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Discover Blog Post

Re: When to find your organization's WHY

Our team received a message from a small business owner asking for guidance in finding its organizational WHY. When we asked Igniter and co-author of Find Your Why Peter Docker for some insight, it struck him that this question and his response might be useful and in service of many others. So, we decided to share it.

Here's the message:

Hello, Just wondering if I could get a quick point in the right direction. We are a small business where a group of employees bought the company from the previous owner. The company is heavily leveraged with debt we are trying to get out from under. I am trying to apply the “Start With Why” in our company but with the debt issues right now, it feels like all we can do is keep cutting and cutting while performing our work to get back on a stable path. What are the first steps you would suggest we need to take to stabilize and work on finding our WHY?

Peter's reply:

First of all, I want to congratulate you for the courage you have shown to buy the company. You and your colleagues are clearly committed to the work that you do and are passionate about it. This very same passion—and courage that comes with it—is what will help you work through this difficult time.

When we are faced with major challenges—be it in business or in life—it is human nature to try to move out of that uncomfortable place as quickly as possible. This can often lead to us making choices that are short-term and interest-based rather than sustainable and values-based.

When we go down the interest-based route, it may feel expeditious and yet it inevitably leads to a steady, insidious decline in which the heart and soul of the organization begins to evaporate. Strategy and company direction start to become confused and increasingly fragmented, directly impacting trust, loyalty and long-term results. Ultimately, we end up hurting people.

When we choose to go down the values-based route, it is often harder. It calls on us to find the courage to lead. However, the outcome is always one where we maintain integrity, trust is preserved and loyalty increases. Results may take a little longer to achieve, but it is always infinitely more fulfilling and sustainable when we do.

This is where the WHY comes in.

While it may seem counter-intuitive, this is exactly the time to pause and re-focus on the WHY. It will help you make value-based choices. It will help you keep true to what you believe and give you the courage to stand up for that belief rather than buckling under the pressures of those who wish to manipulate for short-term gain. Finding your organization's WHY now is the most valuable thing you can do in service of your company’s ability to thrive.

The opportunity is not to discover the perfect company for ourselves. The opportunity is to build the perfect company for each other.

It takes a half-day to get started on discovering your WHY. We’ve written a book, Find Your Why, that shows you exactly how to do this, step-by-step. As we recommend in the book, it’s best to find an external facilitator to help you through the process for your organization. The experience and outcomes will be better.

There only two things in this world: content and context. Content is the stuff we do, the things we say, the work we’re engaged in. Yet content has no meaning whatsoever without context. Context is the picture on the jigsaw puzzle box that shows us how to bring the pieces together—the WHY. The stronger, more vibrant that picture, the easier it will be to figure out this puzzle as a team—a team united under a common cause.