Inspiring Your Team: Remind Them Why

Inspiring Your Team: Remind Them Why

You want to inspire your team? Get your leadership team revved up to break through walls?
Remind them of why we are doing this: what is the big overarching reason this company exists? What, beyond money, are they doing this job for? Simon Sinek literally wrote the book on this subject, “Start With Why: how great leaders inspire everyone to take action,” and his research found that there are biological reasons, how our brain is wired. When people understand “WHY”, there is a powerful connection they are more likely to lock into something and overcome obstacles.

If you have defined the big “WHY” and hired people based off this “bigger-than-money” reason, then periodically they should be reminded “WHY”. This reminder will recharge their emotional batteries to deal with the inevitable challenges and give meaning to how they are spending their productive hours and years.

Countries have not traditionally paid soldiers a lot of money, but the generals and officers constantly remind the soldiers why they are doing it, why they are risking their lives, why it would be worth it to pay the ultimate price. There is an army known for compensating in a different way, and it is the French Foreign Legion. The soldiers were not traditionally French citizens, so they didn’t have the typical army “WHY.” This is an example of French Foreign Legion inspiration:

“Fools! So you’ve come to fight for freedom and civilization? Words, empty words!” Why was he himself there? “Orders, of course. We’re professional soldiers. We don’t care what we fight for! It’s our job. We’ve nothing else in life. No families, no ideals, no loves!” (1)

It’s not as easy to inspire a team that has a shallow “WHY.” (Is it little wonder France had a little problem when the French Foreign Legion attempted a coup in 1961?)

So what if you haven’t defined your big “WHY”? Is a coup imminent? Not necessarily, it’s never too late to start defining your “WHY”. If you know your “WHY” has been just below the surface and never articulated; articulate it. If you struggle with it, bring your team together to help you articulate it. When people are involved in defining something, they take more ownership of it. It is a chance to get them aligned with where you want to lead the company. An articulated “WHY” will help you make big and small decisions in your company if it is used as a consistent reference point to align decisions.

What is the big “WHY”? How can you define yours? I highly suggest the book “Start With Why” and chapter 13, The Origins of A Why. Simon Sinek describes how revisiting the origin of your company will greatly help in defining the “WHY.” His research has brought him to the conclusion that “Every single person has a WHY and every single organization has one too.” (2)

Your company doesn’t have to have a “WHY,” but if you want to inspire your team without one, your inspiration speech is likely to be a slight deviation for the French Foreign Legion inspiration speech.

1. Hastings, Max, 10-14-2010, New York Review of Books, The Hard Truth About the Foreign Legion,
2. Sinek, Simon (2009-09-23). Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (p. 214). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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