Empowering People in the Workplace

Clarify Your Why

by Dina Emser and Jane Nelsen

Welcome to Empowering People in the Workplace. What better place to start than with our EPW tool, Start with Why?

This tool was inspired by the book of the same name by Simon Sinek. The premise: If we want to feel passion for our work, if we want to feel we are contributing to something larger than ourselves, we need to know our Why. Starting with an inspiring Why is what motivates our employees and our clients to do business with us. It can also promote loyalty so they will stay with us into the future. And, our why fills our hearts and souls for continuing joy in our work.

So, what’s our why? Our why is to encourage people to live up to their full potential by experiencing encouragement at work, at home, and at school. Encouragement is a big word that encompasses so much: dignity, respect, confidence, capability, safety to learn and grow. This passion is what motivated us to expand the work of Positive Discipline into business organizations. Positive Discipline was already fully recognized as a highly effective program for homes and schools. For years, people have told us the Positive Discipline principles would be effective in the workplace. Then Positive Discipline was recognized by Fast Company in 2016 as one of the top 5 parenting books to help people be both better parents and managers. The quality highlighted was encouragement.

Example of a compelling Why

Several years ago, I heard a young woman give a speech about Make-a-Wish organization. Make-a-Wish has a mission to grant wishes to children with critical illnesses. As I was listening I was engaged thinking, “Ah yes, this sounds like a legitimate mission.” As the speaker continued, she highlighted that the power to make a wish was the inspiration for taking on this huge endeavor to create a whole foundation.

You see, what they discovered was that when critically ill children can look forward to the granting of a real wish, they get stronger. They live longer. They are more hopeful and optimistic, and this contributes to their ability to heal.

The power of a wish. It got me! I signed up immediately to take the training and become an official volunteer Wish Granter! The inspiration of this organization’s mission (their Why) compelled me to be involved and to help in some capacity. Besides, how cool is it to have the title, Wish Granter?!

Sinek says there are two ways to get people to act; one is to manipulate and the other is to inspire. In order to inspire we must be able to articulate our belief or passion—our Why. When organizations focus on what and how before they know why, they tend to use promotions, prizes, enticements to win customers over, but that is very hard to sustain. In the end what these companies do is manipulate customers. If businesses (and leaders) want to inspire, they must take the time to clarify why they are in business. What is the greater goal, the contribution to human kind. Just making money doesn’t cut it. A whole book has been written with the title, “Do What You Love, and the Money Will Follow,” by Marsha Sinetar.

What is your why? What is your compelling purpose for being; the unique contribution you want to make? It could be your own unique vision, or it could be a passion or belief in a principle that is held by others.

We all want to serve a purpose larger than ourselves. Adler called it social interest, or community feeling. What’s your why? It’s a great place to start!

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