Separating Your Personal ‘Why’ From the Company ‘Why’

Post 1 Series 2 As the leader of an organization, you need to understand your ‘why’—not the company’s ‘why’, but your personal one. This involves little more than asking yourself the question of what gets you up every day and motivates you to go to the office. There is no wrong answer here. It could be something as simple as ‘I’m passionate about our purpose’. It could be that you want to grow your company in order to sell it. Leaders have all sorts of reasons why they do what they do, but the most important thing is that you understand your motivation and that you help others to understand it, too.

In my previous roles leading organizations my two personal ‘whys were: to create a great working environment that my team and myself would value, and to create a great organization that others would value so we could sell it and provide a return to shareholders. Those ‘whys’ are pretty personal and not at all the ‘why’ of the company. When I’m working in my role as an advisor or coach with CEOs and other business leaders, I start by asking what their own ‘why’ is and they will answer with the company’s ‘why’. Many leaders have trouble understanding the difference. Understanding your personal why is about self-awareness, about understanding what drives you to work those hundred-hour weeks. It’s about understanding why you get up every day and swing for the fence. Why did you take this risk?

What I’ve found in working with so many different people on their personal ‘why’ is that the leader sometimes thinks her ‘why’ is obvious, only to find out that her team members think it’s something else or have no idea. Then there are the leaders who have trouble answering the question itself. Still others know their ‘whys’ but don’t want to admit to them. Maybe you show up to work every day because you’ve got a mortgage to pay. That’s OK. I believe a leader has to have a passionate reason for showing up every day, even if it’s a self-interested one. For more information on how I use this question and others to coach leaders to success visit

To get started on discovering your personal ‘why’, answer the following questions and use the answer to create your personal core purpose statement: 1. Reflect on your journey through high school and university. Do you see any repeating themes? 2. Look back over your work experience and career. Do you see any repeating themes? Do you see any that overlap with your educational experience? 3. What are the three most important things in your life today? 4. When you wake up in the morning, are you excited to walk out of the door to go to your workplace? If so, why? If not, why not?