Never Has WHY Been More Important

The crew of an aircraft are drawn together not only by training, but by a common value system.  Whether they are flight crew or cabin crew, new to the group or well established, are still working their way up or have 30,000 flying hours – there is a common thread that binds them.  There will always be differences – between people, between job descriptions, between ways of doing things – but what is important is that there is enough commonality to ensure cohesion of the team.  The values that draw a crew together are seldom discussed, and yet they are highly respected and non-negotiable.  They are impressed on us from the get-go, from your first introduction to the field.  Professionalism.  Respect for the aircraft, for Mother Nature, for yourself and for others.  Responsibility for your knowledge, for your appearance, for your actions, for your wellbeing.  Aiming to do everything better each time you do it.  Communication.  These are some of the values that keep us alive; that keep us clear.
The same is true of any team.  Of any person.  We are all driven by a set of values.
All heavy reasoning comes down to a “why” – why we do something, why we make that particular decision, why we choose to go in any given direction.  “Why” is responsible for our intention which usually has a large impact on the outcome of any decision.  Much is written on “finding your why” and Simon Sinek is one of the most heralded names in that arena with his endearing logic and heart.  The essence of the theory is that we’re all governed at a deep level by our own set of personal values, whether we choose to examine them or not.  When we act in line with those values, we’re happy, and when we are misaligned or forced to make decisions that go against our values, we become distinctly uncomfortable in various ways.  That dis-ease usually leads to some degree of upset.
When we understand our personal value systems, and can live authentically in line with those values, we are not only calm and serene, but purpose driven, lit up and ultimately, satisfied.
The same is true for any group of people.  Whether you are a family, a friendship circle, a team, a community, or a country – what holds people together are the common, shared values.  Every time you try and make a sale, whether you’re trying to convince someone to see a particular movie, buy a product, or vote for a politician, you’re appealing to that person’s value system.
The reason that knowing your “why” is so important or, put another way, that you understand what your personal and shared values are, is that making decisions in line with your values keeps you steady.  It means that the decisions will more likely be right for you and for the group.  It essentially gives you guidelines within which to make that decision and ensures that everyone is comfortable with it, even if it needs readjusting down the road.
Right now, the world is in turmoil.  World leaders are having to make decisions that impact the health, welfare and freedom of their people on an unprecedented level.  Whole countries of people are obliged to fall in line with those decisions or face legal penalties.  A respective level of expectation is being set for the leaders of businesses, of communities, of schools and of families.  We’re all feeling different levels of uncertainty and dis-ease caused by the same simple question: “why”.  Why is this happening?  Why are we doing this?  Why is THIS the right way for us?  Why was this allowed to happen in the first place?
Whilst I have no doubt that it’s exceedingly more difficult to lead a country than to lead a business, or to lead a business than to lead a family, I believe that at the core, decisions are made in the same way.  When you look outwards, you are at the mercy of everyone else’s value systems and choices, and that can feel very out of control.  It IS out of control, or at least out of OUR control.  When we look inwards to our own values, we find what we can control.  We find what we are certain of.
Even in all this turmoil and uncertainty, that are people we view to be making the “right” decisions.  There are those in our communities who are doing things in a way we buy into, support and are proud of.  There are businesses who have not only pivoted to serve the community in new ways but who are thriving because of it.  I don’t believe any of that is by luck.
I believe that those who are able to find the calm strength to go forward through uncertainty are those who sit firm in their value systems and who remain centred on WHY they are doing what they’re doing.  Whether that is for the good of a whole nation, for the good of a team of business employees, a school of teachers and students, a family, or themselves personally – those who are sure of their core purpose and values are more centred and more certain, regardless of the turmoil they’re faced with.
Make no mistake, sticking to your purpose and your core values isn’t always easy.  Sometimes it requires a serious degree of effort, insistence, defending and going the long way round.  But it ensures consistency.  Grounding.  Self-control.  When you’re questioned, it allows you to lay out your reasoning in a way that others can understand.  And if your intentions and values are good, there is a high likelihood that they will be shared, at least in part, by others.  That overlap is what will pull you together and allow you to support each other.
So, if you’re feeling uncertain at the moment, take a moment to think deeply about your “why”; about the core values you stand for.  Why do you do what you do?  To what end?  What are the most important things to you in life?  What do you stand for?  What do you leap to defend?  What drives you crazy when other people bend it?  What does it all boil down to for you?
When you identify your why and your values, you’ll feel a pool of deep-seated calm and knowing inside you.  You’ll know what’s important.  You’ll remember how and why you’d like to go forward.  You’ll know something for sure in all this uncertainty.  You’ll have something to aim with.  You’ll know why the things that don’t line up with those values make you uncomfortable.  You’ll know how to make decisions for a group of people with shared values, if you know what those shared values are.  And when you lead in line with shared values, and communicate how you’re doing so, you’ll have the support and trust of that group even when readjustments are required.

If you’re looking to challenge your thinking on how to move forward in this chapter of uncertainty, join us on Thursday for our Leadership Through Crisis Webinar.

by Christen Killick

May 18th, 2020

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