Need to motivate and inspire? Start with WHY.

Great LeaderThis week I’ve been revisiting a TED Talk by leadership expert and author Simon Sinek. Simon is well known for his theories on how inspiration correlates to leadership.

In ‘Start with Why’, Simon Sinek discovered that the leaders who’ve had the greatest influence all think, act and communicate in the exact same way – and it’s the complete opposite of what everyone else does.


The Golden Circle

Sinek calls this idea The Golden Circle, and it provides a framework upon which organisations can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired. And it all starts with ‘WHY’.

Those managers, leaders and organisations who start with why don’t manipulate, they inspire. And people follow them not because they have to; they follow because they want to.

Every time we give an instruction, every time we choose a course of action, every time we set a goal or a target, it starts with the same thing: a decision. Some leaders and managers decide to manipulate and some start from somewhere else entirely, they start with their ‘why’. Although both methods may give similar short term results, it is the one that understood and communicated their ‘why’ who will achieve the long term result.

Golden CircleSinek’s Golden Circle is meant to be understood in the context of customers, but it’s simple to flip this and understand how this can be translated to work with employees.

If you ask most businesses why their customers are their customers, most will tell you it‘s because of superior quality, features, price or service. In other words, most companies have no clue why their customers are their customers. If companies don‘t know ‘why’ their customers are their customers, odds are good that they don‘t know why their employees are their employees either.


So how can this help us when it comes to employees?

First you need to understand that people respond to why you do what you do. Simek goes into a technical explanation about how different parts of the brain respond and why this is. I’m not going to go into it here but if you’re interested you can watch his TED Talk here:


The thing is, if you don’t know why you do what you do then how will you ever get people to vote for you, or buy something from you, or, more importantly in this context, how will you get employees to be loyal and want to be a part of what it is that you do?

The goal is not just to hire people who need a job; it’s to hire people who believe what you believe. If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money, but if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.

Businesses that have high employee engagement, satisfaction and motivation levels involve employees in the organisation. And they do this by:

  • Upholding the organisation’s values
  • Enabling employees to understand how their job role contributes to the organisation’s performance
  • Promoting an open culture where people feel able to raise issues
  • Ensuring a consistent and effective performance management approach across the organisation

The first three of these points all link back to your ‘why’.


I believe, I believe, I believe

Employees take the initiative and go the extra mile at work because they believe in the importance of what they do, they believe in the organisation and they believe they can contribute to the success of the business. They are motivated and inspired to work hard, come up with solutions to problems, and create a culture of success not because they have to, but because they want to.


John Sylvester

John is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd and a Director on the board of the IPM. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.

Connect with John on  | Twitter



Speak Your Mind


16 + 3 =