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Leaders Ask Why First

Submitted by James Higginbotham on January 26, 2010 – 4:45 amNo Comment

Good leaders often ask, “How can we accomplish our goal?”

Great leaders ask a different question first: “Why do we need this accomplished?”

Things are often moving quick and we often need to rally our volunteers to address the issues ahead. Unfortunately, we can get stuck in the ‘how’ mode and forget to ask ‘why’ before we launch into the next project.When we ask ‘how’ first, we are automatically accepting that the ‘why’ is valid. In fact, we are often blindly following someone else’s ‘why’ without understanding it fully. Here is what happens next:

We figure out the ‘how’, push our volunteers to get it done, then are faced with an unhappy leadership because it doesn’t address the core issue.

We then have to ask our volunteers to do more, since we didn’t address the original issue.

Worst case, we don’t ask ‘why’, we complete at least half of the work, and then are told to stop and move to something else because it is more important.

Instead of getting into this situation over and over, start to ask ‘why’. Here is what can happen if we do that:

Asking ‘why’ allows us to focus on the end result, not a series of tasks.

Asking ‘why’ allows us to offer alternative solutions that may be easier or faster to complete.

Asking ‘why’ allows us to challenge the priority of the goal against other priorities, preventing a lot of half-completed projects from burning out your volunteers.

Next time someone asks your team to jump onto a new project, simply ask the ‘why’ questions before you commit. It will help your team stay focused and reduce the strain on your volunteers. Plus, you’ll be a happier leader!

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