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.