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The Why of CLI and How to Find Yours

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Simon Sinek, marketing consultant, and motivational speaker uses a model for “inspirational leadership” where at the center of three circles is the “golden circle;” essentially, the “why.”  With his book, Start with Why, Simon Sinek provides examples of how famous leaders communicated their why and were able to have success when others were unable. The principles they used can apply to individuals, small groups, or even conglomerates.  For example, a company has a Why, each team in that company has a Why, and every individual on that team has a Why.

The WHY of any organization isn’t about making a profit. Instead, it is the purpose, cause, or overall belief of the group.   It is not uncommon for an organization to confuse the WHY with another circle, the HOW or the WHAT.  Members of the team may not even know WHY they exist because the focus is on making a product or how to provide a service.  But, make no mistake that the WHY is the reason an organization exists.  Clearly communicating the WHY is the best chance one has to get all interested parties involved. 

The HOW sets an organization apart from others that share similar characteristics.  It is a unique twist on a service or product that could provide a step above competitors.  Most affiliated with the organization understand the HOW because there is considerable energy there to create the best WHAT possible.

Finally, the WHAT is known by all in the organization.  Whether it is a product or service, people naturally look at the end result.  In this case, the WHAT is the outer circle. 

In all types of work, change must take place to keep up.  Providing a strong reason for making a change, and communicating it clearly with staff, will ease much of the pushback from those the change will effect.  Providing your “why” will hopefully inspire staff to follow because they will have a purpose.

The WHY of CLI

Identifying the parts of your Golden Circle can be easier by seeing a relatable example. Refer to the one below showing the WHY, HOW, and WHAT for Curriculum Leadership Institute.

Finding Your Own Why

Authors David Mead and Peter Docker have published the book Find Your Why to assist organizations in digging deeper to determine the Why.  They believe a good Why statement is

  • Simple and Clear for understanding and sharing with others.
  • Free of Whats but includes the real reason people love the organization. 
  • Includes a Human Service Component and Impact for Others.
  • In Affirmative Language to provide inspiring words.
  • Important to Feel Right.

The first step in creating a Why is to fill in the blanks:  To _____ so that _____.  The first blank should include the contribution intended for others, and the second blank should be the impact as a result of that contribution.  It could take a few drafts to find that perfect Why, so have your pencil sharpened and revise until it resonates and feels right!   Here is a shortened example from CLI’s Why to get you going.  To impact learning for students through professional development so that students receive a quality education.

Why Even Have a Why?

While it may be difficult to determine your Why, it is critical for clarity of a focus and vision. There is a reason the Why is the golden circle in the center of all of the circles. Once the Why is identified, it becomes part of the culture.  Developing strategies, hiring employees, and communicating with a purpose will be simpler once the Why becomes the focus for all.

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