Usually, when someone starts up a business or new product, they start with an idea. Then they get people on-board with what they want to do, figure out a name, have a logo designed, get a website and so on. These are all necessary and important steps in getting an idea off the ground, but they are putting the cart before the horse.
Your WHY is the horse.
I’m not talking about the surface WHY, like “I need to earn money” or “I need a job”, I’m talking about your deeper purpose or belief that is more meaningful than what you do or how you do it. At Remote, we believe that meaning drives purpose and purpose drives business transformation.
Everyone has a deeper WHY, and while we might might go on to create some custom software for a client, we now first help them to make their WHY conscious. Why? Because whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader of a team or an employee, before you can be motivated to do your best work, you need to understand WHY you are doing it.
For example, we’re all about delivering great software that has a positive impact upon peoples working life. We spend much of our life in the workplace. Without a WHY, our working life becomes a meaningless grind: Wake up, go to work, do work, moan about it, earn money, come home, eat, watch TV, go to bed, wake up and repeat. So, without a WHY, there’s no chance any software we might create is going to have a positive impact on someone’s working life.
Once you have articulated your WHY, it will give meaning and that meaning will inspire you and your team. It will provide the foundation of your company culture and inform every decision and every action you make — including where custom software might improve your working practices, processes or product delivery.
This realisation isn’t new or unique. It was made more popular by Simon Sinek’s TED Talk in 2009. Inspired by Simon and the work that Daniel Priestley does with entrepreneurs at Dent, we’ve made it central to the work what we do at Remote.
With a sense of meaning, you and your whole team will feel a sense of purpose — valued, supported, united and inspired to create a positive and productive work environment, where trust and collaboration make a positive and lasting impact.
It will mean that you and your colleagues are not driven by superficial ideas or desires, like money or success, but are instead inspired by a deeper purpose to do meaningful work.
Being driven will exhaust you. It will result in you and your colleagues slaving away for long hours just doing busy work. This approach is unsustainable and unattractive, and so it will inevitably be short-lived.
Being inspired by your deeper reason will fuel you, and guide you and your team to do the right work. Making a greater, positive impact on not only yourselves and your organisation, but also the world.
Once you’ve really grokked your personal and unique WHY, and your organisation’s WHY, the meaning it gives can be communicated to all your stakeholders, colleagues and customers via the name, logo, website, blog and other assets, giving those assets depth. Because when an organisation understands their WHY, their work has real meaning and they have a brand that communicates what they stand for that is of true value in the world.
Your WHY can also then inform your environment, your processes and exactly how you can apply tools, such as software, to make work more enjoyable and more productive, driving business transformation.
So, how do you find your WHY?
Finding your WHY involves asking yourself a lot of questions about what you do, and getting beneath the answers to the deeper motivating force behind them. Doing this can seem abstract, esoteric, futile and impossible at times, but it’s my bet that everyone feels like that at first — I know we did — so stick with it.
You might find it difficult to distinguish between what you do, how you do it and why you do it at first, because we’re submerged in a society that stresses the what and the how and gives little to no credence to the WHY. Keep going though, because your WHY is there, just waiting to be discovered.
From my own experience, creating a kind of funnel of questioning might help, a bit like this:
- What is it that you do?
- How do you do it?
- What are you personally really good at?
- Is there a thread that runs through the various jobs you’ve had in life?
- How might that relate to your other interests and hobbies?
- What precisely is it about that that you enjoy?
- What matters most about your interactions with others?
- What positive impact do you have on people?
- What is your earliest memory of having that impact?
- How does that make you feel?
- Why is that important to you?
When our team at Remote understood their personal and our collective WHY, good things started to happen. We felt valued. We felt invigorated. We started to develop a deeper sense of trust. We started to work together to create better processes. We became more autonomous, more innovative, more organised and more productive. We began to communicate our WHY to our customers, and we started to grow. People understood what sets us apart from other software development companies and they wanted to work with us an and be a part of our team. And our people started to enjoy coming to work.
We believe that understanding your WHY will help your company drive cross-organisational business transformation, just like ours has for us, and we can't wait to see how far you go.