Use this framework for inspiring everyone to take action
The Golden Circle is the invention of Simon Sinek, an American marketing guru who became famous following a TED talk in Seattle in 2009. He has since launched his framework in a book called Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action.
In his TED talk to about 50 people in 2009 Simon Sinek sketched on a flip chart a Golden Circle. Actually there were three circles. The principle is a simple idea that has caught on and the TED talk has now been viewed more than 44 million times.
At the centre is the Golden Circle which asks the question "why?". This is the purpose of the company. It is central to the idea that people who feel they have a real purpose in what they are doing will be more inspired and the company they're working for will be more successful. You may well be familiar with the parable of the traveller who comes across three men laying bricks. He asks the first man what he is doing and the man says he is laying bricks. He asks the second man what is doing and he says he is building a wall. The third man is asked the question and he answers that he is building a cathedral. The parable tells us that this third man understands the question "why?" and his wall is likely to be the better one. People within a company need a purpose if they are to be inspired and the company is to be successful.
However, it is much easier for people to tell you what they are doing and how they are doing it rather than why they are doing something. This is why Sinek believes that his framework leads to better, longer term and more purposeful businesses. In other words, when building a business you should start with why. The how and the what are also important but they must be in their place – “Why” first, then “How”, then “What”. The “What” question is the easy one.
It isn't necessarily easy to find the purpose. For example, companies working through this framework may believe that the reason they exist is to make money. Indeed, making money is a helpful outcome of a business’ existence but it doesn't explain why the company exists for its customers, its employees, and its shareholders. Companies that have a genuine purpose, like the bricklayers who want to build a beautiful cathedral, will do better. “Why” inspires someone to get up in the morning, go to work and do a better job than those who simply want to put one brick on top of another and earn a living.
Simon Sinek's Golden Circle has resonated with many individuals and organizations as a compelling framework for understanding the importance of purpose and inspiration in leadership and business. While it may not provide a comprehensive solution to all aspects of organisational success, it has sparked valuable discussions about the role of purpose in driving meaningful engagement and differentiation. These are the key perceived benefits of addressing the Golden Circle:
Clarity of Purpose: The Golden Circle emphasises the importance of clarity of purpose or mission. Organisations that can clearly articulate and communicate their "Why" inspire greater loyalty and engagement from both internal and external stakeholders.
Differentiation: Sinek argues that many organisations focus too much on the "What" and "How" and neglect to communicate their underlying purpose or belief. By starting with "Why," organizations can differentiate themselves and appeal to customers on a deeper, emotional level.
Inspiration and Motivation: The Golden Circle suggests that people are inspired and motivated by a sense of purpose and belief. Leaders who can effectively communicate the "Why" can create a sense of shared values and a collective vision that motivates teams and resonates with customers.
Application to Leadership: The Golden Circle is often applied to leadership, encouraging leaders to lead with a clear sense of purpose and to inspire others by aligning actions with a shared vision. Authentic leadership involves embodying the "Why" in day-to-day decisions and actions.
Customer-Centric Approach: From a business perspective, the Golden Circle encourages a customer-centric approach. By understanding and communicating the deeper purpose behind products or services, companies can connect with customers who share similar values.
Some things to think about:
How motivated are people in your organisation to work there? Is it just a job to them or could it be something more?
When people apply to join your company, what are the reasons they give (beyond financial remuneration)?
What would you say is the purpose of your organisation? Here we are thinking of beyond making money and trying to answer the question why it exists for the benefit of others.