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Why? Power

Furniture World Magazine
Volume 143 NO.4 July/August


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This is the first entry in a series of articles about how brain-based coaching can help you and your business. You will find lots of basic and innovative ideas on how to approach your business, your staff and most importantly, yourself. I will offer advice that has worked for my own clients as well as offer input from other colleagues who are experts in their fields.

In this installment we will look at ways to help your managers, employees and customers to become more passionate and committed to supporting the “Why” of your business. It doesn’t matter if you are a top 100 retailer, independent furniture chain or single furniture store operation; the goal is the same. If you can lead with passion, you are on your way to having what most companies can only dream about.

WHY IS A POWERFUL WORD

When you understand the “why” of what you are doing, you can begin to create space for new behaviors and beliefs to develop. Why? is a very empowering question to ask.

For business owners and managers, bringing a group together to function well and move forward is sometimes like herding cats. Everyone has different opinions and alternate ways of approaching tasks. Everyone has their own unique personality drivers.

How do we get you and your staff on the same page, believing the same thing and acting in a way that enhances your business? It begins with you. You must decide what is important to you and why you do what you do. What do you want to accomplish and what path do you want to take to get there? These questions all begin with Why? If you answer that question and deliver that answer to your staff, they will follow you, and so will your customers.

Before you read further, it will be well worth your time to view a fantastic TED Talk by Simon Sinek.  I dare you not to be inspired!





Simon Sinek says that people don’t buy WHAT you do or HOW you do it. What you do and how you do it should be just proof of WHY your company exists. Getting your co-workers to follow you and customers to buy from you, he notes, are both much easier when they understand why you do things, rather than just what you do and how you do it.

Most retailers don’t think about themselves in this way. They define their businesses in terms of what they do and how they do it. A typical furniture store owner might explain her business and how she entices customers to buy in the following way.

WHAT: QRS Furniture sells great furniture for every room in your home.

HOW: Our furniture is beautifully designed. We offer great credit options and fast white-glove delivery. Our knowledgeable staff has helped our customers furnish homes since 1962.

QUESTION TO CUSTOMERS: Want to visit our store?

Now, compare the statements made above with those of an identical furniture store. Instead of asking What and How, it asks Why? and What. Which approach do you believe is more compelling?

WHY: Everything we do at XYZ furniture store comes from a belief that we can improve the lives of our customers and the community we serve by thinking differently than the typical furniture store.

WHAT: The way we do this is by searching for products that make our customers’ lives more beautiful, easier and more interesting. We just happen to sell furniture for every room in your home.

QUESTION TO CUSTOMERS: Want to visit our store?

By the way, your “why” can’t be money. Yes, we all want to make money. But there are many ways to make money. If you work just for money, you and your staff are trading time for money. There is no passion in that. It is not sustainable nor does it create loyalty.

Later in this article we will look at concrete action steps you can take to re-align how you think about your business using the concept of Why. First, let’s examine how traditional ways of leading people and changing behavior can meet with resistance.

RESISTANCE TO CHANGE

"Have you ever tried to explain to a recently hired sales associate your store policy regarding how customers should be handled? If your approach is vastly different than what worked for him at his last sales position, you may have encountered resistance. You knew you were speaking the same language, and you knew he could hear you, but he seemed completely unable to understand.

Or have you ever had a conversation about religion or politics and the other person just couldn’t see your point of view, or perhaps, you couldn’t see theirs? The reason for this is that we become what we have been exposed to. Our personalities, beliefs, political ideas, world view, work ethic, parenting style, etc., are developed from input we have received throughout our entire lives. We are unconscious about what those beliefs are, and how we developed them. Because we are bombarded with so much information of all kinds every day, our brains filter out what does not agree with the beliefs our ego is trying to maintain. This can cause us to be inflexible. In essence, our minds close and will not allow new ideas or new behaviors in. The older we get the more closed our minds can get.

That’s because we are hard-wired to be closed minded. One of the major functions of our ego is to maintain our identity. I am using the psychology definition of ego here, not the popular “devil on your shoulder” definition. Our egos have three basic and very important jobs. Those jobs are to 1) maintain our identity, 2) keep us safe, 3) get our needs met. Everything we do, and I do mean everything we do, is driven by one of these three functions. I am not going to go too deeply into how it all works. Let’s just agree it is complicated.

The important take-away about the ego is that it uses filters to reject information that threatens our identity; that goes against what we believe to be true about ourself, our company and the world.

ALL IS NOT LOST

Before you begin thinking we are doomed by our egos, let me point out the really great reasons for being hardwired this way. Being hard-wired to maintain our identity allows us to form connections. We belong to families, religious and social groups. We play sports and follow our favorite team (go Phillies!). We find friends who like what we like and enjoy their company. We find work that fits our identities and often co-workers who share our same values. And, we gravitate to companies whose values, pre-dispositions and passions resonate with our own.

Behavioral change is hard. I want to say behavioral change can be nearly impossible.

That’s why the power of Why can be such an important motivator for change in your business. Once you understand why you do what you do – and if that reason resonates with your employees’ and target customers’ core values, then the behaviors of your sales associates, managers, warehouse/delivery employees and customer service people will more easily slide into place. As was mentioned at the start of this article, the power of Why creates space for new behaviors and beliefs to develop.

