Why Ask Why?

leadership questionIt’s startling to say the least when you’re awoken at six in morning to the sound of your two-year-old son in the other room yelling, “why? why?” When this happened to me a few years back, I leapt from my bed and rushed out to see why my toddler was lamenting this early in the morning. What could possibly trouble him this much? I entered the living room and there he was, holding up a red oversized foam letter to the heavens and repeating, “Y! Y!”

My son may not have been asking, “Why,” but it was the first question in my mind that morning. It’s a question that should spring naturally from leaders. Some have developed the discipline of asking why intentionally, others have picked it up from experience. Either way it’s critical.

Why is “Why” so important? It’s foundational to the basic jobs of every leader:

1. Problem Solving. It’s hard to be a leader if you can’t solve problems—and solve them well. In order to truly solve problems and not just treat symptoms, root cause analysis must become second nature. Instead of immediately reacting with what you think the solution is, take the time to discover why something happened. Then you can deal with the real issues, and take care of problems once and for all.

2. Providing Purpose. Purpose is one of the key motivators for people. If you don’t take the time to analyze (and explain) why you are doing something, or why you are asking someone else to do something, you’re setting yourself and everyone you lead up for failure. Constantly communicate purpose to your people to remind them of why they are doing what they’re doing.

To be more effective, I recommend getting in the habit of asking “why?” Make it your default question before responding to any situation or starting any new endeavor.

Why do you think asking why is important?

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