The Golden Circle

Perhaps you have heard of Simon Sinek and a Ted Talk he did about persuasion and something called the Golden Circle. His purpose was to exhort businesses to consider the core of why customers and employees buy into a company.

So what is this “Golden Circle”? Basically, according to Sinek, most businesses do not inspire… they simply hire a person to do a job. If the employee buys into the vision of the vision and purpose of the company, however, then the situation is different. Inspiring leaders, he says, consciously or not, communicate in a pattern different from most of the rest of us.

His “Golden Circle” explains why some companies, such as Apple, have been able to innovate and are able to inspire action.

It all starts with WHY. Imagine three concentric circles.

WHAT: This is the outermost circle. Every company or organization knows WHAT it does. Employees can describe the product or service they offer. WHATs are easy to identify.

HOW: This is the second inner circle. Only SOME companies and employees can explain HOW they do WHAT they do. Often, HOWs explain what they do better than someone else. These are not as obvious as WHATs.

WHY: Very FEW companies can explain clearly WHY they do WHAT they do. It is not about the money; making money is a result of what they do. WHY do they do it? What is the purpose? WHY does the company exist? WHY should anyone care?

When most organizations or people think and explain, they do so from the outside in, from WHAT to WHY (moving from the tangible to the intangible). But inspiring leaders do the opposite: they communicate from the inside out, from the WHY to the WHAT.

When an organization communicates from the inside out, and employees or customers believe it, they go above and beyond to include their products in their lives, not because they are necessarily better, but because they believe in their values.  Employees, too, who believe in the purpose, go above and beyond because they wish to.

As a communicator, specifically regarding a persuasive message, we have to ask ourselves: what is the core of the message? What is the core belief we are trying to convey? Why should anyone care?

Once again, I can relate some of these principles to coaching Team Policy debate. In the middle of a debate round, arguments and statements can go back and forth, but until someone explains WHY it is important, WHY the judge should care, then they are simply statements or arguments bouncing back and forth without impact. Effective debaters must make sure to answer the “so what?” question.

The same applies to writers, speakers, leaders, etc. Answer the WHY first, moving from the inside out. Preemptively answer the “so what” question. Tell the audience WHY they should care.

(More detailed information, such as articles, you tube videos, etc., can be found by googling Simon Sinek.)

Question for you: What does it mean to communicate from the inside out? Can you articulate WHY you do what you do? 

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