Leaders Explain Why, Employees Ask Why

Why is one of the most important motivators in business. This idea is being popularized by Simon Sinek in his book Start With Why. When team members understand why a new process, procedure, or policy has been inn acted they more clearly understand how it leads to a positive outcome. Strategy can be a complicated thing. It’s not always obvious how ground floor processes impact the company as a whole. Sometimes new procedures at this level may appear to go against the goals of the company. During moments like this it’s extremely important for employees to understand Why.

Leaders Explain

Good leaders take the time to explain the reasons behind a decision. They understand the motivational aspects that come along with that information. We’ve all had a leader in our life that defaulted to a reason similar to, ‘Because I said so.’ This answer is not a sufficient explanation in the workplace. Parents use this reason to demonstrate power, but when a boss uses this reason it demotivates employees. The task of explaining reasons can be a strong filter on the decision making process. If a leader cannot explain why in simple clear terms, it is likely not a good decision. When a leader clearly articulates Why as it relates to all levels of the organization it is a sign of respect. These leaders are often rewarded with the respect and trust of their team.

Employees Ask

Employees need to raise their hands and ask questions when they do not understand. They should also demonstrate they have tried their best to understand the reason. The question should be accompanied by an explanation or reason they believe the decision will hurt performance and results.

Translation Effects

Have you ever played the Telephone game? You whisper a message around a circle of players and see how it changes from beginning to end. The message is often twisted to the point it is completely different from the original. It only takes 5 or 6 players in the game to see translation effects on simple messages. This concept makes it difficult to pass information through an organization. A CEO doesn’t explain it to everyone. He or she explains to the next level down and the process repeats down to frontline employees. Just as a message drastically changes in the Telephone game, a corporate explanation of Why will often change before reaches the ground floor.

This problem is unavoidable and gets worse as an organization grows. To minimize the effects, employees at all levels need to understand the importance of knowing Why and have the courage to ask questions when it is not clear. Asking questions and probing for more information are great skills that should be a part of every employees skill set. If an employee does not possess this skill, they need to be coached to develop it. When someone shows no interest in understanding Why they need to be dismissed. Reasons Why turn productivity up and spread trust.

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