“Why:” Why it Matters in Your Company and How to Uncover It

Marissa Levin
Marissa Levin
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Marissa-LevinI attended a round table last month with some other CEOs to discuss growth strategies. The topics included People, Strategy, Execution, and Working Capital.

One of the CEOs shared that she was struggling to get the right people in place. She had employees that could do their jobs, but they weren’t passionate about the company mission or the customer’s mission. Being able to perform the work is obviously important. However, equally important is having a belief in the larger mission…a connection to the “why” behind the work. In this instance, this company was hired to support a program for the Department of Homeland Security that was directly tied to the safety of our first responders. That’s a HUGE mission! Even if her company is playing a small supporting role in the program, the work they are doing it still vitally important. And yet her employees were only focused on their tasks, not the bigger picture.

So, what’s a business owner to do when employees don’t feel a meaningful connection to their work? There are three options:

  1. Try to make them care, by communicating your company’s mission, vision & values (the foundation for all company decisions), and by helping them connect their personal mission to the company’s mission
  2. Accept the fact that they are not connected and learn to be OK with that
  3. Get new employees

This may sound harsh, but finding meaning in our work is important for everyone in an organization. If an employee doesn’t feel connected to the mission, they are missing out on what I call a return-on-heartbeat (ROH), which is the deep personal satisfaction that comes when you’ve personally made a difference in the life of another.

Every company is only as strong as its weakest link. This goes for technical aptitude, general engagement, and ROH. When one employee is emotionally invested in the success of a customer deliverable, and another views it simply as a task, the emotionally invested employee will get dragged down. We are all susceptible to the energies of others, both positively and negatively. We all get excited when someone inspires us to do more, be more, or strive for more. Conversely, we get deflated when someone lacks the passion to care about a cause.

As entrepreneurs, we have to be connected to our “why” in everything we do. Customers don’t buy our “what.” They buy our belief in our company, they buy our passion, and they buy the likelihood that we are going to give 110% all the time because we care about their mission.

For me, my big “why” is a better world through entrepreneurship. In my heart, I believe that I can improve the world, one entrepreneur at a time. By helping business owners reach their greatest potential & be better leaders, and by helping them build the greatest organizations possible, I can improve the quality of life in our country and in our world. Companies that have strong leadership and operations grow. Growing companies generate jobs. These jobs help local economies, regional economies, national economies, and global economies. My macro “why” is a better world through entrepreneurship. My micro “why” is the wonderful satisfaction of watching my clients push through their obstacles and into their next phase of growth, because of our work together.

One of my clients is Stefanie Reiser, Founder & CEO of Align Development, a boutique residential real estate development firm. Her “why” is not making a profit on a good investment – although that’s a great outcome. Her micro “why” is transforming lives and communities through exceptional architecture & craftsmanship, elevating the human condition through the built environment, and creating meaningful experiences and beauty for residences and the larger community. Her macro “why” is to leverage her passion and experience in residential development to bring transformative change to villages in Peru, a country she visited and fell in love with. As she works to build her business inline with this purpose, she is also enacting a larger plan to encompass this social enterprise as well.

Another client is Heather Miller-Cox, Founder & CEO of Mighty Little Web Shop. Heather is a brilliant brand strategist and expert WordPress website designer. Her micro “why” is helping small business owners increase their revenues through websites that generate more leads and result in more sales. She wants to provide big-agency benefits for companies that can’t afford big agencies. Of course she loves branding and design, but her “why” is directly tied to her customer’s success. Her macro “why” is supporting organizations that help women and children. The entire team of Mighty Little Web Shop is committed to various organizations that provide resources and opportunities for women and kids. It is a shared organizational mission.

What is your “why?” if you have a business and you are selling a product or service, you’ve obviously defined your what. But what is the driver behind it? Beyond that, how does your organizational “why” connect to your personal “why?”

Here are five questions to ask yourself about your “why:”

1: What is it?

2: How are you living it and delivering it?

3: How are you communicating it internally and externally?

4: How are you attracting employees that connect with your “why?”

5: How are you helping your employees connect their “why” to your “why”?

Your why is your reason for your company’s existence. If you want others to understand this, you need to first understand it yourself. Then you will be able to communicate it to the world.

Good luck!


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About Successful Culture
We work with business owners, CEOs, and leadership teams that want to achieve their greatest personal & organizational potential. Through coaching, strategic consulting, retreat facilitation, and workshops, we equip leaders & emerging leaders with the mindset, tools, strategies, and processes they need to excel.

Ready to move forward? Email us today at [email protected].

Connect with me on Instragram, Facebook, and Twitter. Engage with me during my morning Periscope sessions as well (@marissalevin).

Please check out my Inc. Magazine columns on my Author Page too.
– In my latest Inc, article, I share The Essential Guide to Avoiding Workplace Text, Email, & Social Media Disasters.
– Learn about the 9 Leadership Behaviors that Lose Employee Trust & Respect here.

~Marissa Levin
CEO, Successful Culture
“Taking Leaders from Triage to Transformation.”


photo credit Chaiwat via FreeDigitalPhotos

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