The Power of “Why?”


Too often leaders feel pressure to behave like they have all the answers; we know we don’t; we even know we shouldn’t act that way.  Giving all the answers creates lazy followers.  Effective team players want to contribute, and inviting them to engage in answers is foundational to their development and satisfaction.  Sharing and asking for the reasoning behind ideas, tasks, responses, and behaviors can unlock powerful information, lower barriers, and create connections between people.  Try exploring the why! Make it a habit!

Welcome the “Why?”

At least don’t resist it!  Ever wanted to cover your ears after a few hours of that question from a child?  We can feel that same way when co-workers ask us why we are doing or proposing something.  Often our insecurity makes us feel like they are questioning our solution; they may be; maybe they should be; get over it and answer; be willing to discover better solutions.  When the irritation of their query becomes a frustration, figure out their motivation and address it: often, it uncovers a need for formal learning, a key gap in understanding, or a distrust in some aspect of the process or people involved.

A Key to Learning

Almost every adult learns better if they understand the whys of the information they are asked to learn: why you are sharing it, why it works, why they should use it, why other people don’t use it, etc.  If we want people to remember, they need the why!  Give it as often as is reasonable.

5 Whys

This activity may have started as a statistical driver, but it has evolved for many of us into a self-reflection technique that can reveal as clearly as a mirror.  Ask yourself why you do a specific action or feel a specific way [1]; explore the answer to that first question by asking why that is the answer [2]; after each subsequent answer, continue to ask yourself why that is the answer until you’ve asked “why?” 5 times: five levels of inquiry about your motivations or feelings or reasons.  Of course its power is in your honesty, whether you like the answers or not.

Work like Grapes

The habit, invitation, ability and safety of asking “Why?” in groups augments their productivity.  It can be described like the difference between working like marbles or grapes: if you shake up or mash a bag of marbles, you get scratches and a few chips and the marbles are no longer as useful as they were individually; if you shake or mash a bag of grapes, you may get mush that doesn’t distinguish the individual grapes, but that mush can be converted into some great products!  Asking “Why?” is one way to work like grapes: teams that ask for reasons and motives may feel messy, but healthy inquiry identifies issues early, opens creative thinking and produces results.  Explore the power!

The Inspirational “Why?”

Simon Sinek’s concept of The Golden Circle is powerful for anyone who influences others.  If you aren’t familiar with it, you should be… it’s been over half a decade since he shared it.  Make the 20 minutes it takes to get acquainted.

Communication is both tricky and complex.  Explore principles that can help your team establish better communication in any direction or in specific situations; let us help you build the solution that is right for you.  Why?  Because we are passionate about helping people work together to create their shared success!

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