01 February 2016

Start with Why

"Why" is one of the great questions of all time. 

When we're young it's often a response at being told to do something.  As in it's time to brush your teeth; it's time to do your homework; or, don't stay out too late.   

Asking parents for an explanation may or may not get you anywhere. That's a shame because these kinds of exchanges have the potential to be teachable moments for children and adults.   

Conditioned behavior begins at an early age. Not getting answers to simple questions causes curiosity to go away.

That's unfortunate.  

Asking "why" inside corporate cultures can sometimes be a career decision.  Employees are often hesitant to seek explanations or clarifications even though their performance depends on clear expectations of a given task. 

What has been learned through poor hiring decisions, business closures, accidents, and loss of life, such as the shuttle Challenger explosion (30th anniversary was 28 January 2016), is that failing to ask the right questions, before not after the fact, is the greater problem.

In the book, "The Machine that Changed the World," we hear about Toyota's technique of asking up to "five whys" when something breaks down on the assembly line.  Is that approach applicable to the executive suite?

Leaders attempting to introduce change into a business often start with "what" is supposed to happen, not why.  That approach delays the ability to successfully implement the change, whatever it is. Employees need to know why the latest great idea is being introduced or the corporate system, which they run day-to-day, is being restructured (many times without their input).   

In a seminar I attended several months ago the audience was referred to the TED Talk, "Start With Why."   There's a book by the same name.   I thought you might benefit from the teaching of Simon Cinek.

Cinek, a writer and commentator for such publications as The New York Times, Inc. Magazine, and Bloomberg Business Week, makes the point that leaders with the greatest impact are those with the capacity to inspire.  In his research, Cinek has discovered some remarkable patterns about how they think, act and communicate and the environments in which people operate at their natural best.

He has devoted his life to sharing his thinking in order to help leaders and organizations inspire action.  Simon Cinek is best known for popularizing the concept of starting with  "why" and for the talk he gave on the subject that became the second most watched talk of all time on TED.com.  

Viewed by over 25 million, here is his TED Talk on how great leaders inspire action--and the case for starting with "why."



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