Your Purpose is not your Why

Your Purpose is not your Why

Simon Sinek has become known for his Golden Circle: the idea that “people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it”. He encourages organizations to find their “Why”, and to express this is their Purpose statement. I came to realize, however, that Why and Purpose are not the same, so I wrote him an open letter.

Dear Simon Sinek,

I’ve been familiar with the Golden Circle for many years, but it was only recently that I applied it to myself. Part of your methodology is to formulate a purpose statement, which is very useful indeed to clarify someone’s added value.

What’s missing, however, is the actual WHY itself – the reasoning and story behind the statement that make it credible. To me, the purpose is more like an enhanced mission statement. So I’d like to suggest an addition to it, the WHY statement.

A WHY statement tells about your intrinsic motivation, and would contain things like talent, core values and beliefs. Combined with a purpose statement, it could look like this:

I […contribution…], so that […impact…].
I am driven by […talent…] and […belief…].

As an example, these are my personal statements:

“I develop authentic ideas and solutions that result in trust, so that organizations, customers and employees experience a win-win situation. I am driven by a talent and strong desire to create, and was shaped by life lessons in customer centricity and integrity.”

When suitable, the ambition could be added as well: “With this, it is my ambition is to have a positive impact on a sustainable balance between people, planet and profit.”

In 2015 I was involved in defining the purpose statement for KLM. At the time, I suggested adding a fourth layer to your Golden Circle: WHO. Given that KLM airlines has been around for over a century, it has a rich heritage and culture. It is this DNA, the soul, the WHO of an organization (or person), that is represented in the WHY statement I propose.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *