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!

Find more of what you need by opening our BOX of BLOGS from 2017

Statistics Are More Than Numbers


We are each in charge of our own performance, so the very idea of ‘managing’ another person’s results takes either a belief in your own Svengali bloodline or an acknowledgement that you will put major energy into guiding, influencing and helping others.

The guiding is making sure your team understands the direction they should go; influencing them can get you their extra, largely discretionary, effort.  Helping others means that you have answers… or can get answers, that will help people evaluate their individual standing and that help will encourage them to improve or maintain that standing.  This post is about that helping aspect of managing others’ performance by measuring it wisely.

Use Analytics that Reflect Employee Competence

Be respectful about how much performance detail is shared with others; sharing should always celebrate their competence.   Never discipline by sharing performance publicly; this disrespect will demolish critically-needed trust.

To save employee time & tedious effort, choose to use accurate, system-produced data over employee-tracked details.  Make sure you can easily explain the link between their measured results and the company goals. If employees must be part of the analytics tracking, make sure they see how the benefit far outweighs their data-collecting investment.

Encourage employees to track high-level accomplishments for celebrations, and do not spend time verifying; discrepancies will surface if they are impactful to the morale of the team.  Never base compensation on employee-tracked data.

Make performance statistics logical and simple to understand.  Teaching employees to read their own performance reports will encourage most people to manage their own improvements.

These principles reflect successful resolutions to gaps Pepperbox Solutions has seen repeatedly as leaders try to measure results and hold people accountable for their performance.  Sometimes an outside eye can see both the forest and the trees!

The last blog and the next one also include ‘performance management’ skill tips.

Does Great Training = Great Results?


Maybe… maybe not: there are so many contributing factors beyond the classrooms, training methods or curricula.  Some of the most critical factors are contributed by effective leaders.  You’ve probably heard the list from multiple perspectives.  Here’s another viewpoint.

How Great Leaders Can Sabotage Training Efforts:

Don’t review or attend the training your team receives.

Don’t preview the training by sharing with your team what you expect them to gain.

Don’t partner to ensure curriculum designers understand your team’s performance objectives and current skill levels.

Don’t insist trainers take time to role play or practice new skills in a non-threatening environment.

Don’t systematically follow up to coach or confirm knowledge is transferred to skill application.

Don’t praise employee progression toward skill application.

Don’t track measures that encourage improvement of skills after training.

Don’t share how the training can benefit them now and in their future career paths.

Don’t bother to observe skill performance before holding people accountable for skilled results.

Don’t advocate to get the reference materials needed to support post-training sustainment.

Don’t adjust your language when reporting performance results to executives.

Don’t look ahead and plan for new skills needed within the next 12 months.

Most of these are necessary to see a return on the investment in training; if you don’t make them happen, who will?  Supervisors can prioritize the momentum that turns training into profit!  If you aren’t sure how to use your super powers, we’d love to help!

Motivating Beyond the 90 Day Honeymoon


You probably do a great job ensuring any new manager is set for success during the first quarter of their new job.  But as time passes you become busy with other priorities and begin to focus mostly on the results coming from your new manager’ team… very normal.  You also know your new person needs more than just the practical to-do realities to fuel their productivity and effectively meet challenges without your micro-direction: they need the energy that comes from growing.

Making that growth a part of on-boarding your new managers can lay a foundation that you will be able to build on for years with that leader.  It sets an accountability with you and gives them a vision they can drive without having you behind the wheel.

Set Them – and Yourself – Up For Success

Set 4-5 personal goals – Help them set 2 goals describing business accomplishments they must make in the next 6-12 months; make them goals they control totally.  (They’ll inherit plenty that they can’t control.)  Require 2 more goals focused on their using behaviors that will drive critical results; one goal should engage a strength they have demonstrated.  The other behavior goal should target specific personal development needs or adjustments aligned to their career growth.

Explore professional competencies – Setting a clear understanding of valued leadership skills provides a foundation on which to align other leaders in the culture, to build trust, and to set current and future development expectations for your new leader.  Within their first 90 days, document and discuss each core competency from multiple perspectives: how does your employee view their own experience with the skill; what application have you, as their boss, observed; and how necessary is that ability to their new role.

.Confirm core tools – Life comes at you fast when you are new to a leadership role; you need methods you can grab quickly and use effectively.  When asked, your new leader should be able to share the techniques they use in these situations: evaluating coaching needs; sharing and receiving feedback; leading conversations to gain commitment; managing their time, tasks and events; delegating successfully; conducting meetings; etc.  If you aren’t confident, keep a close eye and be ready to get them training on missing tools!

