“People don’t buy what you do,

they buy why you do it”
                                                             – Simon Sinek

On Saturday I led our church’s vestry retreat.  Our Rector asked that I structure the presentation to encourage participants to better understand their own leadership, in addition to that which they provide our parish. The morning session enabled each vestry member to pursue a series of activities that had them reflect on their own spirituality, study a collection of leadership statements, and watch a series of interviews captured in a University of Sydney video entitled, What is LeadershipThey were then challenged to prepare a statement that reflects the beliefs that serve to guide their leadership as a member of the vestry.  The balance of the morning was spent examining the manner in which teams establish leadership communities that breed a “Culture of Joy” that serves to benefit the members of the team and the church.  As we prepared to go to lunch, I asked the team to consider the following scenario; Ellen, a member of the congregation, approaches you after Sunday service and asks, “What does our vestry do?” She listens intently as you answer and then says, “Why do you do it?”  Would you have expected that question? She wanted to know our “Why”. Now you know what we did for the rest of the day.

Simon Sinek is considered by many to be one of the leading authorities on leadership. His YouTube video, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” has over 41 million hits, and proposes a simple, yet powerful model for leadership. Sinek believes that great inspiring leaders and organizations think, act, and communicate in a similar manner; from the inside out!  They recognize that it is more critical that others understand our “why” (purpose, belief, mission) than our “what” (service, function, job). “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it!”  So here’s my question, “Have you considered your ‘Why’?”

Think about Ellen again, but this time she walks up to you and asks, “What do you do?”  Most will immediately define “what” through their work. Other responses could include, “I’m retired!”, “I’m a stay-at-home parent.”,“I volunteer!” or even, “I enjoy life!”.  When you think about it, the responses are limitless. However, have you ever taken a moment to think about “why” you do what you do, and equally important, have you taken time to consider the “why’s” associated with your relationships?  In a recent interview Sinek was asked, “So what is your ‘why’?”.  He responded, “To inspire people to do what inspires them, so that again each of them can change the world for the better.”.  So how can each of us find that inspiration?

In her post, Do You Know Your ‘Why’?  4 Questions to Find Your Purpose”, Margie Warrell, a Forbes contributor suggests that our life’s work can be found at the intersection of our talents, skills/expertise, passions and deepest values.  She encourages us to ask four questions that will guide us as we seek our “Why”:

  1. What Makes You Come Alive?  It’s about connecting with what you’re passionate about, what puts a fire in your belly, and lets you grow your impact and influence in ways that nothing else can.  It’s about you connecting to a cause that’s bigger than you but which is also congruent with who you are, and what you care about.
  2. What are Your Innate Strengths?  What are the things at which you’ve always been good? What is it that makes you come alive and feel secure in what you are doing?  What is your passion?
  3. Where do You Add the Greatest Value?  Think again about what you are good at doing.  Where can this skill add the greatest value? Are your skills and talents being used in a manner that might benefit a greater good?
  4. How will You Measure Your Life?  It’s been said that, “People who don’t stand for something, will fall for anything.”  Living with purpose means understanding what matters most in your life. This doesn’t mean quitting your job to pursue your passion.  What it does mean is keeping things in perspective and realizing that your life is about more than your job.

It’s a lot to think about and not something that can be accomplished in one sitting, but asking yourself about and coming to an understanding of your personal “Why?” is perhaps one of the most important questions you can answer.

Embrace the Challenge