The conversation around finding your why is pretty prevalent right now.
It’s proven that businesses with purpose outperform the market. It's also been suggested that 90 per cent of businesses will be marketing their ‘why’ as their cornerstone by 2022.
The often quoted starting point here is Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk, Start with Why. If you haven’t seen it, it's well worth a watch.
I can't tell you how often the question “Why?” throws people.
For us, this might be in the context of someone giving a presentation, that is: "Why are you speaking?"
Or it might relate to a start-up company working out the raison d’etre for their business.
We’re often met with shrugging shoulders or dull, corporate or technical waffle. Unfortunately the latter is still often used as a bit of a safety blanket in financial services.
We’re always asking clients to dig deeper to explore the reason why they do what they do. Or in the context of a presentation, why they're saying what they're saying. What’s the purpose?
When clients get there, there’s a common thread.
Hiding from emotions
The driver is always very human, and ultimately very emotional.
That doesn't necessarily mean you have to cry or bare your soul (though it might.) It means that as humans, we want to feel things.
There’s no getting away from it - we’re emotional beings. So why do we often try so hard to hide from this?
Take health and safety. As an industry, it has a bad rep.
When doing some presentation coaching, a client of ours recently apologised for dragging us into his boring, process-oriented industry.
Yet, when we got him to drill down into his reason to speak, and deeper, into his reason for entering the industry, it was anything but boring.
It’s about life and death. It’s about taking steps to ensure that people go home to their loved ones. These are extremely high stakes.
This very human, emotional driver transformed the way he spoke. Suddenly, all the ensuing technical information and stats became riveting because of the clarity over why they were being shared.
In financial services, our co-founder Jonny de Mallet Morgan describes it like this: “People invest money to look after the people they love.”
Again, all that technical information becomes riveting if it helps us to look after the people we love.
Mad Men, and what we can learn from advertising
Interestingly, our client in health and safety brought up an episode of Mad Men in which Don Draper pitches his advertising campaign to Kodak. It truly resonated with him. I hope it will with you too.
The success of the pitch is that Don celebrates the real, emotional drive behind the product. He doesn’t wax lyrical about technology and how the product works. He taps into the true reason why the product exists in the first place.
This isn’t fake or sappy. It’s true. We must not shy away from being 'emotional' when we communicate.
So I think there are lessons to be learned in terms of the emotional, human way that ad campaigns communicate to us.
Admittedly, sometimes these campaigns can go too far, and stray from what the product really is. It’s easy to get cynical.
And yet, emotive communication remains very powerful.
Its success is that it appeals to the limbic centre of people’s brains.
The limbic centre has no language or rational thought. It’s where human behaviour is governed and decisions are made.
So it’s incredibly powerful when you communicate with this part of the brain - for you, as well as your clients.
It must be authentic, otherwise you won't buy it and neither will they.
When I make these parallels with advertising, it's important to stress this isn't about finding a catchy line or angle you think might work.
It’s about spending the time to think deeply and find the truth behind why you do what you do, or why you’re saying what you’re saying.
This truth will always be human. It will always be about satisfying people’s wants and needs.
Technology, process and corporate structures serve humans. Not the other way around.
Alone they’re dull. Don’t forget why they’re there in the first place.
Spending time to work out your why, in whatever context, will make sure you always communicate with purpose and in a way that resonates – both as an individual and as a business.
Your why is your compass. Don’t lose it.