THE FIVE WHYS

A really great technique you can use to organize the process of finding a mission statement that incorporates a “Why” is called “The Five Whys”. It works like this; say you want to write a company mission statement. Start with a series of questions and answers to drill down to find core values that are true. It may take you less or more than five questions to get to your ultimate Why. Here, for example, are four Whys for a sample independent furniture store:

Question #1: Why are we in business?

Answer: We are in business to sell furniture to our customers.

Question #2: Why do we sell furniture to our customers?

Answer: Because we believe that offering high-quality products and services improves the quality of their lives.

Question #3: Why do we want to improve the quality of our customers lives.

Answer: Because it is important to do business the right way.

Question #4: Why do we believe it is important to do business the right way?

Answer: Because our family has always lived and conducted business by high standards. It’s our family value.

Just keep asking questions until you get to that “feel good” place about why you do what you do. Keep in mind, “because it makes money” is not an answer to Why. That is a result.

Your bottom line answer to Why, will keep you wanting to move in the right direction. Southwest Airline’s Why is they want to be the best, lowest cost airline in the sky. When they are thinking of making a change, they have only one question to ask; will this help us be the best lowest cost airline in the sky? If the answer is no, the change is not made. When NASA was working on the moon-landing project, they had a great mission statement. MAN, MOON, DECADE. Nobody had to think about what the focus was. There was only one question; will this get a man on the moon in a decade?

GETTING EMPLOYEE BUY-IN 

Once you determine your all important Why statement, you will need to develop a plan to convince your managers, employees and customers to become passionate and committed to supporting this Why of your business.

Ultimately, if you want things to be different, it will require the courage to really look at your situation honestly. Denial and blame will not work. Nor will letting an “expert” fix the problem. This is the big difference between coaching and consulting. It is easier to let someone else tell you what is wrong with your business from their perception than it is to take an honest look to discover your own answers. You are the expert on you and your business. Cookie-cutter solutions don’t really work in the long term. Your situation is unique to you. What matters in the end is what you think, what you want and what you will do.

As with any substantial project you undertake in your business, the search for why you do what you do should be given time and careful consideration. The process works best when someone is assigned responsibility for organizing and mediating the process. You may have the talent within your organization or you may want to seek out a good coach who can help even the most apparent cynic to get underneath behavior to find the Why.

Remember to be patient with employees and with yourself throughout the process. They have been doing the same things for years and may resist seeing that something has to change. Though, once they see their own behaviors and their own attitudes, circumstances shift quickly and the result is happier employees more satisfied customers and healthier financial statements.

CHANGE AT THE TOP

Up until this point, this article has only asked you to work through the process of getting to Why and to find ways to help other people, your employees and customers change the way they see your company.

The reality is that it must all start with you, the person at the top. Sorry, I know it is easier if you could find external reasons why business is not running the way you say you want it to. While it is true that there may be existing external conditions that inhibit progress, it is your perception of them that matters. Your perception comes from your filters; how you see the world and how you believe it works.

Let’s say, as in the above example, your Why statement is that, “Everything we do at XYZ furniture store comes from a belief that we can improve the lives of our customers and the community we serve by thinking differently than the typical furniture store.” To make good on that statement and that intention you can’t run your business without actually taking concrete steps to improve the lives of your customers, your employees and the community. If this is your Why statement, you can’t work at the same time to make your employees and customers lives more difficult, and you can’t, ever again, think like the typical furniture store.

TIME TO REFLECT

Did you ever say something you had no intention of saying and it shocked even you? Or reacted in a way that was totally inappropriate? Or worse yet, do you remember the first time you said something to your kids you hated that your parents used to say to you? We are hardwired for that sort of thing. Deep in our unconscious are the drivers of that behavior. It happens to all of us. It is part of the human condition. Logic and control work to a point, but when emotions get high, we say and do things we normally keep repressed in our unconscious. This is the reason we say hurtful and inappropriate things in a heated argument. I often hear clients say that they would never do or say certain things at work that they do or say at home and vice versa. Keep in mind that the notion that we can be one person at work and a different person at home is rubbish. Personality drivers are functioning constantly regardless of our location. We may act in different ways at different times, but the motivation is the same. When emotions run high, our subconscious drivers pop up and the result is rarely good.

When this behavior is being acted out by management and they don't see it, (and they don't), it becomes a very big problem. Managers are human beings along with everyone else in the company. It is easy to say it is them, not me. If you want your staff to do the work, you must lead by example. It is worth the effort. And it is worth being transparent about it. That kind of leadership creates safety. Safety makes it OK to change.

Karen Florence is a Certified Professional Coach and founder of Tabula Rasa Coaching, a coaching firm that specializes in transformational coaching for individuals as well as organizations. She works with people who want to explore their lives in a deeper way to create change in their personal, business and spiritual challenges.

Karen has worked with CEO's and high level executives around the world, coaching, mentoring and consulting. She has worked one-on-one with executives from Pierce Global Promotions, Pinnacle Foods, Jaguar Land Rover, The Disney Channel, BBDO Russia, New York Life, The St. Croix Foundation, Volvo Italia, Prudential Life, Intel and The Learning Channel among others.

When working with Karen, clients’ lives change. With her unique way of digging for the truth and finding the answers within her clients, doors open and circumstances change. Karen's keen intuition and curiosity often helps the truth to bubble up in surprising ways, allowing her clients to see themselves as whole and resourceful individuals moving forward into all that is possible.

Questions about this article or related to her consulting practice can be directed to Karen Florence at kfmcmullen@gmail.com, or call 610.228.4145.
Read other articles by Karen Florence