Questions or answers? Which do you prefer? This is the story of The power of Why.
Life is a quest of finding the right answers. Or is it? What if the meaning of life is the search for “the question”, which can change your way of thinking or doing things?
I have been working as a manager at an executive level for 10+ years and for many years I thought it was my primary function to deliver all the answers to the people in the company. Small and big – relevant or irrelevant – important or unimportant: I was the man to give all the answers.
And I did – give all the answers because, I was driven by the conviction that this is what a manager do. But slowly I began to doubt. At the same time I began to run out of good and meaningful answers – a nagging and irritating thought keeps coming back: “Why”?
“Why do I do this? Is this the right way of leading the people and the company?”
I ran out of good answers because no one in the company had any good questions.
I then realized that it was my job to be the one with all the questions. The transformation from management to leadership had begun and the “power of why” was emerging within me and in the company.
- Why are we here?
- Why are we doing business?
- Why am I in this company?
At that time when I began to ask and seek answers in the organization something interesting happened. The people started to change because they felt involved in the company’s present life and future. They was actually more comfortable (most of the time) with a leader asking questions and trying to make the people find the answers them self.
Can you run a company be questions? Yes you can – but not all the time. Sometimes your leadership requires clear and unquestionably answers. It is necessary to navigate between the two roles all the time and create a trustworthy balance in the “why-leadership” – and the key to success is
The “Why-leadership” is very effective but at the same time very difficult to perform because of the risk of being perceived as a “leader in doubt” or a weak leader.
The power of Why
It is important to keep working with the “power of why” every day. Be ready to raise questions to the assumptions that your company or business is built on. Be the first to question your own successful decisions after some time: Are we doing the right thing?
The first question to ask to all the people in the company – to the board – to the owner(s) and to yourself: Why are we in business? What is the purpose of what we do?
The purpose of the company – why are we in business? It is a tough question but very important to get a convincing answer to. If you can’t answer it something is worryingly wrong. You might as well shut your business down.
Without a purpose and without the ability to answer the “why-question” how can you then perform a meaningful leadership and ask the right questions to the people in your organization?
My answer is: You can’t – you’re fucked.