.
People may consume what you do, but they will desire WHY you do what you do.