Over the years that I’ve had the pleasure of working with community based activities, projects, organisations or enterprises, one thing always stands out for me. Those who know why they are doing whatever it is they are doing, survive longer and better than those who just focus on what they are doing.
This is not just something to put in a funding application form, but something that defines you as an organisation. It will help local people understand why they should get involved. If you’re trading, it could make the difference between someone choosing to buy from your socially benefiting enterprise, or a standard company up the road. If you’re fundraising, it could make the difference between a donors money coming to you or something else.
I’m sure you all know what you do: you hire rooms out; you run a sports activity; you coordinate events; you run a music group; etc etc.
You also probably know how its done: you have a price list and people book in; you have coaches, equipment, and training sessions; you book entertainment and advertise; you have instruments, rehearsals, tutors; etc etc
But the key to success is why you do it: to provide facilities and activities for the betterment of the local community; to improve health, fitness and wellbeing; to celebrate local identity and success; to encourage the development of talent; etc etc
So what is your starting point? Why, how, or what? Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek writes in his book “Start with Why” about what he calls the “Golden Circle”.
This is one of the most simplistic but powerful ways of looking at what it is that you do – or wish to do. We can so easily get bogged down in ideas, processes, procedures etc that we can forget what is at the heart of our mission. Sinek explains further:
“When most organisations or people think, act or communicate they do so from the outside in, from WHAT to WHY. And for good reason — they go from clearest thing to the fuzziest thing. We say WHAT we do, we sometimes say HOW we do it, but we rarely say WHY we do WHAT we do.”Simon Sinek: “Start with Why”
“When communicating from the inside out, however, the WHY is offered as the reason to buy and the WHATs serve as the tangible proof of that belief.”
This change of thinking could really make the difference for you and your activity / organisation. Before I say more, let’s hear from the Simon Sinek himself in this short TED talk:
In my last development role, I produced a marketing booklet entitled What we do and Why we do it. It was pretty evident what the place did, but not everyone fully understood why. Producing that booklet helped secure a major collaboration that will now be bringing increased support for people in that area. All because we highlighted the ‘why’.
It’s crucial to focus on why your organisations exists and emphasise this. Anything you do (what) and the process to make it happen (how) will fall into place if the why is solid. This is true for any activity, organisation or business but especially so when it is for community benefit. It will give your followers, service users or customers a way to identify with you on a personal level. If your ‘why’ matches their ‘why’, they will be willing to stand with you through thick and thin. Without a clear ‘why’, people default to the ‘what’. Then you are caught in the struggle to stand out in the ever growing sea of ‘what’ and are forced to differentiate yourself with features, or worse, with price. The end result is your reason for being – your ‘why’ – is lost.
Let’s take a hall or meeting space as an example – its easy for me as I’ve run one! You know how big it is, how many people it can hold and the kind of activities you’d be happy to see within it. You know how much it costs to run the hall (light, heat etc) and any staffing costs, so you can work out a rental price. If you stop there, you are just the same as any hall or meeting space and people will choose on location, availability or price – the ‘what’ and ‘how’. However, if you decide to run some activities yourself, or support a group to use the space for less than advertised rates, in order to provide something of direct benefit to the community, you can use this as a reason for other groups or companies renting your space – the ‘why’. “Use our space and we’ll use surplus funds to run this other activity for community benefit” or “have your meeting here and we’ll be able to allow a community benefit activity to use the space at a reduced price or for free”. See the difference? Suddenly there’s a reason for people to use your service – the ‘why’ has come to the fore and in this scenario, your ‘how’ (processes) and ‘what’ (activities) have become consistent with your ‘why’ (beliefs). And that’s the key as all three work together in harmony. To do that, you need to ensure the clarity of why, the discipline of how, and the consistency of what.
Remember that “People don’t buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it.” The most effective leaders always win the heart first, and then the mind. And the only chance you have to win the heart is if you start with WHY.Simon Sinek: “Start with Why”
I’ll leave you with a terribly misquoted song lyric that might help you remember this Golden Circle that we’ve looked at today: “It ain’t what you do its WHY YOU DO IT”. Until next week…….