Why we need to search for the Why (and What and How)

simon2I am always amazed when I train managers and area managers how to coach, that their biggest challenge when giving feedback is to stop telling the team member what to do.

We seem to think as a manager, we have to know all the answers and the easiest way to get a message across is to provide the solution to the team member.

When this happens this results in a high number of miss-communications, with team members simply nodding and smiling when they are told what to do. Telling is less effective when it comes to getting your message understood. In fact research tells us that after one month, people will only remember 20% of what they are told.

So what’s a better way?

Getting the team member involved in a conversation where they have to come up with the answer is much more powerful. It’s as simple as asking the team member this question – “Why is that important?” or “What’s another way of doing X?” or “How could you improve that for next time?” All of these questions require the team member to think before they answer the question. Also there is more likelihood that the team member will take ownership if it’s their idea.

Another powerful bonus of getting a team member to come up with the answer is, research says that people remember (after one month) 70% of what they say, so this is a powerful technique for much better memory retention too. Not only do you know they understand, if they tell you the answer, they are more likely to remember as well.

Unfortunately, the why question is often negatively associated with a certain Generation Y, who use this question repeatedly, often to the frustration of the older generation. However I love that they question why things are done a certain way – isn’t it better to constantly look for better ways of doing things? They may just be right. Also if they (and all the other generations as well) don’t understand the reason why they need to do something, there is much less likelihood that they will buy in and do it well.

So take the time to ask the Why, or What or How and reap the benefits of this.

The why question is also a very powerful tool for leaders and I wanted to leave you with this awesome Ted talk by Leadership guru, Simon Sinek, about the value of “Why” and how it encourages team work, buy in from customers and a whole lot of other benefits.

Roger SimpsonRoger Simpson – CEO, The Retail Solution and Author of “The Retail Solution” With over 35 years’ industry experience, Roger Simpson is recognized as Australia’s #1 Authority on customer ROI in the retail industry and as a global expert on staff coaching, customer service and selling skills.