Why – It’s a Very Good Starting Point

Communication is one of the most discussed and written about subjects; when it comes to leadership and leading teams. There are a lot of experts in this space, I am not one of them. I am going to share the part that I think I have grown to learn is important. That is when you are communicating with your team you should always start with the ‘why‘. I see too many times the ‘how‘ is the starting point.

I have witnessed in most organizations or teams the why is missing. When the why is strong enough, the how will be figured out and the team does well. As a member of a team, I need to know the why and understand the implications of the why in order to truly follow. As a manager, I have to then take the why and apply it to my team. Without the understanding of why, it is hard for me to do my job of leading the team. One example that comes to mind, performance of the overall organization is inconsistent.  The top organization went right into solution space and spent way too much time on the ‘how’ to get stuff done. Revamped processes, added more decision-making bodies for more checks and balances and developed indicators that were supposed to track overall health. When you look at it, the why was never communicated. After months of rolling this out, the reason for upsetting the complete organization was isolated to a few major projects with inconsistent results.

When this first rolled out, many of the smaller teams were trying to figure out why – mine included. I decided that there were two ways to move forward. First, attempt to get the why from senior leadership – weak answer returned. After taking that answer, I applied my spin to the why and we went off down the path of making the how reality. Problem with my spin, just did not really answer the why very well. 

I think when the focal point becomes the how, then we have lost sight of the vision. We need to ask ourselves some basic questions:

  • Are we acting on what matters?
  • Are we acting on what’s worth doing?
  • Are we giving priority to what matters?

If teams are truly empowered, the how will happen and the results will be the rock solid.