So the first week of 2016 is well under way. Christmas, whilst very enjoyable at the time, is fast becoming a distant memory. I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions, but I do spend time over the break reflecting on the previous year and focusing on what I think my priorities should be in the forthcoming year. Christmas is a great time to re-balance things in your mind.
Last Autumn I invited Helen Andrews of RizkMcCay to lead a brand workshop for us. This was focused on understanding our company’s DNA; what defines our offer and what is our company culture all about. The main objective of the session was to define our “why”.
What we do is deliver architectural professional services, as do many, many other firms. The income and profit we generate is a product/outcome of our work, but it’s not really the “why”. The “why” question is fundamentally about why should a client choose us, what makes us a bit different to others, what motivates us, why do we do what we do.
Technology giant Apple’s “why” is to take the wallet out of your pocket; to deliver everything you need, including methods of payment, through their technology. I’ve become a growing critic of Apple over the last year, but I must admit ApplePay and their mobile development from a software capability perspective is mightily impressive!
Our workshop started with an interesting and thought provoking video on TedTalks by Simon Sinek. This poses the question about your “why”, but also considers some theory behind it. It’s worth a watch…
I think you can pose the “why” question on two levels: from a personal point of view and in regard to your business.
I consider myself to be very driven professionally; I enjoy challenging ideas and creating new ones. I also push hard for a strategic approach in all I do. Overarching all of this though is a fundamental belief that for me to feel engaged and motivated, I must be effective in what I’m doing; there must be tangible progress and productive/ meaningful outcomes. Fortunately I am able to influence a lot of that myself, however a portion of it does rely on the ability and strength of others around me too. I believe that my “why” is a deep rooted passion for my work, backed up by solid demonstrable experience and understanding. These two things are perhaps not unique, but my personality and the way I communicate this arguably is. I see my personal success being achieved when people connect with my passion and my experience/ understanding.
The same “why” question applies in business. But this is much more complex as it inevitably involves more people and different ideas (and potentially conflicting views too). Also generational ownership can blur the original companies “why”. I believe that newly formed companies, which are owned by their creators, are likely to have a clearly defined why. But businesses tend to take a long time to grow and then their ongoing success is defined by the legacy of the creators and the new people leading the way forward. There’s also a potential that the new leaders are there because of time-served, rather than a core ability to run a company. This is where things can drift and can be attributed to the failure/ demise of once successful businesses.
It’s all too easy for companies to lose focus of their “why” and become rather stagnant. They can get too bogged down in the operational day-to-day and lack clearly defined direction. This can directly affect work-winning success heavily, but also become very damaging for the company’s culture. People, both within and outside of the business, don’t understand what’s important; what the DNA is.
In larger companies this can be a major issue as people create their own interpretations of what the company is about. This can result in fragmentation of the company and mixed messages being conveyed. A company must have a clear vision and a holistic direction.
So if you still have a little bit of head-space after the Christmas break, and as the new year unfolds, perhaps take some time to consider both your personal why, and also your company’s why. These are big and important questions and can directly future influence success…or failure.