Does Your “Why” Inspire Followers?


“By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief? WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?”

~Simon Sinek, START WITH WHY


Your mission statement is printed on the back of your business card and it’s on your website. Most of your staff can’t recite it from memory. If people on your team have lost their steam and you’re not attracting followers that are inspired by your work, maybe it’s time to redefine your “WHY.”


Start with “WHY.”

Simon Sinek illuminated the importance of knowing and communicating your “Why” in an inspiring and compelling way through his popular TedTalk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action. Sinek’s Golden Circle focuses first on “Why” in the inner circle, secondly on the “How” and then on the “What.”

The biggest takeaway from Sinek’s messaging is that “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.”

So, when you’re actively recruiting or retaining members and your messages are focused around networking opportunities, the next big event, or your capital campaign, it just sounds like you’re selling more stuff. And other organizations that are or aren’t your competitors are doing the same thing. Your team is so busy communicating the WHAT, that the WHY is unknown or forgotten.


What is Your “WHY?”

Every membership organization wants to be relevant and perhaps even essential to those they serve, whether it’s an industry, trade, professional society, or a geographic-bound community. If your organization doesn’t really matter, then your members and the greater circle won’t miss you if you cease to exist. So, what is the “WHY?” that makes you so passionate about your organization?

When asked that question, most organizations recite their mission statements, although the WHY isn’t always stated or understood. This mission statement, for example, could belong to any chamber of commerce in Chamber, USA: The XYZ Chamber of Commerce is the leader of and catalyst for plans, strategies, programs and services that promote a favorable business climate, improve the quality of life, and support the orderly growth and development of our city.

But is that compelling? 


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Redefine Mission, Vision and Core Values, But First Start with WHY

How does your mission and vision statements and core values align with the WHY in the Golden Circle?

Sinek suggests that you first focus on defining your “WHY” and then refine your mission and vision mission statements and core values to align.

Using Sinek’s approach to align Mission, Vision and Core Values to the WHY, the chart to the right reflects your WHY or raison d’etre (the reason for your existence) as the inner circle. It defines your organization’s core purpose.

The Mission Statement describes what you do to execute on your WHY. The Vision Statement describes the Envisioned Future, the ideal or desired result that inspires others to take action to make it happen. The Core Values define your organizational culture and the behaviors that others experience when they engage through you. It is the “heart” of your organization and does not change over time. Core Values are not aspirational and describe what you want to be like—these values should exist within your culture and describe the minimum expected behaviors of all employees, and how they engage with one another, with members and throughout the community you serve.

If your team has lost its steam, if departments behave in silos and not for the common cause, or if losing more followers than you’re gaining is a trend, it may be time to Start with WHY.


Cathi Hight helps organizations manage constant change, develop customer-centricity and “work smarter, not harder”. She is President of Hight Performance Group and the developer of The Member Retention Kit, A New Approach to Tiered Membership and Work Smarter, Not Harder. Learn more at


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