A few years ago, I was privileged to see Simon Sinek's outstanding TED presentation "How Great Leaders Inspire Action" (https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action#t-1065679). I was captured by the concept of a company "starting with why", because in my entire career I had never worked for a company where I knew the "why". In many cases, I was not even sure the corporation was aware of the "what" or the "how".
This presentation was especially meaningful to me because of the work I was doing with generations in the workplace (Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials). I regularly found myself being hired by corporate leaders who wanted me to "motivate these damn Millennials", as if I had some magic incantation that would make them cast aside smart phones and social media in favor of longer work hours and lower wages. Again and again, what I found was a workforce that was desperate for purpose in their work. Some cause that they could believe in, and work toward together. Eagerly, they would listen at events, scour company newsletters, and comb through corporate social media posts in search of meaning. They were looking for the "why".
What they find, however, is much more connected to the "what" and the "how". Financial statements, company wins, new clients, hirings and firings, and endless bureaucratic nonsense are the norm, and an uninspired workforce is the inevitable result.
In an attempt to give some lip service to the concept of purpose or a "why", companies often generate a mission statement, or a statement of core values. These confusing run-on sentences, swimming with jargon and Wall Street "corporate speak" generally become more of a punchline than a source of inspiration. I remained convinced that discovering a corporation's "why"is absolutely essential not only to success in the market, but also to having a productive and loyal employee base. I am certainly not alone. More than 30 million people have seen this TED video, but still precious few companies understand or share their "why" externally or internally. Why don't many companies make a change? Do they not have a "why"?
I have discovered that almost all successful companies had a "why" when the company was started. The birthplace of that "why" always comes from a story. A FireStory. Something happened that inspired action in the mind or minds of the corporate leaders. A dissatisfaction with the status quo that was strong enough for them to risk time, energy, and resources in order to share a better way with others. It is this FireStory which attracts the first employees, investors and customers to help make a change. The FireStory gives birth to the "why". If it is compelling enough, the company will grow and thrive from its warmth and direction.
As the company grows, however, the FireStory is usually forgotten. A corporate mentality of rules, regulations, finances, and bureaucracy settles in, and the "why" gives way to the "what" and the "how" until nobody is left that can even remember what the FireStory is.
If you watched Simon Sinek talk about "Starting With Why", and are struggling with figuring out the "why" for your company, go back to your FireStory. I can (and will) help you dig into that story, and we will use it to point to your genuine "why", not something a consultant gave you after 100 hours of market research.
The FireStory is what gave your company its purpose. It is your guide, your mantra, your mission, and your "why". It will drive the right people to your company, and inspire them to give you their best work. It will keep them with you for years, instead of months. It will drive a winning culture for your company for years to come. The FireStory is the purpose you have been seeking.
Share your FireStory, and light up the world!