It doesn’t matter if a person is new to leadership or a tenured professional, their passion for a new opportunity burns longer when it’s fueled by a vision for personal fulfillment and growth.  If any of these concepts are new to you, Pepperbox Solutions is glad to share ideas and experience that can make your life simpler, your leaders stronger and your results greater!  Send us your questions or give us a call.

Give a Gift Worth Giving…4


People-development converts payroll costs to asset-investment

Post 4: As Eric split the workshop into groups to scribe and chart their perspectives on 4 self-assessments used to identify specific behavior and productivity styles, he encouraged leaders to use of a 3rd party to help select the best tools for their development needs.  “The best leaders effectively use an outsider’s perspective to help diagnose their own challenges.  It’s just human to have blind spots.”

CONFLICT CPP: Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument

Core Differences Assessed in this tool:
  • “Assesses an individual’s most habitually used conflict style.”
Personalized Results-Format available with this tool:
  • “Charts five styles on a matrix of assertiveness and cooperativeness: competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding, and accommodating.
  • “Encourages exploration of five conflict-handling styles and their effectiveness in specific situations.”
Business Application experienced with this tool:
  • “Removes you from the emotion so you can see how ineffective – or effective – your typical style is in different situations.”
  • “Great foundation for teams to examine and commit to new ways to approach recurring issues caused by differing priorities, perspectives or personalities.”
Hesitancies with using this tool:
  • “It is a useful foundation, but for group work, there has to be a shared willingness to resolve issues if deep or prolonged conflict has eroded trust.”

COMMUNICATION The Forté Institute: Communication Style Report

Core Differences Assessed in this tool:
  • “Compares the extremes of the assessor’s style of communication in the areas of dominance, extroversion, patience and conformity.”
Personalized Results-Format available with this tool:
  • “The tool formats the assessor’s perception of their usual communication profile”
  • “It also includes a profile reflecting how communication behaviors are being adapted to deal with current circumstances.”
  • “A 3rd profile charts how others are perceiving their communication currently and gives ideas on how they might be more effective.”
Business Application experienced with this tool:
  • “Great for a heads-up on how others may be impacted by my communication in the current atmosphere. Really helpful when pressure is high and you may be impacting others or your own career by your reactions.”
  • “I encourage leaders to use this tool during organizational change that is prolonged for several months because everyone steps into that ‘survival skin,’ and many of us have blind spots about how much our communication is altered during those long transitions.”
Hesitancies with using this tool:
  • “When evaluating ROI, it is important to realize that half the information is meant to convey current realities, which means the results are perishable.”
  • “Practitioners must be qualified to use it and there is a charge for updates, but it includes a variety of thought-provoking inputs beyond communication: current logic and stamina levels, and current goal-accomplishment index.”

INITIATION OF CHANGE MHS Assessments: Change Style Indicator

Core Differences Assessed in this tool:
  • “On a 132 point continuum, the tool ranks the assessor on how they prefer to initiate and work with change.”
Personalized Results-Format available with this tool:
  • “Defines 3 change-management styles on this continuum from Conserver to Originator with Pragmatist in between.”
  • “Materials are available to examine how each style approaches the creation of change and how each style responds when change is imposed on them.”
Business Application experienced with this tool:
  • “Sharing change-style perspectives of each leader on a team that is responsible to initiate or create change strengthens the collaboration of the group and the integrity of the proposed change.”
  • “Understanding how my change style was effecting others – especially those with styles far from mine on the continuum – literally kept me from sabotaging my career during our last acquisition.”
Hesitancies with using this tool:
  • “It is not the total solution to change management, but it does help to know where you can contribute during organizational change.”
  • “Practitioners must be qualified to use it, but the group discussions with a good facilitator can really make a difference in the value teams receive.”

PEOPLE DEVELOPMENT Ken Blanchard: Leader Behavior Analysis

Core Differences Assessed in this tool:
  • “Assesses multiple-choice responses chosen in 20 different leadership situations.”
Personalized Results-Format available with this tool:
  • “Score gives the most commonly used leadership style of the assessor.”
  • “Measures the degree to which the assessor flexes their leadership style to craft the need of different situations.”
Business Application experienced with this tool:
  • “Allows for the discussion of how effective specific leadership styles are in different situations.”
  • “Strengthens the application of leadership styles aligned to the employee’s skill-development needs.”
Hesitancies with using this tool:
  • “Requires attendance (and often travel) for a 2-day workshop to take the assessment, but it is of lifetime value for any leader responsible for performance improvement.”

Reality:  It is rare that any of us can effectively select the most appropriate solutions for our own teams.  It is a bit like shopping for prescription drugs from televised advertisements; you can certainly ask your physician about it, but the professionals, who have experience with both the ‘patient’ and the other options, diagnose with the most successful results.
But familiarity with these self-assessments can help leaders find the resources for diagnosed ‘gifts’ when their business value makes them ‘worth the giving.’

