Understand Your Why to Aid Value Alignment on a Team

 In Coaching Calls, Podcast, Professional Development

Learn the importance of understanding your why in any organization with Peter Berardi, a former U.S. Navy SEAL, as the first step in aiding value alignment on a team.

Key Takeaways

  • The key in organizations is for each person to understand their own “why,” to better engage in the type of self-awareness that leads to a more positive overall impact.
  • Understanding your “why” provides solid direction and focus to establish a more linear approach to progress – and bring people onboard to share ideas.
  • When you lead with your core value by understanding your “why,” it creates positivity that influences others and can grow exponentially – while also establishing value alignment on a team.

Understand Your Why to Aid Value Alignment on a Team
John Evans Jr., Ed.D.
Peter Berardi, former U.S. Navy SEAL


John Evans: Hi, I’m John Evans. Welcome. I have the great fortune of sitting with Officer Peter Berardi. Peter Berardi has spent 23 years in the U.S. Navy SEALs. Officer Berardi has too many decorations and awards for me to recognize in this sitting right now. He is also a Ph.D. as an adjunct professor at the University of South Florida. What I love about Pete, and I think what you’re going to really enjoy and find valuable, he’s extremely disarming, he’s an American patriot that is incredibly disarming. He’s going to talk a little bit, I hope, about his experiences on 9/11 and why he did what he did up in New York. Pete, welcome, I’m glad to have you here.

Officer Peter Berardi: Thank you, John. It’s good to be here.

Evans: And I want to talk about why it’s important to know one’s why. In other words, we’ve talked a little bit about a study from Cornell University showing in any organization, family, government, business, self-awareness is key. Self-awareness leads to more positive impact. Why is that so, Pete?

Berardi: You know, if you don’t know why you’re doing something, you’re going to go off in different directions. You’re not going to, you’re going to lose an economy of effort, you’re going to lose focus and you’re not going to be very resilient in the things you’re trying to get done. You’re not going to be able to give the greatest level of impact on other people that you might otherwise give. But if you know why you’re doing something, and that why is based on positive attributes, core values, then you can put so much more energy in that direction and focus. And it will also, you know, protect you from making bad decisions if you know your why. Because why are you going to waste your time making decisions that aren’t relevant to your effort or what’s important to you or the reason why you’re doing something? So it gives you a really solid direction and focus and makes it really more linear. And when you have that lineality, you can really progress and bring other people onboard, too, and share your ideas. So knowing your why gives you so much strength in your efforts, and that’s exciting. Because if you don’t know your why, how can discuss anything with anybody about getting to an objective and sharing your vision? “Why?” “Uh, I don’t know.” Or, if it’s negative, “Eh, well.” You’re not going to get that, that dynamite impact that you really want to get.

Evans: Yes, and I know you’ve been in conversation with Simon Sinek and I want to give him a lot of credit for the pioneering work he’s done on this topic here. I also want to acknowledge my mentor, Dr. Jim Loehr at the Human Performance Institute. Look, we all know what we do in life.

Berardi: Sure.

Evans: We all know how we do it. But when we get clarity on our why, things can get potentially nuclear. But the topic I want to explore with you today is, one is how do we get to, get clarity on what our why is? Also, I want to talk about the difference between negative whys, what I characterize as “me” whys, versus positive whys, or “we” whys. And the negative whys, you have to think first, the example comes to mind is, you know, the great quarterback for the New England Patriots, Tom Brady, right. He was drafted what, 199 out of the University of Michigan?

Berardi: He was a low man on totem pole.

Evans: And he talks about how, “Hey man, I’m going to show the world. You draft me 199, this is what you get.” And that’s a me why.

Berardi: Yes, it sure is.

Evans: Now, it’s powerful. It’s useful. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, right Pete?

Berardi: Absolutely. I remember when I was applying to the SEAL teams, I wanted to get into BUD/S, I wanted to get to become a Navy SEAL and I was focused on it. But unfortunately, it’s very competitive and my grades weren’t the best. I was physically fit, but I had four recruiters tell me, “Hey you know, you’re not really what we’re looking for. I don’t think you’re going to be up for it. Maybe you should try being something else.” And I said, “No.” And I worked my ass off, excuse me, but I really put my effort into the job I had. I excelled at that job. I demonstrated that I could do things. “Don’t tell me no” was my attitude.

Evans: Don’t tell me no.

Berardi: “Don’t tell me no. Don’t tell me I can’t do something when I know I can do it,” and that was my negative why, which led to positive events in the future because I ultimately got accepted into the program and progressed through my career, which was awesome. So Tom Brady, “Hey, don’t tell me what … 170-something. Are you kidding me? You should have drafted me first. 199?

Evans: Yes.

Berardi: I should have been number one and I’ll show you how.

Evans: Right.

Berardi: So that can, that negative why can really stoke the flames.

Evans: Yes, to get the fire going.

Berardi: To motivate you and use it as maybe a reference point or whatnot, but push you forward.

Evans: Yes.

Berardi: But you know, he stuck to his core values, he accelerated in the game and he was able to share all the positive stuff he had and has had an impact on thousands and thousands of people at different levels.

Evans: And you said two key words there – core values.

Berardi: Yes.

Evans: Let’s talk about your core values when you were in New York, that historic, that awful day, 9/11.

Berardi: Sure.

Evans: You volunteered, you went in and you looked for bodies, for people.

Berardi: Well …

Evans: Why did you do that?

Berardi: You know, it’s just something that drives you and a lot of my, a lot of people, they’re moved to something. They hear something they’ve got to go see what’s going on. They’ve got to get involved. They have to make a difference. I just, you know, I’m from New York. I had friends up there. I’ve got friends that were firemen and I just, there was just no way I couldn’t. There was just something…

Evans: There’s no way you couldn’t do it.

Berardi: No, no way because that truly was a core value to get out there and help out and try and make a difference and find people and just be there because I couldn’t just stand there.

Evans: Yes.

Berardi: I mean how do you just stand there and let someone else take care of business?

Evans: So you were informed. You were acting out your core values here.

Berardi: And it was fluid. There was no decision point on it.

Evans: Interesting.

Berardi: You’re just moving with it. There are no decision points. Like you’re going through the door, you’re going through the door. You don’t, there’s no thinking. You just do.

Evans: Tell the listeners about the sigh, if you would.

Berardi: Well, the sigh. Well, you know, me along with thousands of other first responders who were up there and were on top of this rubble field. It’s acres and acres and acres of just rebar, cement, machinery, thousands of people, thousands of pieces of machinery. The cacophony, the decibel level was out the yazoo and everybody’s looking for a survivor, any survivor. And they had the dogs walking around, the cadaver dogs and the survivor dogs and all of a sudden, there would be a signal, dog got a hit. There might be someone alive here. And in a moment, there’s complete silence. You could hear a pin drop. Imagine that, in New York City on a huge pad, acres and acres, thousands of people, silence. You could hear a pin drop. Everybody’s waiting, leaning forward. Is something good going to happen? And then ultimately, because we never found any survivors, it would be a deceased person. And the sigh, it was a collective sigh of 1,000 people, “Oh” – like the wave in an arena. And it was just the sigh that penetrated your soul. It was amazing because everybody, “Oh … no,” and the disappointment. It was terrible.

Evans: I’ll tell you, giving me goose bumps right now recounting that story.

Berardi: You know what happened? Here’s where you get slapped in the face again because five seconds later, you’d hear a hammer start, “Tat, tat, tat, tat,” and then another, “Tat, tat, tat, tat.”

Evans: Hope.

Berardi: Well hope, looking for more people. “Tat, tat, tat, tat,” get back to the job. “Tat, tat, tat, tat, tat, tat, tat,” and then, within 10 seconds, that cacophony jacked right back up again. It was loud as can be, everybody looking. You know, so … “All right, move on. Let’s keep looking.”

Evans: I hear that as hope.

Berardi: Hope, absolutely, which is a core value as well.

Evans: Yes, yes.

Berardi: You know.

Evans: Hope, not just hope like wishing, ephemeral wishing like hope with a plan. You had a plan when you were going through the rubble.

Berardi: Sure.

Evans: You guys were back to it.

Berardi: Absolutely.

Evans: You were resilient and you got back on it and this reflects purpose beyond self. You know, that collective sigh is incredibly animating. Is it not?

Berardi: It was.

Evans: It’s more so than just, “I’ll show you my me why. I’m going to do this, xyz in life.” This is, you were in a we situation.

Berardi: Everybody had the same line, “Why are we doing this?” “Because we have to.” We want to find someone.” Talk about a shared vision and a disconnected shared vision because there are people from all over the country. After a few days, people were coming in from everywhere but they were focused. And you want to talk about making a team work together, if you can have a shared vision like that, well maybe not like that, but you know that everybody is, their values are in alignment and they’re focused on a shared vision, you know what was cool about that? No matter who I was out there with, in that particular scenario, we had such value alignment on what we were trying to achieve.

