Want to Win? Ask Yourself Why.

[Cache – #148]


We are very pleased to present a guest post by our strategic partner Jennifer Lomax, freelance consultant, Senior Strategic Planner at Harbinger and a member of Marketing Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 for 2013.  This is Jennifer’s second guest post for Cache, her first being “Is This CEO a Jerk Or A Genius?” in August 2013.

Achievement in sport and business is generally defined by some countable standard: in fine dining it is Michelin stars; in the Olympics, it is medals; in business, it is dollars.

As someone who adores food, I long wondered what a Michelin Star actually meant. Specifically, I couldn’t reconcile how a Ghostbuster-esque blimp (RIP Harold Ramis) warranted enormous prices for a few tiny morsels.

Little did I anticipate that my recent Michelin experience would satisfy my skepticism and serve up an inspiring business lesson.

Long story short: to say that Eleven Madison Park, a three-Michelin-star landmark in New York City, served the best meal I’ve ever had would be a gross understatement. I was delivered the most incredible dining experience of my life and what will surely be one of my most cherished memories.

Having visited my share of expensive and not-so-impressive restaurants, it was truly difficult to get my head around the precision and splendour of the meal we enjoyed – until the bar manager (who mentioned he had worked his way up from a busboy) made this profound statement: “We are in the business of delivering unforgettable experiences.” That is to say, each and every member of the team strives toward a purpose, a “why?”, much greater than serving good food.

The lesson: Strong leadership, a great team and hard work almost always contribute to success, but purpose is the real difference maker. Purpose is, as Simon Sinek has so effectively argued, understanding “why?”.  It is a rallying cry – it inspires leaders, aligns teams and fuels hard work.

As we have just seen in Sochi, nowhere is hard work more evident than in the Winter Olympic Games.

In Sochi, purpose counted: for the Russians for 33 medals, including 14 gold and the top spot in the medal count. This up from an unimpressive 15 medals in Vancouver, including only three gold and 11th spot in the standings.

To what may we attribute this Russian revolution?

Being the Olympic host elevates the Games from a test of athletic prowess to a showcase, broadcast worldwide, of national culture, strength and pride. For Russia, like Canada before it, hosting the Games forged a shared sense of purpose for government officials, athletes and fans. Common cause drove unprecedented funding, sponsorship and support for Russian athletic programs, while athletes were motivated to win on home soil (well, except for the hockey team), and fans came out in droves to support the home side.

As Vancouver and Sochi have proven on a grand scale, “starting with why” has profoundly positive implications for professional and personal endeavours alike.

In order to win, are you willing to give it a try?  If not, why not?


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