Knowing Your Why Behind What You Do

I thought a lot about the why behind what I do this last week at a conference.

What is the why behind what you do? What is the purpose behind your organization? Why do you do what you do? Why do you exist?

Have you thought about your why?


The owner of Red Hat made a brilliant presentation at a conference I attended in Raleigh about the huge lack in so many business of knowing their why and communicating it. 


He talked about how he was hired to deal with the bankruptcy for Delta Airlines during the financial crisis. He described how he went to one of the hangars and went to speak and how he wasn’t sure what he was going to say to the workers when he was walking up.


But he went up there and above everything else explained the why behind what they do at Delta Airlines. He explained the purpose of the company and its employees. And he said the response from the Delta workers was unbelievable. Nobody complained about their pay. No one asked about their benefits. No one sulked and threw out a hopeless response. People began asking about solutions. They threw out their different expertise and talked about how they were going to help bring the company back. 


What he walked away with is that it is so important for every employee at an organization to know the why. When the Delta employees knew the why behind what was going on and why they were there and why they existed within the company, it give them a sense of purpose that they could be proud of and be a part of. 


But how often in organizations is the why lacking? How often is the purpose behind what everyone does lacking?

Knowing the why is important because it is the basis of what your actions are about.


If you own a restaurant, it isn’t just to serve food. Is it your excellent service to people? Is it providing a third place for people to come enjoy and feel welcome? Is it that you want to provide something valuable to people and better people's daily experience?


Our purpose is not just to be. Our purpose is deeper. We are here to serve and give value.


Start with your why first. Why does your nonprofit  or business even exist? Do people know? Do they know why you matter? What makes you tick?


They why of my business and myself is what keeps me going every day. It isn’t just to do marketing and public relations. It is to give value to people. It is to help tell people’s stories. What I get to do every day is be able to fight for people and who they are. I get to remind people that their stories are important and valuable. Especially in Eastern North Carolina, I get to tell the stories of people and businesses who have felt forgotten.

Both my business and volunteer work are driven by my deeper purpose. 


I was volunteering at a school yesterday, and the teachers showed me beautifully the why of what they do. It is much more than teaching. They gave children a safe place to learn. They reminded those children of how great they are. The why in their hearts is what made the kids’ eyes glow and their experience and their school so extraordinary.


So sit down, and figure out your why. Define it, write it down, and communicate it to your team. That will keep you pushing through the difficult times.


It is the why that makes you proud. On paper you may not look perfect, but you know your why. You know what keeps moving you forward.


Define your why. Clarify it. And if you lead a team of people, you must communicate it to your team members at every single level. Every person matters or they wouldn’t be there, and they need to know why they matter and why your organization exists.


Be confident in your why. Make show you clearly define and know your why. You will continue to thrive when you know your why. Remember, it is the basis for all of your actions. 

Cheers to doing meaningful work that is driven by your deeper why. 


David L. Joyner and the Joyner Media & Strategies Team