Evans: Value alignment.

Berardi: Yes, it was so tight because everybody, doesn’t care where you were from, what you were doing, when your values at that point were hard work, find people, keep focused, get the job done. You know, just go there, go there. It was a strong direction. I could stop working and I knew those other guys were going to keep working towards the same goal. And can you imagine, if you could, that and put it into your business or your advisor group?

Evans: OK, stop, Pete.

Berardi: Sure.

Evans: Officer Pete, stop. Stop for a second, please. Sir, how do we do that? OK, I’m in a family, I’m in a business, I’m at my church, my synagogue. I’m looking for a value alignment, right.

Berardi: Right.

Evans: What is the imperative? What’s the one thing that must happen to get that collective why in motion?

Berardi: You’ve got to find out what people’s core values are. Now, you talked about in your article in Barron’s about being honest with yourself and asking yourself, “Why am I doing this?”

Evans: A painful thing?

Berardi: Right. Exactly. So what were the steps you put inside of that? Because those are the same steps.

Evans: Yes, we have to stop and pause and reflect. Adults have to take time to reflect as to why they’re doing what they’re doing and then get feedback from people that they know, that you know, have your best interests at hand. And questions should be posed; these are healthy rebukes here, “Are you in line with your ultimate mission? Do you have clarity on that why? Is that purpose beyond self?” And, “Are you acting that way?” or “Are you not?”

Your behavior defines who you are and your behavior tells you and tells other people what your values are. And it’s very descriptive. So when you’re looking at your team, you’ve got to look at the behavior of your teammates. What are they doing? Where are they focused? Where are they putting their energy? Are they balanced? And when you see someone who’s balanced and how their behavior, where they’re going and they demonstrate their values, then you know where your alignment is. And the greater that alignment, the more cohesive your organization is going to be. If you think of a Venn diagram, you’ve got two circles, the person’s values and your organization values, the tighter those circles become, that intersection, that’s your organizational culture. And when you have an organizational culture such that maybe you only see, you know, almost one circle, well the greater that intersection, the tighter everyone’s going to be. The higher the amount of trust is going to be established within that organization. And with that trust, which is the most important ingredient in any relationship, whether it’s with your spouse, your business partner or within your organization, you’ve got to have that trust. Well with that trust comes creativity, fear goes out the window, anxiety goes out the window, stress goes out the window, people feel free to express new ideas. With those new ideas, you’ve got innovation, you’ve got new ways of doing business and then all of a sudden, well not all of a sudden hopefully, but your stakeholders, they say, “Wow, I like their innovation. I like their creativity,” and you become relevant into the future.

Berardi: Yes. And that’s the culture that you want to have in your organization.

Evans: Now Peter Berardi, you are the author of a couple of publications here. Examining the Relationship between Emotional Intelligence and Authentic Leadership in Naval Special Warfare Leadership. Moreover, you wrote The Path: Achieving Full Potential through Self-Knowledge. I want to bring us back here for the balance of the show to talk about this self-knowledge and self-awareness and getting clarity on why you’re doing what you’re doing. I have a quick story I want to share with our listeners.
Berardi: Absolutely.

Evans: So coaching advisor, all right, he brings his wife and his two daughters, 7 and 9, to the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago, Illinois, right? The daughter gets out of the, they get out of the car on a Thursday. The daughter, the 9-year-old, says to bellman A, to a bellman, “We’re here for the Celine Dion concert coming up on Saturday.” Remember, this is Thursday, Pete. So Thursday elapses, Friday goes by, now it’s Saturday at 3:00. Knock on the door at the hotel. A different bellman, bellman B, announces, “Hi, hope you guys are having a great time. I know you’re looking forward to the show tonight. I just asked Celine Dion if it would be OK for you all come down and hang out with her as she warms up on the piano here at the hotel before the show. Would that be OK?” I mean, wow, are you kidding me? So my argument is to our business listeners right now is when you’re dialed into your why and your purpose beyond self, you can’t help but to create tremendous client experiences. You can’t not. You said the expression, the double negative. You can’t not deliver an extraordinary client experience. And I’ll tell you, Warren Buffett recently said it, remember he’s talking to the Small Business Association in Washington, D.C., he said, “The number one thing going forward in the commoditized world is client experience.” And I say to you, Officer Pete, it starts with the team members’ knowledge, self-knowledge like you write about, about why. Talk to me about those bellmen.

