What’s Your Why?

What's Your Reason Why-

I’m sure there is a reason why we have to walk along the sides of the hallways and square all of the corners inside buildings, they just don’t tell us.” 

West Point Plebe (freshman), in a video from the late 1980s

All too often, it seems, we hear the request “Why?” from people we work with, but equally often we just move on without really considering what that question means. It means our teams are looking for answers to the “Why?” so they can put their actions into context.  They’re looking for purpose.

This issue is not a “Millennials” issue, nor is it generational for any of us – Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, take your pick.  It’s a communication problem that transcends every age group. I’m not suggesting we spend hours a day explaining the “Why?” to anyone and everyone we encounter as leaders…..but I am suggesting we become far more sensitive to the purpose in our communications with others.

OK, so how do we do this? What’s Your Why? Let’s go back to the concept of the Leader’s Intent:  Our end state (typically a 3-5 year horizon), with the Key Tasks and Purpose for each key task we have to accomplish to reach that end state.  The intent lends clarity to our mission – our who, what, and why.

If we take the time to build the Leaders Intent from the mission statement, we’ve now answered a whole bunch of “Whys”.  And as we grow leaders who get it, they will have a genuine bias for action because they know the Whys – they are captured in the Intent.

Think of how many problems we can solve before they ever emerge, by building and communicating our Leader’s Intent.  And in communicating it, we repeat it over and over.  We broadcast our organizational intent every day.  End state, key tasks, purpose – all emanating from the mission.

So if you haven’t done this yet, schedule a “Mission and Intent” block on your calendar, sooner than later.  Devote an afternoon to the task.  Take your team to an off site location and turn off the cell phones for a few hours.  Let the folks back in the office hold down the fort while you focus on this fundamental work.  Then have the spouses come out and join for dinner after you’ve nested your mission and intent.  Your team will be far more committed to your success because now they are part of the “Why”.

Make sure you go back and review your work every quarter, too.  It will be time well spent, and you’ll see positive results in every aspect of your organizations’ Key Performance Indicators.  Enjoy the journey!


p.s. – For more information about how to plan a “Mission and Intent” off-site with your executive team, download this complimentary eBook entitled “Cows in the Living Room: Developing an Effective Strategic Plan and Sustaining it”, or call me at your convenience if you’d like.

You can also learn more about our leadership philosophy in my book “We’re All In.” You can get a copy of the first chapter for free here.

If you’d like a full copy of the entire book, you can get it here.

Enjoy the journey!

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