The Golden Circle – How to Inspire People

The ability to inspire people is truly a gift. Lots of us can motivate people, and it’s not that unusual to be able to lead people – but to be able to inspire people is something entirely different. Those who inspire, lead by example and get the best from those around them; to inspire is to light a fire inside someone and compel them to go out there and achieve something. It’s so much better than telling someone what to do because they ‘have’ to do it; when you inspire it liberates them to go out and do the things you suggest because they have a burning desire to do so. Being able to inspire is what allows people to create social movements, to start trends and fashions and to bring about real, lasting change.

So how do you go about inspiring someone? Is it even something that can be learned? Read on to find out and to start really moving people.

Start With Why

According to Simon Sinek, who gave one of the most-watched TED talks on YouTube, it is more than possible to learn how to inspire people, and all it takes is to understand a ‘natural pattern’ that every great leader automatically observes.

He calls this pattern ‘the golden circle’, which actually consists of three circles with words inside of them. In the outer circle is ‘what’, inside that is ‘how’ and in the central circle is ‘why’. Simon suggests that this illustrates the way that most of us make our decisions and at the same time the way that most people try to communicate their ideas – it’s just that you have to read the layers in the reverse order to get both.

The way most of us make our decisions, according to Simon, is by looking first at our beliefs and at our emotional gut ‘feelings’ and then by deciding how and what we are going to do. On the other hand though, most marketing messages and most instructions arrange this hierarchy in the exact opposite way and start by telling you what they are offering and how they want you to do it – and only if you’re lucky will you hear about why at all.

Simon says (to coin a phrase), that the way to inspire people is to start with why. To tell people what you believe and why you do what you do, and to put this at the forefront of your message.

An Example: Apple

In the TED talk, Simon uses Apple (the company) as the perfect example. He suggests that Apple is a company that inspires large groups of people in a way that few others do – that encourages loyalty and passion and that has become a global phenomenon as a result.

And he also believes that Apple got to this point by starting with their ‘why’. Just watch the new advert for iOS 7, and you’ll see that it starts clearly with the statement ‘we believe’ and goes on to explain why they feel strongly about their product. From there they then go on to show the details, but only after they’ve made their statement.

Using the Technique

If you’re trying to sell a magazine, then you can sell it by saying it ‘offers all the latest news and features at a great price’, or by saying ‘we believe in making information beautiful, intelligent and unique’. Which piques your interest more? And which can you see yourself being more likely to subscribe to?

In the video (and his book), Simon suggests that Martin Luther King wouldn’t have been half as successful had he started his speech ‘I have a plan’.

It works in more conventional leadership situations too. If you tell people what to do but not why, then they will be unable to improvise or come up with creative solutions, and you’ll find that you face much more resistance. Trusting people to know why what they are doing is important, will not only empower them but also get them on your side and allow them to work towards the main goal rather than being bogged down with details.

The take home message at the end of Simon’s speech was that people don’t buy ‘what you do’, so much as they buy ‘why you do it’. If you can communicate why you do what you do, and why you believe in what you do, then that is how you can inspire people. And to do that, you need to do some self-examination to find out what it really is that motivates you and what you really want to achieve. Your passion will do the rest…

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