top of page

The key points of 'Who Not How: The Formula to Achieve Bigger Goals Through Accelerating Teamwork By Dan Sullivan

Dan Sullivan's 'Who Not How: The Formula to Achieve Bigger Goals Through Accelerating Teamwork' presents a transformative approach to achieving goals not by asking 'how' but by focusing on 'who'. This method encourages leaders to shift from a do-it-yourself mindset to one that leverages the strengths and capabilities of a team. The book outlines how to identify the right collaborators, delegate effectively, and create an environment that fosters growth and innovation. Here are the key points distilled from the book that encapsulate its core principles and strategies.

Key Takeaways

  • Embrace the 'Who Not How' philosophy by recognizing the limitations of a 'how-centric' approach and the benefits of leveraging others' expertise to achieve goals more efficiently.

  • Identify and select the right team members by assessing their skills and strengths, and build a foundation of trust to ensure successful collaboration.

  • Master the art of delegation through clear outcome definition, establishing effective communication channels, and fostering a sense of accountability among team members.

  • Cultivate a collaborative team culture that encourages innovation and creativity, and understand the critical role of leadership in nurturing a growth-oriented environment.

  • Measure success by setting clear progress metrics, learning from both setbacks and successes, and scale the 'Who Not How' approach across the entire organization for larger impact.

Understanding the 'Who Not How' Philosophy

The Limitations of a 'How-centric' Approach

A 'How-centric' approach often leads individuals to become mired in the minutiae of tasks, losing sight of the larger goal. This focus on the 'how' can result in a narrow vision, where the possibilities for innovation and leveraging others' strengths are overlooked. It's a mindset that prioritizes personal capability over collaborative potential.

Collaboration is key to transcending these limitations. By asking 'who' instead of 'how', we open ourselves to the resources and expertise that others can bring to the table. This shift is not just about delegating tasks, but about creating a synergy where the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

Identifying the right 'whos' involves assessing not just skills and strengths, but also how well team members align with the organizational culture and goals. It's a strategic approach that can lead to more effective and efficient achievement of objectives.

The Power of 'Who' in Achieving Goals

The 'Who Not How' philosophy pivots on the understanding that knowing the right people to involve in your projects is often more critical than figuring out how to do something yourself. By focusing on who can help you, you leverage the collective expertise and capabilities of a team, rather than being limited by your individual skill set.

  • Identifying complementary skills

  • Aligning with individuals who share your vision

  • Creating a synergy that propels the project forward

This strategy not only accelerates progress but also fosters a more dynamic and innovative approach to problem-solving. It's about creating a network of talent that can collectively address challenges more efficiently and effectively than one could alone.

Shifting Mindsets from Individual to Team Success

The transition from an individualistic approach to a team-oriented mindset is pivotal in harnessing the full potential of the 'Who Not How' philosophy. Collaboration becomes the cornerstone of success, as each member contributes their unique strengths towards a common goal. Embracing this shift requires a conscious effort to value the collective over the individual.

Trust and open communication are the bedrocks of this transformation. A team that communicates effectively can synchronize their efforts, leading to enhanced productivity and innovation. Here are some key steps to facilitate this mindset shift:

  • Recognize and celebrate team achievements.

  • Encourage the sharing of ideas and constructive feedback.

  • Provide opportunities for team members to lead and grow.

Ultimately, the shift to team success is not just about achieving goals more efficiently; it's about building a sustainable model where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This paradigm shift can lead to a more fulfilling work experience for all involved.

Identifying the Right 'Whos' for Your Goals

The Importance of Team Selection

Selecting the right team is crucial for the success of any project. The composition of a team can make or break the project's outcome. It's essential to identify individuals whose skills and values align with the project's goals. A well-chosen team brings diverse perspectives and expertise, which can lead to innovative solutions and a competitive edge.

  • Assess individual strengths and weaknesses

  • Consider the team's overall balance

  • Look for complementary skills

  • Evaluate cultural fit within the team

In the context of 'Who Not How', the importance of team selection extends beyond mere qualifications. It involves a deeper understanding of each member's intrinsic motivations and their potential to contribute to the team's vision. Reflection journal, self-reflection, and discussing with others are instrumental in this process. 'Find Your Why' is a concept that resonates well here, as it emphasizes the need to align one's 'why' with their actions for both success and fulfillment.

Assessing Skills and Strengths

Identifying the right individuals for your team involves a keen assessment of their skills and strengths. The goal is to align each team member's unique abilities with the tasks at hand, ensuring that the right person is in the right role. This not only maximizes efficiency but also fosters job satisfaction and personal growth.

