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The One Question Usually Missed

Over the last month, I have had the pleasure of listening, discussing and hopefully helping a new manager. We discussed how – he and others set expectations. Shared ideas of how to make those expectations a reality for the team. Spent time on how to insure that the team can be able to track their performance to expectations with some solid breakthrough systems. He wanted to focus on performance management. We went into each area that will help him do the job of leading his team.

While sitting there listening and sharing some ideas and experiences, I started to get the feeling that there was something missing. No where in any of our discussions, did we really talk about that one question that should be answered. It is WHY!

I wrote something back in 2011 around the why… Why are we doing what we are doing? It is so easy to focus on the what and how, but I know way too many leaders/managers that don’t communicate the why. Is it that they don’t know the why? Is it that they feel the why is not important to get work done? Or is the why, inherit in the fact that you are at work and work is the why? No matter what the reason is not to communicate the why… The why is needed!

When I pointed out that our discussions where focused on almost all of the right stuff to helping your team, hence yourself, be successful. He went through everything in his head, looked up at me and said, “what is missing?” I had him step through what he thought was covered… He hit the what, the how and mentioned the closed loop systems to keep everything on track. He paused for a minute and realized that we had not discussed WHY.

At first, he said that no one ever has mentioned the why when he was doing stuff. He felt his past managers never discussed the why. After a few questions… He realized they did communicate the why, without pointing out the why..

I asked him to try something his next time he had the opportunity with is time insure that he communicate the why… Do it by pointing out why the team is going to do something. Don’t bury the why.. Call it out. Almost make it a rally cry for what they are doing. Play it up! See what happens. Look at the teams reaction. Watch for a change in commitment.

I got an email the today, that said he did it and what happened was amazing. Everyone on the team was focused and they were able to get that particular difficult task completed ahead of schedule. He saw teamwork that he never saw before. My reply back was simple… It does work! Make sure that you can answer the why question before you start communicating to the team. They may ask for the why? They may not.. But, you need to share the why.

Photo courtesy of Kathy Launer


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