Anyone who has had kids or has been around them enough – especially those who are three going on thirteen – will understand the significance of the word “why.” As an adult, you may feel like you know a fair amount of information, attained through years of experience living on this earth. Nothing will make you realize how much you don’t know more than having a conversation with a curious three, four, or five-year-old. No matter what you say, or what detailed explanation you provide on any given topic, you will inevitably hear, “but, why?”
While we attribute this incessant questioning to toddlers, we as adults are no different. We want to know why – “but, why?” And… “because I said so!” is not an answer we’re likely willing to accept. Often though, we don’t necessarily want to know all the minute details, we want to understand “why” on a higher level – why is this important to me.
Successful communicators and leaders understand this. They understand the most effective way to inspire, persuade and provoke change is to help others understand why.
Take Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines. When he speaks, it’s not about him or necessarily the airlines. Despite his CFO-metric-based background, he speaks with humility which allows others to connect with him. Rather than stating financials, metrics, and numbers, his language, his choice of words, is all to articulate the WHY. Why passengers choose to fly with them, why their employees are so dedicated to getting the experience right, and why the organization continually strives to do better.
I recently gave a speech to a large group of investment managers. Locked in a world of financial statement analysis, the speech was based on my book A Climb to The Top. The purpose of the talk was to inspire them to better present their value propositions to prospects who were considering contributing a portion of their pension funds to the firm. In the high stakes world of investment management, it’s a highly competitive industry in which investors have hundreds of choices to plant their money. “Why should I give my hard-earned money to you?”
The old conventional methods of investment managers burying their prospects with performance metrics…hoping that the prospect would take a chance on them and hand over millions of dollars wasn’t working. Those prospective clients want to know why they should work with them. Just like your employees and colleagues want to know why they should follow, support and work with you.
In the end, we are just as toddlers, ready to ask, “but, why?” As leaders, we can anticipate this and prepare to actually provide an answer that satisfies. Learn more about how to do this effectively by reading my book, A Climb to the Top.