I typically start my blog with a quote that is meaningful to me or has inspired me to think about a topic. I wanted to incorporate one more directly as I think it fits better in context.
The current vision of Apple Inc. is
“We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products and that’s not changing. We are constantly focusing on innovating. We believe in the simple not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution. We believe in saying no to thousands of projects, so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot. And frankly, we don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self- honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change. And I think regardless of who is in what job those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well.”.
Re-read that for a moment. It tells you their beliefs, values and dreams.
Let’s go back a few years and look at the vision set forth by Steve Jobs for Apple. “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind”.
Now, re-read that one. Again, it defines what they care about and why they do what they do. How do we set that context for ourselves and the organizations we lead?
Recently as part of an amazing leadership experience I was a part of, I was tasked to read Simon Sinek’s book “Start with Why”. (Amazon). Actually, and no offense to Simon, I couldn’t read it. It just didn’t pace well with me but I got the Audible version read by the author and it connected much deeper. Maybe a lot of it was meant to be conveyed in a more verbal manner or perhaps now that I have listened to the book, I could return and visually reinforce things. Either way, it worked for me. The key tenet of the idea is that as leaders and companies, we better inspire and create loyalty when we start with “why”. Most companies, as he points out start with “what” the do or “how” they are different than the competition. Apple is a prime example of a company that started with “why”. And the result is sometimes seen as almost a cultish following that believes in the products they build. Not that they are not good products (as I type on my MBP), but people will pay more and forgive Apple as they believe in the underlying “why” they do what they do. As Sinek repeats throughout his book, people buy not “what” you do but “why”. Your message can create an intense loyalty to your products far beyond rationality and cost.
This got me to thinking a lot about my own personal “why”. I am not a corporation, I am a person who seeks opportunities to grow, learn, build and help organizations create something special. But what is the “why” behind doing this? What is that motivator that makes me driven to lead from where I am, push boundaries, perpetually think and seek to grow myself and those around me? This became a driving question that I wanted to think about as not sure I ever really had done so before now.
I have spent 15-20 years in software in some capacity. I have been a tester, wrote automated frameworks, wrote code, performed operational duties, fixed hardware, lead units and teams, a scrum master, started a scrum revolution for an agency and state and now am an agile organizational leader for a product development group. I have worked across so many areas that I find it easy to relate to what people do. I no longer consider myself the most technical person in the room, nor seek to be. I understand enough to hold conversations and I hire well and trust those whom I hire. I focus more on building teams, cultures and organizations these days than anything else. I think about this sort of stuff constantly.
But that still doesn’t feel like the “why” behind what I do. It’s more background information about me.
This is what I come to as “why” for me.
Why I do what I do is this …
“I build teams and organizations. It’s not a job. It’s my passion.
I believe that creating the right culture around what you are doing leads to better sustainability in organizations. It helps people create a place in which they want to work, helps them unleash their power of creativity, when provided the thoughtful opportunities to do so, and can permeate every aspect of what you do.
It guides how you build and hire and retain talented people. It gives people a common language and belief system that they can embrace and generally makes work a more happy, exciting and productive place to show up to each day. It connects each other in a real way to people so that you feel like you are a part of something larger than yourself. And with that connection and nurturing of the people, the adherence to real values that you nourish, this environment and culture can produce amazing things and support amazing people.”
Maybe not as great as Apple and I am still figuring it out for myself. But this is my “why”. Have you taken a moment to ask why you do what you do?
“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work” – Aristotle