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"Start with Why" a Book Review

May 21 2018

In his book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Simon Sinek introduces specific best practices for inspiring others to join your mission and vision.

He begins with one question:

What makes specific companies, or ideas, stand out versus others?

To answer, Sinek breaks down his question into a three-part “golden circle”: why, how, and what.

What,” is defined as each person knowing what they do; essentially,  their role. “How,” is the concept that all workers have a general understanding of how a task is performed. The inner circle is the “why:” the cause, purpose, or belief behind a specific task they do.

Most companies, Sinek asserts, begin with the “what,” and work their way into the center of the circle.

In the case of pregnancy centers, our product is “a life-affirming pregnancy center,” that functions “by offering free pregnancy/medical services and Christ-centered support,” Finally, our why is “to empower women and men through the gospel of Jesus Christ to choose life for their unborn children and abundant life for their families.”

Sinek suggests that the inspiration for action is magnified when we flip this order around. He asks: “what if we began with why?

  • Why: My center empowers women and men through the gospel of Jesus Christ to choose life for their unborn children and abundant life for their families.

  • How: We do this by offering free medical/pregnancy services and Christ-centered support

  • What: Through our life-affirming pregnancy center

Now, everyone engaging with your idea is immediately pulled into the why. This shift is helpful because,

people don’t buy what you do, but rather, why you do it.

Let’s relate this back to the work you do at your center. When you interacting with potential volunteers, supporters, or members of the community, what do you highlight first? Do you say that this center is great because, “we offer free services for women and men who are faced with pregnancy decision,” and then begin to list the services you provide? Or, do you begin with your motivation - and likely their motivation for any interest in your work: because lives are being saved and transformed through the gospel?

Sinek argues that the latter approach is the best way to engage people. He suggests that your goal - and mine - should be to do business with people who believe in what you believe. In practice, this means that when you are looking for a new team member, whether staff or volunteer, the goal should not be to just hire someone who has a great resume. The goal should be to hire someone who loves the mission and vision of your center and is eager to offer compassion, hope, and help to those who need it most.

These concepts apply to development, church relations, client services, administration, staffing, and, just about everything. As you develop your leadership skills in one or several facets of center work, begin with why you are passionate about what you do! Then, watch and see how the Lord will use your passion to ignite passion in others.

A great place to start is through Caring Foundations, the inaugural course in our Centers of Excellence University. This course equips current and future team members for excellence in leadership, ministry, and service. It is the ideal way to begin or grow your contribution to your local center and into your community.

For more information on these concepts, check out Simon Sinek’s TED Talk on Start With Why, below. Or, to purchase the book and download the first chapter, go here.   

Hannah Custer previously served as Care Net's Affiliate Care Coordinator.