Know Your Why

I recently had coffee with Brian Jones, creator of Innove Studios in Minneapolis. Innove is a startup incubator that partners with local churches and faith communities to help launch social entrepreneurs who want to address a need in their community, in the country or across the world. As Brian says, the Innove concept is like “Shark Tank for Churches”—faith communities choose projects and support them both financially and with coaching and mentorship in business practices for the startups.

The chosen candidates are starting their companies because they see a need and have a passion for making a difference, and simply need support in setting up a business and building a structure to achieve their vision. What is so fascinating about these social entrepreneurs is that they have such a clear sense of purpose; they know exactly Why they want to start their businesses, and simply need direction on the blocking and tackling of What and How. Too often, this process is backwards, with organizations trying to back into their why after establishing the what and how. Why is knowing your Why so important? It certainly speaks to potential clients and customers and makes the decision-making process easier, as Simon Sinek so brilliantly states, but it also clarifies the ultimate goal of an organization. Knowing why establishes Vision and Mission by identifying where an organization goes and what it wants to accomplish.

Knowing your Why goes beyond just establishing goals and building plans; it defines your values, and sets your culture. Knowing and living out your organization’s Mission, Vision, Values and Culture is key in evaluating the next steps, that next big move. When you are faced with a difficult situation, knowing Why you do what you do helps that decision-making process. Does the move or change match company values? If the answer is yes, you can work on the nuts and bolts of evaluating efficacy, ROI, etc. If the answer is no, you can quickly move on; it is not the right move.

Knowing your Why informs decisions on recruiting, hiring, promoting and firing. The best teams reflect, and live out, company values and culture. You can train someone to do a job; knowledge can be acquired, skills can be learned, even overall attitudes can be shifted. Values are ingrained; they will either match or they won’t. No matter how competent someone is in a role, if the values of the person and the organization don’t match up, there will not be a fit, and this can lead to disenchanted and disengaged employees.

Know your Why. Even if you have a good thing going, clearly defining your Mission, Vision and Values—and then living into them every day—will make your organization that much better. Your direction will be clear, your decisions will come easier, your team will be united and engaged and you will move forward more efficiently toward your definition of success.

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