Sooner or later, anyone who is in a position of managing people will be faced with introducing a new policy or procedure. Most people fight change and you will be met with opposition to the new policy or procedure if not introduced correctly. One of the first things I learned as a leader is the importance of getting employee buy-in when introducing changes. You do this by explaining what’s in it for them. First answer the question, “How will they benefit from this change?”
Let me give you an example. Suppose you manage a company that operates from 9 to 5 and the decision has been made to extend operating hours from 7 to 7 to give better access to their customers. Work schedule will be changing from 9-5 to an array of options such as 7-3, 8-4, 9-5, 10-6 or 11-7. One approach is to simply inform employees of the changes and let them know their work hours will be changing. This approach will surely be met with a high degree of push-back. Another approach is to roll out the changes with a list of benefits, such as, the new work schedules will allow employees to work a schedule that will allow them more family time, less time stuck in rush hour traffic and more flexibility to take care of personal business without having to schedule a day off. Then you would go on to say how this change will also make the company more efficient and allow for better customer service and reduced overtime due to someone having to work late with late arriving customers. This approach is more likely to be readily accepted by most employees.
Businesses need to use this same principle in everything else they do, not just for making policy changes. In other words, businesses should always START WITH WHY. This is the title of the book by Simon Sinek, START WITH WHY: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. The book goes a long way in explaining why some companies with seemingly lesser resources such as Apple, Southwest Airlines, or Starbuck’s, not only compete against, but outperform much stronger competitors.
Most companies, especially the well-established behemoths, know very well WHAT they do and HOW to do it, but according to Sinek, they lose sight along the way of WHY they do what they do. Along the way, Sinek gives many great examples of companies who have conquered their giant competitors because they had a solid understanding of WHY they were in business. He also gives examples of businesses that have lost their WHY. A perfect example of this is Wal-Mart. Under the leadership of San Walton, the company thrived because he made sure they kept their WHY as a priority. Once Walton passed away, a succession of CEO who were very capable of knowing WHAT Wal-Mart did and they knew HOW to run a business, they allowed the WHY Sam Walton had created to be forgotten. They stopped putting their employees first and soon came under a plethora of employment lawsuits. What was once an enviable business reputation is now forever tarnished.
Counter this example with that of Southwest Airlines. Herb Kelleher not established a WHY, but he made certain the WHY of Southwest Airlines was permanently embedded before he left the helm. On a recent business trip I was on the plane with current CEO of Southwest Airlines, Gary Kelly. Before Mr. Kelly de-planed, he took the time to actually hug the flight attendants and shook the hands of the pilot and co-pilot. Then when he reached the terminal, I noticed him also take time to say hello to the employees working the counter. It is still obviously important that the culture of the Southwest “family” remain strong.
I’ve only scratched the surface of what you will find here. Sinek also goes into great detail explaining the role of emotions in the purchases we (and our customers) make. Sinek goes into very good detail on how establishing your WHY and using it in all aspects of business including employee hiring, marketing and customer service. This was a wonderful read that I highly recommend.
- Southwest CEO Says All You Need Is LUV (denverpost.com)
- Video of the Week: Simon Sinek – How Great Leaders Inspire Action (yaffetidbitsblog.com)
- Why WHY makes all the difference ? (marketingemotionnel.com)