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Give a Gift Worth Giving…3


People-development converts payroll costs to asset-investment

Post 3: The group was beginning to talk about the value of budgeting these self-reflective experiences for their engaged teams and leaders….  The most common self-assessments experienced by the workshop participants* were 360° performance feedback tools.  The professional resources used to create these assessments were varied, but common discoveries and perspectives were collected.

Core Differences Assessed in 360 tools:
  • “These tools are most valuable when the behaviors assessed are aligned to performance expectations that are common to our company’s leaders.”
  • “The surveys are most accurately answered and understood when the questions are framed so participants respond to the frequency of an observed behavior. (Example: ‘I never see this person do this’…, occasionally, frequently, etc.).”
Personalized Results-Format available with 360 tools:
  • “The name ‘360 degree’ implies at least four directions of input: the results compare identified feedback [from the employee and their direct supervisor] beside feedback collected anonymously [from groups of direct reports and peers].”
  • “The best tools identify the areas that the respondents agree are strengths and specific areas that need work.”
  • “Some tools offer resources for capitalizing on strengths and developing challenge areas.”
Business Application of 360 tools:

The group agreed that application is as varied as the feedback, but they identified 3 critical points of failure when expecting ROI from the application of 360 results:

  1. Assessed employee should choose what parts of the feedback to share and discuss with others as their development opportunities; failing to allow this choice erodes trust and feels like punishment.
  2. Instruction and coaching on how to read, emotionally digest and share the results is critical for first time users; failing to address the personal and complex nature of the tool often causes overwhelmed and over-reactionary responses
  3. Investment value increases with a formal accountability process that ensures follow-up occurs for each assessed employee; failing to track the completion of discussions with directs, peers and boss diminishes the likelihood and quality of any personalized development plans.
Hesitancy voiced with 360 tools was too varied to capture because of the variety of developers.

For the discussion about self-assessment cards, Eric chose to divided the room so those who had experience using these values and interest tools could share and brainstorm applications with the majority who had not.

Core Differences Assessed in card tools:
  • “These tools allow individuals to assess quickly, and from many options, their personal priorities and preferences.”
  • “I would define Assessing Personal Values as finding the principles, standards, or behaviors one values enough to use as a guide to prioritizing their decisions.”
  • “We defined Assessing Career Options as identifying the atmosphere and work an individual most enjoys and feels they are good at doing.”
  • “We feel Assessing Interests is prioritizing the kinds of activities and experiences a person is most passionate about participating in.”
Personalized Results-Format offered with card tools:
  • “Card-stack activities can be completed with a literal deck or stack of cards, but on-line drag and drop options are also available.”
  • “Most card tools come with directions to go through the stack a few rounds to narrow the options, and then to simply document final decisions or commitments.”
  • “Card activities are often simple enough to be done in private before a session, allowing time to thoroughly consider priorities, but saving meeting-time for the final outputs from their discovery.”
Business Application of card tools:
  • “Giving an employee this development gift often delivers the message that, as a business leader, you want them to consider their own desires and goals as well as the business objectives they hear you speak of regularly.”
  • “Individual discussion about their interests and career options can be a great introduction or foundation to working on a customized development plan with an employee.”
  • “Voicing personal values or passions and the stories that fuel them can re-energize a tenured team or begin bonds between new teammates.”
Hesitancies voiced
  • “These activities can be frustrating for those seeking a statistical or even clear process for coming to these decisions.”
  • “When using this tool one-on-one, the cost is reasonable because I can re-use the deck.  But when I’ve had to purchase them for a group of leaders, it can get pricey, since many of them use the deck only a few times.”
  • “You really need to have a purpose for doing these, and you need to find a way to effectively bring the result back to the business.”
  • “Home-made decks downloaded from a website look, well… home-made, and online versions don’t give the same feeling that ‘we are all in a room quietly involved in self-discovery.’”

*All content in this blog series is based on user-perception.

Reality:  If BlessingWhite’s definition of engagement is realized only when an employee gives maximum contribution while they receive maximum satisfaction, how can we encourage their engagement if we don’t know what satisfies them? Some of the most valuable information a leader can collect is an employee’s vision for their personal journey.  It is amazing how many young employees have not reflected on themselves enough to know what motivates them or to know what is important to them.

 FOLLOW US & don’t miss the next PEPPERBOX blog: Who developed the style assessments the workshop participants valued most?

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Give a Gift Worth Giving…2


People-development converts payroll costs to asset-investment

Post 2: Eric reminded the group that they would collect comments* in 4 areas as they explored each of the eleven self-assessment tools : 1:the core differences assessed in each tool; 2:formats offered by each tool as personalized results; 3:business applications experienced with the tool; and 4:aspects that had caused them to hesitate to use the tool.

