There is a great book on personal development, leadership, and team-building by Simon Sinek called, “Start with Why.” Sinek’s TedTalk about the same topic is one of the most watched ever. In the book, Sinek talks about the idea that we all have our “what’s” and our “how’s” when it comes to how we operate in our lives. Whether at work, in a classroom, on a sport team, or anywhere else we have a purpose and a focus on doing things, our “what’s” and “how’s” are what people see as the result of what we do making our way through our day.
However, the “what’s” and “how’s” are merely manifestations of something far greater and far more important – our “why.” Everything starts with our why. It is what guides us through all of our endeavors – at least it should be. Without a clear why, people can get lost, lose direction and focus, and find themselves spinning out of control. Our why is what gives us our purpose.
The Road Map to Our Destination
This is why it is imperative that we “start with why.” All of the activities that we do and all of the methods for doing those activities don’t matter all that much if we do not know why we are doing them. We need our why to give us focus, to guide us down a path, and lead us in the right direction. Our why is ultimately both our destination and our roadmap to get there.
For the leader of a team of any kind, it is critical that you know your why. You must know what you are trying to accomplish. You must have a purpose and a focus, so that you can implement the best methods for getting there. Your why is what will drive you to where you are seeking to go. Once you know this, you must work to make sure your team members know it, too.
Most teams in the world never really figure out their why and then work towards it. Most teams just wander through a season, living from day-to-day, practice-to-practice, game-to-game without any roadmap other than the what’s and how’s of drills, techniques, and strategies for working through practice and playing their games. They don’t work on their why because they haven’t worked on figuring out what their why is.
Teams that get it, however, have not only figured out their why; they have intentionally and purposefully worked toward articulating it, working on it, and living it. They understand that their why is the set of team standards by which they have decided to live. They have determined what their identity is, what they want to be known for. They have said, “This is who we are, so this is what you will see from us. This is our why.”
Proactive Coaching calls these standards, “Core Covenants.” A covenant is a binding agreement where you can see it in action. It is when someone says, “This is who I am, so this is how you will see me behave. My actions will be a perfect example of the standards that I am committed to.” So you can see that a team’s covenants are a representation of the team’s why.
Covenants are best if they are focused on behavioral choices that teammates will make that will determine who they will be and what they will be known for. Too many teams out there focus only on outcomes like the offense and defense they run, the drills and techniques they teach, and the individual and team accomplishments they hope to achieve. But seeking results and outcomes like these without knowing and working to develop your why is a hollow, unfocused exercise for teams. They might win some games and even some championships, but they will never know the true meaning of the word “team,” for they will not have developed an understanding of why the team exists.
Teams that intentionally create covenants based on behaviors have a clear vision of their why. When a team says, “We stand for work habits, integrity, and a team-first attitude,” everyone on the team knows exactly what they are committed to working towards. More importantly, everyone on the team can make the choice to focus on those three things – it requires no special talent or skill to work hard, have integrity, and be a great teammate.
Once they have established their why, coaches and team leaders can outline the process for making their why come true. They can begin to create the method (the what’s and how’s) for living their why. Then team members will have a much easier time understanding “why” they are doing “what” they are doing and “how” they are doing it. Their what’s and how’s have a purpose – to fulfill the goal of living and achieving their why. This is where truly great teams exist – being living symbols of their why.
For more information on the concepts of “starting with why,” check out Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why. For more information on the concept of “Core Covenants,” check out Bruce Brown’s booklet “First Steps to Creating a Successful Team” at www.proactivecoaching.info.