The Working Circle

13 August 2018
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Before we can explore its applications, let me first define the terms, starting from the outside of the circle and moving inward.

WHAT: Every single company and organization on the plant knows WHAT they do. This is true no matter how big or small, no matter what industry. Everyone is easily able to describe the products or services a company sells or the job function they have within that system. WHATs are easy to identify.

HOW: Some companies and people know HOW they do WHAT they do. Whether you call them a ‘differentiating value proposition,’ ‘proprietary process’ or ‘unique selling proposition,’ HOWs are often given to explain how something is different or better. Not as obvious as WHATs, many think these are the differentiating or motivating factors in a decision. It would be false to assume that’s all that is required. There is one missing detail:

WHY: Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. When I say WHY, I don’t mean to make money – that’s a result. By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief? WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?

When most organizations or people think, act or communicate they do so from the outside in, from WHAT to WHY. And for good reason – they go from clearest thing to the fuzziest thing. We say WHAT we do, we sometimes say HOW we do it, but we rarely say WHY we do WHAT we do.

But not the inspired companies. Not the inspired leaders. Every single one of them, regardless of their size or their industry, thinks, acts and communicates from the inside out.” – Simon Sinek, Start With Why

This excerpt hit me like a ton of bricks. Since writing my book, I have used an outside-in method for selling it. I have had multiple promo codes lowering the price, which is a manipulation tactic. Now, it may work in the short term but does not garner a dedicated audience.

For project managers, this golden circle needs to be examined further when trying to inspire teams. The WHAT is simple. You have a project which contains a budget, schedule, and scope. You have a team to delegate tasks. You have resources to allocate. WHAT you do is easily explained.

HOW you perform the work is also easy to explain. You have software that tracks the progress, helps allocate resources, and lays out the entire schedule. You make phone calls and send emails to keep clients and stakeholders happy. Should an issue arise, you take action.

WHAT and HOW can be manipulated to achieve results. To motivate your team, you offer bonuses or time off. Overtime is paid for their hard work. Other benefits may include company vehicles, cell phones, laptops, and so on. All of these tactics are manipulative under the WHAT and HOW banners.

The key is finding out your WHY. This aspect is not so easily explained. It is more of a feeling. Love at first sight is an example. Something struck a chord, and it just makes sense.

For an organization or project manager, that feeling needs to be explored and figured out. You must be able to put it into words. Your team needs to trust you without hesitation. If you know your WHY, you will have followers until the end. If only the WHAT and HOW are known, you will have a team who cannot wait until this project ends.

So how do you find your WHY?


Find your purpose through action. You never know until you try. Marketing might be suited for your skills, but if you waste away in construction, you will never know your purpose. Construction may be comfortable for you because it is what you are most familiar.

Do not let your past predict your future. If your role at an organization did not work out, is it possible you were a bad fit for the role rather than your skills being the cause? Apply those skills to another industry and all of a sudden you excel.

Project managers like the routine and the known. Your equipment should run this way all of the time. Your team should submit proposals in this exact way. Any change or stray from the norm appears like a fire. These incremental changes may be getting your closer to the purpose of your team. Without the action, there is no reaction. Without the reaction, change does not exist. Therefore, your purpose remains dormant.


Your cause directly relates to the projects you manage. Examples are homelessness, the environment, women’s rights, child labor, and so on. Any of these causes has projects you can manage that inspire you.

Habitat for Humanity needs project managers to build homes. An organization may volunteer to clean up a local beach or park. Project managers need to schedule those events and wrangle up enough people to lead an effective cleaning process.

If you work for a union company, representing your class of laborer or operator may help unite management and field workers. Causes exist. It is your job to find one that speaks to your core.


Hunt your emotions to find your beliefs. If something upsets you with the working environment, your belief system is the cause of your emotion. Once you identify that cause, take action to alleviate the detriment.

For example, showing up to work on time sets the tone for the day. Once an employee gets to work late, that shows where their priorities rest. Work must be an afterthought, and he or she is definitely not inspired because tardiness to something you care about should matter. This person arrives late on most days. Manipulative tactics worked for a while but now the same old same old.

The belief in showing up to work on time no longer represents the employee. You or the organization no longer inspires him or her. You now have a person who cannot wait to leave and who barely wants to be there.


This path to finding your WHY is not only for you and your happiness but also to inspire your team and organization. Inspiration is what makes people go the extra mile. Manipulation only leads to frustration and a quick burst of energy before the crash.

Think of inspiration as the lifestyle change while coffee is the manipulation. Coffee excites an individual for an hour before more is necessary. To this individual, there is never enough coffee. By manipulating the body, you are not getting at the root of the issue.

Inspiration starts to see this individual helping others just because. He or she has the energy because the purpose, cause, and belief are omnipresent. Every activity impacts the direction and flow of the team. The work/life balance does not exist. A melding of the two takes place with inspired people.

This internal searching affects those around you. If you are inspired, it becomes easy to wake up early and lead your team. Problems do not seem life ending because solutions get you closer to the ultimate goal. The WHAT and HOW are easily identified. The WHY turns your manipulation into inspiration.

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