Berardi: Boy, there’s so much going on there. That bellman took it to another level. And a level that if everybody in your organization were to take, the experiences would be, the joy would be, the joy of that experience would be exponential and it carries on. What that bellman did to that young lady was make her, well, feel relevant for sure. “Who is this guy? And he knows me. Wow. He’s got this great opportunity for me to take advantage of. Wow. What an amazing, happy day.” That bellman one, he was representing the hotel and the values of the hotel. So now the client says, “You know what, this organization really makes a difference to me because their values are exactly what I’m looking for and I’ll go back to them again and again.”

Evans: Right. And they’re going to tell stories. Those clients are going to tell stories about their experience.

Berardi: Absolutely. “I want to experience that, too.” Then, the bellman, he ups his game because he didn’t have to put that effort into potentially getting rejected by the Dion management, you know, “Private, we’ve got to focus.” So he risked that rejection.

Evans: There’s vulnerability there.

Berardi: He was vulnerable, as you said earlier. He got the OK, and then he brought it to the girl and the family and brought them such joy. So what was even cooler about that was he did it because his core values said, “You know what, I want to do something beyond what’s regular. I don’t want to, I’m not going to deal with the standard here, I want to take it to the next level because we’re above regular standards.”

Evans: As a Navy SEAL, you can appreciate that standard.

Berardi: Sure, yes, absolutely.

Evans: And also understand that you know, in the spirit of our friend Simon Sinek, the what and the how, right. The bellman, what do they do? The bellmen say, “Hi, welcome to the hotel.”

Berardi: Right, and it could end right there.

Evans: And it could be any hotel they do this. “Welcome to the hotel.” They grab the bag and they take it up. How do they do it? Well, they say, “Hi,” and they say, “Welcome,” and they grab the bag. So the what and the how are terribly unexciting.

Berardi: Yes.

Evans: But when we get into the why, and this strikes me coming full circle, as the positive why. This is not a, I don’t think this is a negative why.

Berardi: Put this flavor on it. You know, he put flavor on the whole event.

Evans: He did.

Berardi: Because it could have been very generic. “Thank you for the bag,” dropped it off.

Evans: Right, could have been doing his job. And that, maybe that’s even operational excellence, but that’s not good enough.

Berardi: It’s not. You know, a lot of people, because that’s a standard. You expect excellence. That’s why they pay for the five-star hotels. But when they deliver above and beyond, it’s a “WOW.” I mean you talked about the WOW in your writings and in your other work and that’s so relevant. And what’s really cool about that is that there’s an exponential affect here because not only did he share the happy experience with the family, but Celine Dion and her management, they were able to share joy because they knew they were doing something wonderful for a family and a young lady. So how good did that make them feel? And it wasn’t you know, a nuisance, because they could have said no.

Evans: Yes.

Berardi: So there’s that as well, so it just spreads.

Evans: It spreads. It scales.

Berardi: Yes and when you operate with your core values and you’re positive, you become a sphere of influence that is just, it grows exponentially.

Evans: OK, but to be very prescriptive for our listeners.

Berardi: Sure, yes.

Evans: We’re not saying get rid of the negative why.

Berardi: No, because they can really motivate you.

Evans: They can motivate you.

Berardi: Reference points.

Evans: That keeps us rolling, baby.

Berardi: Yes. And you make a difference in everybody’s lives that way.

Evans: I hope so. That’s the aspiration.

Berardi: There’s the impact.

Evans: That’s the aspiration. Tell us, tell the listeners how do you get clarity? I know you like to, reflection is so important.

Berardi: Self-reflecting is, you need to just be as you said in your Barron’s article, you’ve got to be honest with yourself and you’ve got to say, “Does this matter?”

Evans: You don’t write things down on your reflections, like about your why. You tend to …

Berardi: I get in the car, because I do, I drive you know, quite a bit. I turn the radio off. I love to listen to news and the radio, etc., but if I turn that radio off, I’m just thinking. I’m seeing and I’m thinking and it just, you’re talking with that inner voice in your head. And you know, as you said, with that voice, you can be completely honest because there’s just you and your head. There are no facades. Why are you really doing this? What’s the long-term impact? Can I look over my shoulder a few years from now and say, “Did I make the right decision? Am I doing this for the right reason?” And if you are, it’s a good decision. If they line up with your values and they will, that will drive you forward.

Evans: And you have a why with your relationship with your father. You know, there are certain things you wanted to make sure that you passed on to your kids.

