A few weeks ago I was talking to a mother and her college-age daughter in a church hallway after the service. Frankly, I do not remember the topic of the conversation, but I kept asking her why she wanted to do something. She would respond, and I would follow that with another why question. After a couple of those I explained that why questions really help solidify in a person’s mind the reason they want to do things.
I learned the importance of why a few years when I read Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. So often leaders want to introduce change by telling people “what” they want done differently. Since people do not generally accept change gladly, there is often resistance. It’s far better to explain the “why” the change is necessary before explaining “what” needs to change. Often, when the why comes first the resistance is lessened.
Some advocate asking why five times to really get at the core of why something needs to be done. I have found that difficult to do. “Why do you want to do that?” After the person explains the next question is again “Why?” If you can answer five why questions you have thought through your idea very well. I find it difficult to get past three why questions!
It can be helpful to sit down with a piece of paper and work through the why questions yourself when you are considering a new idea. If you can write out your answers to five why questions you will have a great understanding of both why a change is necessary and what that change will look like. You’ll also be ready to present it to others and answer any questions they might have.
Asking why is a great leadership tool that can help anyone facilitate change more easily. It’s a great process to use when you are considering expanding or shrinking your business, when you are considering buying a new house, or making other long-term financial decisions. It can even be helpful in the smaller decisions you make every day. Try it and see if asking why doesn’t help you make better decisions.