By now Simon Sinek's TED Talk, How great leaders inspire action, has been viewed about 26 million times and become a business favourite. His talk is largely based on his book, Start With Why, and explores his Golden Circle theory, which explores the power of sharing why you do what you do, before you get into the what or how of it.
The famous example he uses both in the book and his TED Talk is Apple. If Apple had started with what, their statement may have been something like this:
"We make great computers. They're user friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. Want to buy one?"
But Apple didn't start with what. They started with why:
"With everything we do, we aim to challenge the status quo. We aim to think differently. Our products are user friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?"
Clearly more powerful, right?
An interesting nugget in his book was related to job descriptions, and how we can leverage the power of why when we're recruiting to truly ensure cultural fit.
Traditionally when we write job descriptions, Sinek says, "We provide a list of qualifications for the job and expect that the best candidate will be the one who meet those requirements.
"The issue is how we write those ads. They are all about WHAT and now about WHY."
He then dives into an anecdote about Ernest Shackleton, an English adventurer who wanted to be the first to cross the Antarctic -- 1.700 miles across the South Pole from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea. It was 1914, and he was able to recruit 27 men on the highly dangerous trip. The Antarctic was vicious and the men never reached their destination because they stuck among packed ice for 10 months until the ship was finally crushed by ice and sank.
His anecdote is full of colour and vibrance, and worth a read if you can pick up the book, but what is interesting was that the entire crew survived because he hired for culture.
"What makes the story of the Endurance so remarkable, however, is not the expedition, it's that throughout the whole ordeal no one died," Sinek writes. "There were no stories of people eating others and no mutiny.
"This was not luck. This is because Shackleton hired good fits. He found the right men for the job."
He hired people who vehemently believed in his why, not just those with the skill sets and qualifications he was looking for.
The ad he posted in the London Times went something like this:
"Men wanted for Hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success."
The only people who applied, then, were true believers. They were immensely courageous men who were up for a gamble for the chance at potential glory and certain adventure.
While this is an extreme example, we can apply the same sentiment to our own ads. What sort of people do you really need to hire? What is the DNA of their persona?
If you're running a young startup, for example, why not proclaim that you're looking for insanely passionate people with a penchant for risk, who know the chance at success is slim, yet with enough gumption, wild success might just be possible?
We're willing to bet that the chances of attracting the right cultural fit for you company would increase exponentially if you phrased it that way.
Know a company that starts with why?
Do you know any companies that lead with why in their job descriptions? We'd love to hear about them in the comments below, including any links to live descriptions.