Five things IC can learn from Start With Why

In our February #ICBookClub, we read Start With Why, the first of five books by Simon Sinek, who back in 2009 kicked off a movement to help people become more inspired at work.

The book is based on his TED talk by the same name – which attracted 28 million viewers, making it the third most popular TED video of all time.

So what’s Start With Why all about, and why is it relevant to internal comms?

The principle is simple – Sinek says that great leaders have something in common: they realise that people won’t truly buy into a product, service, movement or idea until they understand the ‘why’ behind it.

And while IC professionals have long been helping leaders engage their people by driving an emotional connection to their business’s goals, the topic of ‘why’ feels ever more pertinent in 2020, when people are increasingly interested in purpose over pay cheque at work.

Here are five things we took away from #ICBookClub to use in everyday IC:

Finding your ‘Why’ takes time. As Paul Harrison (@paulhcomms) said, one of the biggest barriers to leaders bringing the ‘Why’ to life is knowing what it is in the first place. Our #ICBookClub members recommended giving leaders space to step back and make their own connection with the business purpose before jumping into implementation.

‘Why’ are we doing this? As trusted strategic advisors, it’s often the role of IC to hold the mirror up to leadership and question why something is actually being done in the first place. As Kate Jones (@how_IC_it) succinctly put it, “A strong Why is a great filter – if a proposed project doesn’t fit, should the org be doing it?

Inside out. We all know how important it is to align internal and external messaging, but is there more we can do to make sure we’re sending the same message to build trust with our people as we are with our customers? Lauren Rowe (@MissLRowe) says: “IMO a trusted business can only ever happen when your external and internal ‘why’ are fully aligned. Know why > your people can’t be truly authentic with customers > no relationship > no trust.”

Share the ‘Why’. It’s important to recognise that starting with why isn’t just about knowing your purpose – great leaders get results when they communicate it consistently and bring it to life powerfully. #ICBookClub members backed good old-fashioned storytelling, giving employees a voice and involving them in developing the ‘why’ as the most impactful ways to do that.

Keep it real – it’s easy to get caught up in having the best ‘why’/being the most purposeful organisation, but our #ICBookClub members agreed it’s pointless if it’s not authentic. Catriona Fountain (@DorsetCatriona) sums it up: “Be true to ourselves and our craft. If it doesn’t feel authentic to us then it won’t to anyone else.” Amen to that!

Thanks to all the IC superstars who gave us an interesting #ICBookClub discussion! Search #ICBookClub on Twitter to catch up, and join us using the same # on Tuesday 21 April to discuss Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed.

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