Some companies have managed to achieve a “feel good factor” and yet others, often selling very similar product, are simply part of the amorphous mass of companies doing similar things. What is it that differentiates the company with the feel good factor?
All the competitor companies in the same sector will be able to make a presentation saying WHAT they do and HOW they do it. A company with the feel good factor is the one that is able to say WHY they do it.
Consider the story of two stonemasons. You ask the first stonemason, “Do you like your job?” he looks up at you and replies “I’ve been building this wall for as long as I can remember. The work is monotonous. In the summer I work in the scorching hot sun and in the winter I get frost bite in my fingers. The stones are heavy and lifting them everyday can be back breaking. I’m not even sure that this project will be completed in my lifetime. But it’s a job. It pays the bills.”
Further along the wall there is a second stonemason and you ask him the same question, “Do you like your job?” he looks up and replies “I’ve been building this wall for as long as I can remember. The work is monotonous. In the summer I work in the scorching hot sun and in the winter it’s so cold I get frost bite in my fingers. The stones are heavy and lifting them all day can be back breaking. I’m not even sure that this project will be completed in my lifetime. But you know what; I love my job because I’m building a cathedral. Just think of that. I’m part of this building. Maybe it won’t be completed in my lifetime but my son will probably see it finished, isn’t that great?”
WHAT these two stonemasons are doing is exactly the same. HOW the stonemasons are working is exactly the same. The difference is that one has a sense of purpose. One of them feels like he belongs. One of them comes to work each day knowing that he’s part of something bigger than the element of the job that he is personally doing.
Having a sense of WHY changes the second stonemason’s entire view of his job. It makes him more productive and certainly makes him more loyal. Whereas the first stonemason would probably take another job for more pay, the inspired stonemason works longer hours and would probably turn down an easier, higher paying job to stay with the first job because he’s part of a higher cause. The second stonemason does not see himself as any more or less important as his colleague making the stained glass windows, or even no less than the architect. He sees that they are all working together to build a cathedral. It is this bond that creates camaraderie. This is the essential difference that brings success. Excellence comes with people working together with a common cause.
Companies with a strong sense of WHY are able to inspire their employees. Those employees are more productive and more innovative. They feel that their work attracts other people eager to work there as well. It’s not so difficult to see why the companies that we prefer to do business with are also the companies that are the best employers. When people inside the company know WHY they come to work, people outside the company are vastly more likely to understand why this company is special. Organisations that understand WHY from management down see that they are all working together and all need each other.
There is a scientific reason for this success differentiation. It is to do with the human brain. The central part of the brain is the limbic brain and it is responsible for all our feelings, such as trust and loyalty. It’s also responsible for all human behaviour and our entire decision making, but it has no capacity for language. The newest area of brain is the neocortex and it is responsible for our rational and analytical thought, and it is also responsible for language.
Because the neocortex deals with facts and features it clearly is the part of the brain that is associated with what we do and how we do it, and it can accommodate vast amounts of complicated information. However, it doesn’t drive behaviour.
The part of the brain that controls our feelings and our behaviour is the limbic brain and that has no capacity for language. It is this disconnection that makes putting our feeling into words so hard. We have trouble explaining emotional things. We struggle to find words for the real reasons why we had an emotional response.
When asked why a person loves another person they can often struggle to put the feelings into words and may say things that make no rational sense such as “They complete me”. In fact it is simply that the decision feels right and they have a hard time explaining why. And yet that is the essence of why WHY is so important. It is that gut feeling that just feels right. There’s nothing in the stomach that controls decision making it’s actually happening in the limbic brain, and it’s no accident that we often explain decisions based on it “feeling right”.
Our limbic brain is powerful, powerful enough to drive behaviour that sometimes can even contradict our rational and analytical understanding of a situation.
A company that fails to communicate a sense of WHY forces us to make decisions based only on empirical evidence, only on what it is and how it is. These decisions take much more time, they feel more difficult and they leave the customer uncertain. Such customers need reassurance that they made the right decision.
Companies that are strong in communicating a sense of WHY actually have the customer joining with them in their core belief. That is why people buy Apple or Harley Davidson or other brands that convey a sense of buying into a lifestyle made by people who are committed to a certain quality of product. Without the essential WHY, it’s simply another computer or another motorbike and then it is a matter of looking at the specification and comparing one specification with another specification.
The essential difference is that a company that starts with understanding WHY never needs to manipulate because it inspires and people follow them not because they have to, but because they want to. Want to understand more, Elements for Excellence teaches you much more.