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Why? | written by Lize Moldenhauer

I believe context is important. Leaders that exclude context when framing strategy and positioning the way forward have a hard time overcoming dynamics like change resistance, and it is a breeding ground for a lack of trust. We need to guard against communication that is devoid of the background, context and reasoning behind something. Like Simon Sinek says: “Start with the Why”. What is your purpose, your motivation and your belief?

The last few weeks have placed me in unique engagements with various businesses around this very fact. We so often lose sight of our why. The why we do what we do is a critical component for effective business management and for the navigation of uncertainty in times of unprecedented volatility. The Why is like our anchor. Why did God call you to do what you are doing? Is there a bigger God Directed Purpose and Plan? Or is this a season, a steppingstone for the next chapter of your purpose?

The world’s greatest leaders inspire themselves as well as other people to take action. True, most of us struggle to clearly articulate WHY we do what we do, however it is not a skill or gift that is reserved for the “few”. It is a discipline that can be learnt.

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12 vs 11 (NIV)

Develop the discipline and take time to articulate your Why, as it is critical for anyone in business and even more so if you’re the visionary leader.  But before we can think of leading others with clarity, we need to lead ourselves first. Therefore, I would like to encourage you to develop your Why.

Allow me to share my journey to developing my Why. For context, I want to be extremely transparent by stating that never, in my wildest dreams, did I think of myself as a businesswoman. In other words, my younger 20-year-old self’s vision of the future was centered on being a wife and mother. Yes, sure, working in some shape or form, but my Why was to be a woman of worth so that I could support my family.  I did not have a vison beyond that. And yes, maybe in the context of female empowerment and betterment, I sold myself short. But I was serving. Serving where I believed God wanted me to be.

Fast forward to my thirties and the picture that life had produced was quite different. In 2009 I found myself already 4 years divorced; a single parent household with a beautiful, impressionable 8-year-old daughter. The previous picture of what my life would be like had disappeared! My present reality included me working (obviously – I needed to support myself and my daughter), but the curveballs kept coming. In February of that year, I got retrenched, and the following year (2010) I was diagnosed with breast cancer, but that part of the journey I will share at a later stage.

Let’s circle back to retrenchment. I am sure most of you would look at these realities and acknowledge that any person could feel overwhelmed and potentially paralyzed by the circumstances. That would be understandable and natural, but I had to regroup. I had no choice. I needed to survive and provide for my daughter. My Why had shifted dramatically, or so you would think. Actually, it was still centered around serving, but in a very different context. I had to take a deep dive into what I wanted, and what God needed me to do. It’s hard to explain- it wasn’t weeks of praying and fasting, or a strategy session that led to clarity. For me it was a knowing. It was a clarity of mind that came with the circumstances. Here, I want to acknowledge that God works with each of us differently. My journey will not be yours, but as we share, we find encouragement within the breakthroughs that God gives us so graciously.

I had a choice to make. Retrenchment meant finding a job or reinvention. I chose reinvention! None of the life circumstances around me created the right conditions to allow for reinvention. In fact, most people said you should NOT, and finances definitely screamed NO! But the knowing spoke LOUDER, and as God blessed me with a bit of a stubborn streak, I knew, because I know I am quite headstrong and determined. Therefore, reinvention won. I did not want to find a job. I did not want to go back into the typical corporate construct and just be an employee again. I wanted to take charge and make a difference for me and my daughter. Yes, that was the raw first motivation. That is what made me get up in the morning. I no longer wanted to be a spectator in my life but an active member. I did not want my circumstances to define me, I wanted to use my circumstances to build.

As I got time to get to grips with the realities of retrenchment and move beyond my first line motivators, the deeper Why started to emerge. I wanted to build something with the people around me. In fact, we had a like-minded, unified mindset to honour our commitments. An ethical motivation towards the clients we served and the promises we made. Retrenchment did not take away our word and commitment. And within a few engagements and discussions, we birthed our entrepreneurial journey. 5 retrenched women started their own business with no investment capital but at least we had a Why. We wanted to make a difference in the lives of the people we serve through excellence and quality so that they (the people) can achieve more.

After nearly 14 years, the why has obviously evolved, but at the heart it is still the same. All 5 of us are still working on the business and in the business with the WHY as our anchor. It stabilizes us when circumstances feel like it could lead us astray. Back then it was the driving force that got us going every day. That kept us motivated when there was no money for our salaries and/or cashflow constraints and/or when we had to put in 18-hour days to just get the job done.

It still is a practice in our business to ask, and to encourage people to ask the following questions:

  • WHY did you get out of bed this morning?
  • What inspires you to take action?
  • WHY does our business exist?
  • WHY should anyone care?
  • If the WHY is what sets us apart from everyone else – what is that?

We are who we are wherever we are. The Why is seen in the decisions we make, the tasks we perform, it aligns to bring about the impact we envisage. And for me my Why was driven by the unique circumstances around me and how God is using (because He is still busy) me and the circumstances to enable me to live out the purpose and the plan He has for me.

May I encourage you to take the time to articulate your context and your Why. To bring it to God, to ask Him for discernment to release a knowing in you so that your Why becomes an anchor in the way you frame and navigate the waters. It is your turn now….. and remember you’re not alone!

[To join the business community please join me and my team in our OpenSource Training once a month. The aim is to engage with like-minded individuals and allow us to equip you with resources and tools for the future world of work. It is totally FREE and our way of giving back and serving. Just follow the link to register:

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