Why do you do what you do?
It seems like a simple enough question, and yet so many people struggle with it. We know “What” we do, and we often know “How” we do it, but as Simon Sinek points out in his TED talk How great leaders inspire action, “…very few people or organizations know why they do what they do.”
Simon goes on to say, “And by “why” I don’t mean “to make a profit.” That’s a result. It’s always a result. By “why,” I mean: What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care? Well, as a result, the way we think, the way we act, the way we communicate is from the outside in. It’s obvious. We go from the clearest thing to the fuzziest thing. But the inspired leaders and the inspired organizations — regardless of their size, regardless of their industry — all think, act and communicate from the inside out.”
The idea behind brand storytelling is to dig into the Why.
My belief is that we all have stories that have led us to where we are and are driving us forward. We may not understand them, we might not even be able to identify them, yet once we start digging into our past, our present, our dreams for the future, certain patterns reveal themselves. I call these Themes & Threads, and they are the constants, the elements that exist at our core.
On Friday, I went to a beautiful yoga class taught by a new friend of mine, Dr. Thara Vayali at Sanga Yoga and something she said resonated deeply with me. The class was a ‘Core’ class, meaning our focus was on building core strength. Now, if you are like me, you imagine core to be your middle section, a strong abdomen. And yet, when Thara started talking about her perspective on ‘core’, a lightbulb went off.
She asked us to imagine our body like a tree. Imagine each root, each branch, each part of the tree that makes up the whole. She remarked that we often think of the trunk as the strongest part, like we do our own core. And yet, if you look inside a root or a branch you will find that they all have the core at their centre too. Just like our fingers, our toes, the top of our head – when we work on building our core we need to shift our perspectives and strengthen each piece as a part of the whole. Core strengthening is about working from the inside out, just like Simon Sinek’s The Golden Circle.
That is what I help my clients do. I put aside the pre-occupation with elevator pitches, sound bites and the ‘About Us’ section of a website. Understanding the story of your business is far deeper than any of that. We need to get to the core of why your business exists, and the best way to do that is to follow the root systems, the branches, the fruit, the insects that nibble away at that fruit, and ultimately the blue sky above – the very thing each branch is reaching for.
For me, story branding is about realizing that one single person cannot tell the story for an entire organization. We need to engage as many people as possible (the roots and the branches) so that we can identify the nutrients in the soil. Once we know ‘the secret sauce’ – that unique recipe that makes your organization authentic and distinct – then, and only then, can we start to share the story.