It’s a great question.
I’ve had the great fortune to work with and learn from incredible leaders, and the great privilege of leading some truly incredible teams. Over and over and over again, I’ve seen “why?” as the most powerful aligning and motivational tool a leader has. Why is a higher aim — collaboration, excellence, contributing to a community, making a difference — that drives our work, actions, plans and tactics.
Why is why so incredible?
It gives purpose.
Everything we do is a choice, and when we link our choices to a higher purpose, our motivation skyrockets. Think about the difference between a team working late on a project motivated by why, and a team working late motivated strictly by a deadline — or worse — by fear.
It aligns multiple doers.
That why, once established, leads everyone on a team in the same direction. Different people, working on different aspects of a project, move together in the direction of excellence, or of designing the best possible user experience, or of another powerful why.
It guides us to the right what.
Once we have a why, all of our actions can be assessed against it. Is this action step in service of our purpose? Does it meet our ultimate outcome? If yes, boom. If no, let’s reassess.
It fosters autonomy.
Humans want autonomy. Most of us resist micro-management and also hate being micro-managers. (Book recommendation: Drive by Dan Pink. Favorite.) Related to guiding the right what, a clear why allows capable people to decide the specific tactics they’ll use to reach an end goal — once they know the outcome, deadline, and parameters, they can make the plan for how to get there.
It makes leaders.
Starting with why (Book recommendation 2: Start With Why by Simon Sinek. Also a favorite.) gives others the skills to identify what’s most important in their own work, and to pay forward this kind of thinking to those around them. One of the greatest joys I’ve experienced as a leader is hearing relatively new team members teach even newer team members the values that drive our team. Because they know them, and feel empowered and accountable to not only live them, but also to lead with them.
Dig deep, show up, win your day.
If you’re thinking differently than you were before reading this post, and like it, don’t stop now. I offer a limited number of free 30-minute coaching calls each week, and one of them could be yours. All you need is yourself and a desire to see what’s possible. What are you waiting for?