Berardi: Absolutely. My Dad, I loved my Dad dearly. You know, when he passed away, I was standing right next to him. I wanted to die with him because I loved being with my Dad. But my Dad didn’t always make the right decisions in life and a lot of times, he directed his energy in things that he really should not have. And as a kid growing up and Dad’s not around, and you find out it was because of things he shouldn’t have been doing or whatnot or because he’s just not there. You’re like, “Wow.” I felt terrible. And I don’t want my kids to ever grow up to have that same feeling to know, my Dad … your Dad’s making decisions based on something that really isn’t the right way of doing business.

Evans: That’s Dad, Pete, that’s your modus operandi right there.

Berardi: With my kids, absolutely. You know why? Because it really takes away from, and this is key, the relevance that people have. With my Dad’s actions, I didn’t really feel relevant. And I never want my kids to feel that they’re not relevant to me and important in my life. And if you say, “Hey, family’s important,” but you spend all your weekends playing golf or being with the guys or watching the game all day long, and your kids are out by themselves and you’re not engaged with them at some level and you’re out of balance, and they’re going to grow up thinking, “You know, my parents loved me but you know, they loved other things, too.”

Evans: Yes.

Berardi: Which is fine, but you’ve got to have balance.

Evans: Got to have balance. So I’m also hearing self-reflection, this is what you have here, prescriptive.

Berardi: Right.

Evans: Self, what works for you as a person to reflect. I’m driving a car, maybe it’s paddling on a kayak, and maybe it’s doing yoga, but getting that self-reflection. Then I’m going to add to that, Officer Pete, the importance of being rebuked, having a small group, an accountability group.

Berardi: Or a confidant.

Evans: A confidant, I think there’s some merit in shame. I think we. … But I saw you with Derek Tangeman. We sat down at our lunch prepping for this thing. You guys going back and forth from your BUD/S training. You guys keep each other accountable about life. It’s fun to watch that. I was a little bit of an outsider watching that.

Berardi: Absolutely.

Evans: There’s tremendous humor watching you guys go back and forth.

Berardi: Yes, yes.

Evans: It’s great stuff. I’ve got one other story. A mentor of mine is John Morgan, a very prominent trial attorney from Orlando. He was my basketball coach when I was 10 years old and I’ve known his brother, Thad and I go way back. And it’s just been a privilege to have him as an uncle in my life. And you know, he’ll tell his story, his why is so gripping. There’s vulnerability in it, Pete. He talks about how his brother got into an accident as a lifeguard for a major theme park company in Orlando and the brother lost his ability to walk. He’s in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. And John Morgan was so distraught by the way his brother was treated over the years shortly after that tragedy, he resolved never again is this going to happen to anybody else. And so he went to law school and that’s his why, his raison d’etre and you can feel it and he’ll tell stories. This is really an important thing that comes out of why are stories … I’m telling a story right now. He’ll tell you a story and you know what it is? It’s chock full of sincerity and you lean in. Yes, and you lean in.

Berardi: So maybe people should prescriptive wise, think about what their story is. What got them going. As you’re driving or doing whatever it is and you’re reflecting, what is it that got you going? Think about that. You know, write it down. Write it down. I think that’s huge.

Evans: Write it down, that’s huge.

Berardi: Write it down.

Evans: Can you put a ritual around that? A habit.

Berardi: Sure, yes.

Evans: You know, a habit to support that vision. We talk about it at Knowledge LabsTM, the idea of the, you and I have talked about the retirement party, five years from now, 10 years from now.

Berardi: Absolutely, yes.

Evans: Got to wind up right now. So the pain is almost over, listeners. The pain is almost over. We get back to that discovery of the self-awareness. Ben Franklin said it really well. He said, “There are three things that are hard in life.” Pete, he said, “Diamonds and steel and self-awareness.”

Berardi: Yes.

Evans: You’ve got to look at it.

Berardi: Be honest with it.

Evans: Be honest with it. You want to shoulder, square to the noise, but if you want to have a better family life, better business life, better community life, any organization in which you find yourselves, you’ve got to get clarity on that why. Tell that story.

Berardi: And strength to be balanced.

Evans: Strength to be balanced. Pete Berardi, thank you very much.

Berardi: John, thanks for having me. It’s been an honor to be here.

Evans: Thank you for your patriotism, and let’s go find Tangeman and give him a hard time. Challenge him.

Berardi: OK.

Evans: Bye bye, y’all.

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