Skills and strengths can be categorized in various ways, such as technical expertise, problem-solving abilities, and interpersonal skills. A structured approach to assessment might include:

  • Reviewing past performance and work experiences

  • Conducting skills assessments or tests

  • Holding interviews to understand personal goals and motivations

By carefully evaluating the skills and strengths of potential team members, leaders can create a dynamic and capable team poised for success. This process is not just about filling roles but about creating a synergy where the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

Building Relationships and Trust

At the core of any successful team is the foundation of strong relationships and trust. Trust is the glue that holds a team together, enabling members to work effectively towards a common goal. It's essential to discover passions and define purpose within the team to ensure that everyone is aligned with the team's values and objectives.

  • Reflect on individual and team strengths.

  • Experiment with different collaboration methods.

  • Engage in open and honest communication.

By articulating values and fostering a sense of legacy and purpose, leaders can communicate a clear vision that aligns and unifies the team. This alignment is crucial for team success and can be reinforced through regular team-building activities and transparent communication strategies.

Strategies for Effective Delegation

Defining Clear Outcomes

In the journey of delegation, defining clear outcomes is the cornerstone of success. It's not just about assigning tasks; it's about articulating the end goal with precision. This clarity enables team members to understand the vision and direction, ensuring that everyone is aligned and moving towards the same target.

  • Establish the desired end result for each project or task.

  • Break down the larger goal into manageable milestones.

  • Communicate expectations and success criteria clearly to all involved parties.

When outcomes are well-defined, it reduces ambiguity and increases the likelihood of achieving the desired results. It's essential for leaders to not only communicate these outcomes but also to be open to feedback and adjustments as the project progresses.

Communication and Feedback Loops

Effective delegation is not complete without establishing robust communication and feedback loops. These loops ensure that information flows seamlessly between team members and leaders, fostering a transparent environment where everyone is aligned on goals and expectations.

Communication is the lifeline of any project. To facilitate this, regular check-ins and updates should be scheduled. This can take the form of daily stand-ups, weekly meetings, or real-time messaging platforms, depending on the team's needs. The key is consistency and clarity.

  • Encourage open dialogue

  • Provide timely feedback

  • Address issues proactively

  • Celebrate milestones

By nurturing these loops, teams can adapt quickly to changes, refine strategies, and maintain momentum towards achieving their goals. It's not just about checking in; it's about building a responsive and adaptive team dynamic.

Empowering Team Members and Accountability

To truly empower team members, it's essential to entrust them with decision-making authority. This not only fosters a sense of ownership but also encourages individuals to fully engage with their work. Prioritize team happiness to ensure long-term success; a motivated team is more productive and innovative.

Set aspirational goals that are grounded with achievable targets. This balance promotes sustained growth and keeps the team aligned and focused. Accountability is key in this process, as it ensures that everyone is responsible for their contributions and understands the impact of their work on the overall objectives.

Remember, the journey towards achieving goals is as important as the outcome. Celebrate milestones and learn from each step to continuously improve and strengthen the team dynamic.

Fostering a Collaborative Team Culture

Encouraging Innovation and Creativity

In the pursuit of fostering a collaborative team culture, it is essential to encourage innovation and creativity. This involves creating an environment where team members feel safe to express their ideas and take calculated risks. A culture that embraces failure as a stepping stone to innovation is crucial, as it allows individuals to learn and grow without the fear of repercussions.

Trust and open communication are the bedrock of such an environment. When team members believe in the reliability, truth, and ability of each other, they are more likely to share diverse perspectives and collaborate effectively. Below is a list of key elements to nurture creativity in organizations:

  • Open communication

  • Diverse perspectives

  • Embracing failure

  • Addressing hidden obstacles

The Role of Leadership in Team Dynamics

Leadership plays a pivotal role in shaping the dynamics of a team. Effective leaders are not just managers of tasks but catalysts for cohesion and collaboration. They have the unique responsibility of steering the team towards a shared vision while fostering an environment where each member feels valued and understood.

  • Discover passions, define purpose, align team values.

  • Reflect, experiment, engage.

  • Small actions aligned with purpose lead to growth and success.

Leaders must ensure that communication channels remain open and effective, promoting a culture where feedback is not only accepted but encouraged. This openness leads to a unified team that can navigate challenges with resilience.

Maintaining a Growth-Oriented Environment

To sustain a growth-oriented environment, it is crucial to embrace a culture of learning and innovation. Organizations should encourage feedback loops, a growth mindset, and experimentation. This approach allows teams to take calculated risks and view challenges as opportunities for development.

  • Encourage team members to share their experiences and lessons learned.

  • Promote continuous personal and professional development.

  • Recognize and celebrate both small and large successes.

Tracking progress and adapting strategies are essential for maintaining momentum. It's not just about setting goals but also about creating a supportive atmosphere where team members are motivated to pursue excellence and innovation.