The four personality assessment tools brought much interest from all corners of the conference room.

Core Differences Assessed in each tool:

Myers Briggs Type Indicator: “From eight functions, it assesses combinations of four individual preferences used in decision-making, interaction and activity style.”

Birkman, Reaching Further: “Assesses individual interests and the development of nine behaviors, measuring the extremity of the person’s usual behaviors, the environments needed to maintain those behaviors, and the responses expected when those needs are not met.”

DiSC Dimensions of Behavior: “Assesses general combinations of four behavioral emphases.”

StrengthsFinder Reports: “Identifies five of the possibly strongest of 34 talents that impact the way one contributes to the world.”

Personalized Results-Format available with each tool:


  • “Hundreds of tools have been published and posted to interpret common aspects of all eight functions, four preferences and sixteen types.”
  • “Customization of the formatted results is dependent on consultant quality and employee needs.”


  • “Standard report formats the assessor’s strongest behavioral emphases, activity interests, combined results visualized by intensity in relation to others, narrative of strengths, career alignments, and nine usual behaviors with needs and stress responses each described and charted on a 1-99 scale.”
  • “Basic narrative formats are available for novice use or when need is not robust.”
  • “Result-formats are customizable per individual or group need by consultants.”


  • “The concrete foundation of the identified differences has been used by many practitioners to build specialized learning aligned to the four behavioral emphases.”
  • “The simplified assessment results are easily adapted by novices to quickly demonstrate or identify key differences in individuals.”


  • “Most reports include a description of the typical traits of people who perform well in each of the five themes identified for the individual.”
  • “Some reports go more in-depth with a list of actions one might take to incorporate that theme into their work or life and quotes from others identified as strong in the theme.”
Business Application experienced with each tool:


  • “Makes it simple for teams to understand why others behave uniquely, to identify gaps and strengths in their group interactions and to determine how function and execution can be improved by this awareness.”
  • “One of most highly used personality tools in strengthening personal relationships. This becomes a value bonus to my employees as they recognize it applies to all aspects of their lives.”


  • “Mapping a teams’ interests, usual behaviors, needs and stress responses can lay the foundation for relational and practical discussions in a safe environment.”
  • “We’ve seen whole groups respond to creatively provide ways for one employee to perform more consistently after they shared their need with the team.”
  • “This assessment has rich resources for understanding how to lead, follow or coach another individual who has also taken the Birkman.”


  • “Occupations with strong common dynamics, like sales professionals, find easily recognizable distinctions to apply to repeatable skill practices.”
  • “The simplicity of these distinguishers allows large groups to quickly self-identify differences so a facilitator can lead activities using natural diversities.”


  • “Much effort will always be involved in performance improvement; this offers a fresh way to approach improvement without facing the disappointment of failure.”
  • “Work is now available aligning the 34 strengths to four common leadership needs: execution, influence, relationship building and strategic thinking.”
Hesitancies with each tool:


  • “The scores of copies and imitations tend toward armchair psychology….  Choose a professional to deliver the genuine article so it is valued even when compared to the faux versions available at discount pricing.”
  • “There are legal restrictions regarding how professionals may use this tool; the restrictions can require minor logistical and application coordination.”
  • “Labeling can harm a culture when the nuances of ‘type’ are either disregarded or applied equally to everyone.”


  • “I was thrilled to learn a more narrative, and budget-friendly, option is now available for those interested in the general descriptions without digging into the data-detail behind them.”
  • “Though new, clearer language is being launched, historically the complexity of this tool has overwhelmed the understanding and full application of its value for many.”
  • “Labeling everyone can harm a culture when the value of unique contribution becomes disrespected.”


  • “Every time I’ve taken this I’ve gotten a different result.  So it seems to be more of a reflection of how I’m adjusting than a description of my static personality.”
  • “I’ve seen this used as a hiring tool by some pretty lazy leaders; but maybe that is saving the applicants they disqualify from the hassle of working for them.”


  • “It was created by Gallup… good use of statistics, but it doesn’t ensure the strong actions reported by the assessor result in true strengths.  The truth is discovered in the follow-up.”
  • “Few of the reports actually list the 34 themes…. That’s kind of a disappointment because the natural tendency is to want to peek at what was not listed as a strength.”

*All content in this blog series is based on user-perception.

Reality:  People are energized when they see themselves … in the mirror … in a picture …on a list … in a personality description.  When they recognize their own realities and gain respect for their contributions, it can energize new zeal and determination.

 FOLLOW US & don’t miss the next PEPPERBOX blog: Discover one self-assessment tool that ensures an accurate reflection of what the individual perceives as reality by allowing them to directly control the results.

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