Understanding the Why
Date: May 24th, 2012
Blog Post by Scott Seroka
Little kids are very inquisitive. When you tell them something new, they ask “why.” And when you answer them, they ask why again, and again… Their curious minds want to drill down to the cause and effect for everything. They are constantly curious, and it is how they learn about the world until a parent’s patience starts to run on fumes and replies with the answer, “Because I said so.” Game over.
However, as we become adults, we don’t ask why quite as often. Why? Some of us fear appearing ignorant to something that may seem obvious to others. But in the workplace, each individual person must understand his or her why. Without that knowledge, there is minimal depth to a sense of purpose, and the pool of motivation is rather shallow.
Take the case of a part-time customer service representative working for a large big box retailer. His or her job is to answer customer questions, handle issues and ensure that all customer interactions conclude on a positive note. But why? As many customer service representatives are on the lower end of the pay scale, (typically a hair above minimum wage) what should motivate them to exert too much effort to help the occasional disgruntled customer? Why should they tolerate verbal abuse or defend the mistakes of the company they work for at eight dollars an hour? The answer can be found in the quality of his or her leader.
It’s the leaders’ responsibility to communicate these “whys” to everyone throughout the organization and to give employees meaningful reasons to grin and bear when under stress. Often times, unfortunately, the explanation of why comes down to the lowest common denominator of, “because you’re getting paid.” Getting paid is rarely a motivator, yet when it is, it has a very short shelf life. The why must be expressed with deeper meaning, on a more E.Q. level. Employees at all levels of an organization must know and understand how they are part of something bigger than themselves. And they must also understand that when everyone pulls their weight and performs their jobs to the best of their ability, everyone is in good spirits, which makes for an enjoyable environment. The perfect ingredients for a productive workplace.
It’s a fact that when people love what they do and respect their leaders, monetary compensation isn’t quite as important as long as they are paid fairly and competitively. When people say, “I love my job,” it’s not because they’re paid ten percent more than the industry average. They express their enjoyment for their job because they understand their why and believe in the company they work for. And the perception of their company is directly correlated to the relationship they have with their immediate boss.
Why? A strong leadership training program will answer that question.
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