Editor's Note: This post has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness on June 1, 2020.
Book Review #5/25* I am a sucker for good openings. As a result, Simon Sinek had my full attention from the beginning of Start With Why. He punches the reader in the mouth on the first page by setting them up to make a false assumption. He does this by giving the reader detailed information about an event, and sets the reader up to be confident he is describing John F. Kennedy, but in reality, was describing Adolph Hitler.
We all fall into the trap of assuming we know more about people, situations, and circumstances then we actually know. According to Sinek, this is important because our behavior is affected by our assumptions and our perceived truths. This begs an important question — what if we’re wrong?
I believe the admiration for Sinek, and his massively popular TEDx Talk, are a result of his courage in pointing out the fact that all too often business gets it wrong. Businesses focus on all the wrong things time and time again, most notably, focusing on short term gains and not what causes long-term organic growth and success. This propensity to focus on the micro and not the macro also bleeds into our personal lives as well.
The reason we get it wrong, and the through line of this book, is because we do not put enough emphasis and attention towards “the WHY” we are doing something, we almost always focus on the what and how, in both business and our personal lives. This is a crucial mistake because we are social and emotional beings and often we buy not because of what people do, but rather WHY they do it.
One ingredient missing from this book that I believe needs more attention was the discussion about how difficult it can be to understand your “WHY” as a person or a business. Have you ever asked yourself: What is my WHY as a human being here on this planet? What is my company’s WHY? If you haven’t, I’d encourage you to take a good week and really think about both questions and how they impact you every day of your life. Once you answer them, I would recommend reading this book.
Sinek does a great job of helping readers understand that when you put the WHY first, it will provide context for everything else that follows. Starting with WHY has a long-lasting impact on your success and it’s the WHY that will inspire you and others to act. This book does a great job of providing the examples and research to support this message.
3 takeaways from Start With Why that apply to Sales Coaching
1. Study what great WHY leaders do
Get familiar with the name Gordon Bethune and others like him. Continental Airlines had one of the most toxic cultures of all time and had went through ten CEO’s in a decade. Bethune stepped in and was able to right the ship and turn the company completely around. There are no bad sales teams or bad cultures there are only bad sales leaders. Make a living by studying and mimicking what the all-time great coaches have done and then putting your unique execution to work.
2. Heed the limbic brain
Depending on what science you read, emotion drives behavior at a rate six times more powerful than logic. This is the reason the WHY is so important. It is not logic or facts that are going to drive your sales people to take risks and go above and beyond, it is the emotion that is attached to their WHY and your company’s WHY.
Tapping into the individual emotions of each sales person on your team is critical to their success and performance. Do you know every single WHY of the sales people on your team? If not, you have a big opportunity staring you in the face.
3. Have passion, but also measure it
After you begin to put an emphasis on your WHY and your team’s WHY, you need to measure it for success. This does not simply mean your sales numbers increase. Rather, you need to identify the behaviors that are going to support the WHY you have created, and measure if those behaviors are being done on a weekly basis.
What gets measured gets done, and if you are holding yourself and your team accountable to the behaviors that support the WHY, that is the best way to ensure an increase in sales.
Emotion drives human behavior and this is what makes starting with WHY so important. If there is no strong emotion attached to why an employee is showing up to work every day then performance will not be maximized, cultures will not be strong, and lives will not be touched.
I admire Simon Sinek and his courage to speak a message that has been swept under the rug in the name of quarterly profits and executive bonuses. I also admire his ability to back up his work with such compelling stories and research. I would recommend this book to anyone in a sales coaching role or otherwise and would ask again — what is your WHY?
If you're interested in "why" sales coaching is critical to you and your organization's success then check out our book, The Coaching Effect.
Next Book Review
In his attempt to help individuals escape “The Matrix”, Tom Bilyeu, founder of Impact Theory, has a reading list of 25 books which he recommends that everyone read to better understand how they can unlock their potential. Others have embarked on this journey and I have decided to join them by dedicating myself to reading a book per week for the next 25 weeks.
Next week’s high-level review, and application to sales coaching, is the book Linchpin by Seth Godin.
Next Review: “Linchpin” by Seth Godin