Measuring Success and Scaling Your Efforts

Setting and Tracking Progress Metrics

In the journey towards achieving bigger goals, setting and tracking progress metrics is crucial. It provides a clear view of where the team stands and what needs to be done to reach the desired outcomes. Metrics should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

  • Define clear metrics that align with your goals

  • Regularly review progress to adjust strategies

  • Celebrate milestones to maintain motivation

Effective tracking involves not just the collection of data, but also its analysis and interpretation. This allows for informed decision-making and strategic pivots that can accelerate progress towards goals. The principles outlined in 'Accelerate' by Nicole Forsgren PhD, such as continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) and modern technology practices, can be integrated into the metrics system to enhance performance.

Learning from Setbacks and Successes

In the journey of achieving our goals, setbacks are not just inevitable; they are valuable learning opportunities. Embrace growth by analyzing what went wrong and why. This reflection turns mistakes into stepping stones for future success.

Persistence is key when learning from both setbacks and successes. It's important to document the lessons learned in a structured way to ensure they are not forgotten and are applied in the future. Here's a simple list to guide the process:

  • Identify the setback or success.

  • Analyze the factors that contributed to the outcome.

  • Determine what can be done differently next time.

  • Implement changes and monitor the results.

Finally, remember that success requires hard work and a willingness to learn continuously. Set goals that challenge your team, but also ensure that you have the right systems in place to track progress and adapt as needed.

Expanding the 'Who Not How' Approach Across the Organization

Once the 'Who Not How' philosophy proves successful within smaller teams or projects, it's time to consider its broader application. Scaling this mindset across an entire organization can lead to a transformative shift in how goals are pursued and achieved. To do this effectively, a strategic plan must be in place.

  • Identify departments or teams that could benefit from the 'Who Not How' approach.

  • Develop training programs to instill the philosophy across various levels of the organization.

  • Establish champions within the organization who embody and promote the 'Who Not How' mindset.

It's crucial to monitor the impact of this expansion through regular reviews and adjustments. This ensures that the philosophy is not only adopted but also adapted to the unique needs of different areas within the organization.


In conclusion, 'Who Not How: The Formula to Achieve Bigger Goals Through Accelerating Teamwork' by Dan Sullivan is a transformative book that challenges conventional wisdom on personal and professional achievement. It emphasizes the importance of focusing on 'who' can help you achieve your goals rather than getting bogged down by the 'how'. By leveraging the strengths and expertise of others, individuals and organizations can accelerate their progress and achieve greater success. This approach fosters collaboration, delegation, and strategic partnerships, which are essential in today's fast-paced and interconnected world. The principles outlined in the book are not only practical but also scalable, making them applicable to a wide range of scenarios, from individual endeavors to large-scale corporate projects. Embracing the 'Who Not How' philosophy can lead to more significant accomplishments, personal growth, and a more profound sense of fulfillment in both work and life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the 'Who Not How' philosophy?

The 'Who Not How' philosophy, introduced by Dan Sullivan, emphasizes the importance of focusing on who can help you achieve your goals rather than how you will achieve them yourself. It's about leveraging teamwork and finding the right people with the skills and strengths to accomplish tasks more effectively and efficiently.

Why is a 'How-centric' approach considered limited?

A 'How-centric' approach is limited because it relies solely on an individual's knowledge and capabilities, which can lead to burnout and stagnation. It overlooks the power of collaboration and the collective intelligence of a team, which can unlock greater potential and achieve bigger goals.

How do you identify the right 'Whos' for your goals?

Identifying the right 'Whos' involves assessing the skills and strengths of potential team members, ensuring they align with the goals you want to achieve. It also includes building relationships and trust to ensure a strong, cohesive team.

What are some strategies for effective delegation?

Effective delegation involves defining clear outcomes for tasks, establishing open communication and feedback loops, and empowering team members by holding them accountable for their responsibilities. It's about giving team members the autonomy to execute tasks while ensuring alignment with the overall objectives.

How can a collaborative team culture be fostered?

Fostering a collaborative team culture requires encouraging innovation and creativity, supporting the role of leadership in shaping team dynamics, and maintaining a growth-oriented environment where team members feel valued and motivated to contribute.

How do you measure success and scale the 'Who Not How' approach?

Measuring success involves setting and tracking progress metrics to evaluate performance. Learning from both setbacks and successes is crucial for continuous improvement. Scaling the 'Who Not How' approach across the organization can be achieved by expanding the mindset and practices to other teams and departments.

Related Posts

See All

The key points of 'SPIN Selling By Neil Rackham

The 'SPIN Selling' methodology, developed by Neil Rackham, is a revolutionary sales technique that has transformed the way professionals approach the selling process. This approach emphasizes the impo


bottom of page