Start with WIIFM?

Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” is an extraordinary book that explores how meaning and purpose can drive human beings to lift their game and amplify buy in well beyond simple incentive based motivation.

And this is certainly evident in many of the extraordinary businesses and social causes we see around us – certainly, it’s what drives us at The Impossible Institute to #makewhatsnotpossible.

However, where this theory can become undone, and why you might like to consider starting with ‘What’s In It For Me?’ lies in the assertion that this is a motivator for all workers in all manner of jobs. Which isn’t necessarily the case.

An entrepreneur building a business in an emerging part of the economy is far more connected to the meaning in their work than say someone sitting in a cubicle-based call center pasting on a fake smile and droning, “Good morning, you’ve called ‘Faceless Corporation’, my name is Compromise, how may I pretend to care for you today?”

Now you might suggest that the above script is laced with cynicism and doesn’t reflect the level of enthusiasm your employees possess, but consider that Gallup Research has revealed that 50% of workers are not engaged in their jobs and a massive 20% HATE THEIR JOBS. And these are just the respondents willing to be honest.

What makes this worse is, these are the good statistics. In some economies, workplace disengagement is far, far worse. But, sure, go ahead and tell your people about how much meaning you provide for their lives… but remember, a little less than half are actually listening.

The truth is, some people do find meaning in their work, but others find meaning in other parts of their lives – their families, their hobbies, in the sports teams they coach on weekends. And for many of the latter, the 9 to 5 is just a job!

One of the issues we face when we start with WHY is that it’s typically OUR WHY. The meaning we seek to offer may not align with the meaning they’re seeking. We do the same in sales, talking about features and benefits of a product before we really understand what’s driving the people we’re wanting to sell to.

So before you begin to share your inspirational WHY (which, by the way, is incredibly important), take a moment to consider your audience. Maybe their aspirations are different to your own.

And here’s the rub, the more you align your WHY with a little of their WIIFM? the more effective and influential you’ll be.

DAN GREGORY & KIERAN FLANAGAN