Whats With All the ‘Why’ Talk?

Start With Why book with camera sitting on top

You and 55 million others have seen Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, “How great leaders inspire action.” It’s an inspiring, captivating and straightforward 18-minute speech that links many successes of those who started with the question, “Why?” It’s a smart framework for how organizations can be built. 

“People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it,” Sinek says.

You get it.

Everyone gets it.

But it is so damn hard to implement.

Why is that?

Quite simply, it’s harder than it looks, and it’s easy for us to be bitter and surly when we struggle to fulfill our “why.” 

Now let me preface this by saying that Sinek has authored or co-authored several books on the topic, and it’s worth digging deeper. However, there are two things that if left unchecked can damage your attempt at living out your “why.”  

Party of One

The No. 1 reason your “why” doesn’t resonate is that it is not widely known, acknowledged and/or shared throughout your organization. Sometimes it’s just a “party of one,” where the CEO has one definition, but it is not widely embraced.

Do your employees know why they are there? Do they know why the credit union exists? Do they understand how they making a difference? 

Here’s a gut punch: Do they even care?

Too often we rely on an outdated mission statement on the wall as our guidance. And I would even bet the “why” behind the credit union isn’t the same from the CEO to the chairman to the rest of the C-Suite. To have a cohesive brand is to have a cohesive “why.”

Note Well: It can be exhausting. 

To establish your “why” you need to think like an advertiser. High-quality creative (yes, creative) and consistent communication with a high level of frequency is required to draw top of mind awareness from your staff. This is not as simple as one or a series of staff meetings on branding. This is a commitment that can be recalled every day within the credit union’s culture. 

However, although it takes hard work to entrench your “why” into your brand, it’s worth it. Study after study shows an engaged workforce leads to greater member ratings, profitability, productivity and less turnover for credit unions. 

It just takes a hell of a lot of persistence and fortitude to get there.

Exactly Whose ‘Why’ Is It?

Let’s go back to something Sinek said: “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.” 

This is a half-truth.

I think corporate social responsibility is important to employees. Who doesn’t want to work for a company that wants to make the world a better place? And I think as consumers we want to work with ethically-minded companies, too. 

Nevertheless, as much as we would like to say younger generations care more about purpose than a paycheck, employees still desire higher wages, and they are calling those who fake CSR “greenwashing.” In the end, self-interest is a societal norm. We are reminded of this when we shop at an online company for its low prices and free shipping despite problematic areas in the way of ethics.

This leads us to the discussion of the consumer. Do they buy because of your “why,” or is their “why?” This is why I call Sinek’s quote a half-truth because they don’t always go hand-in-hand. When we look at our membership at our credit unions, some bank with us out of necessity while others out of luxury. Consumer perceptions and how we influence their purchasing decisions can be drastically different. 

So, while we can come close to relating our “why” to the consumer’s “why,” we must always recognize the value proposition the consumers hold for themselves. Let us never forget their “why.” After all, our members are our owners. 

What’s Your ‘Why?”

We work with credit unions to help them establish their why, enhance their culture and position themselves with greater brand awareness. Let us help you identify your “why” and strategically share it with staff, members, and prospects.

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