Why the Why is Important


I was frustrated and my professor knew it. “Come over here and look out the window,” he suddenly said, pulling me from where I stood in the center of the classroom. Puzzled, I obliged, not knowing how this would solve my problem.

I had just confessed my frustration of finding stories to create a radio broadcast. For me, coming up with stories was one of the hardest parts of being a budding journalist. It didn’t help I was in six different classes, four of which required that exact feat.

My professor pointed out the window at the snow-covered landscape, buses, and students walking and riding bikes. “What you have to do is ask questions,” he explained. “When you look out the window, what questions arise?”

Slowly, queries began to formulate. I wanted to know why the buses ran at their set times. I wanted to know how the roads were salted and why they were salted in the first place. I wanted to know why some people hated winter.

I posed all of these questions to my professor and he smiled. “It sounds like you’re coming up with story ideas,” he said with a sly grin.

The “why” behind these things led to stories I was able to turn into my radio broadcast. But the question of “why” can have a greater result than simply coming up with ideas to write about. It can form beliefs and even an understanding behind an idea, project or company.

Whenever I am given a job or assignment, I need to know the “why” behind it. Why am I doing this? Why is it important? When I started working for Box Pro Magazine, I needed to grasp the “why” of what we do. Why write for Affiliates? Why are we a business resource?

The thing is, when the why is answered, I am then better equipped to take on the task I’ve been given. Like the “why” helping me in formulating stories, it helps me understand the reasoning behind decisions made, assignments given and even the entire mission of the magazine for which I work.

Sometimes, however, the why isn’t clear. Sometimes you have to ask, and that can be uncomfortable. You might not want your boss to think you’re questioning his or her authority. Maybe you just don’t want to look stupid.

In the book, “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, the authors tell the story of a CEO and a group of managers. The managers of the company were not clear about “why” the CEO was making certain changes. But, they didn’t want to look ignorant by asking the CEO why it was happening.

The CEO, on the other hand, thought everyone was on the same page. She knew the why, but hadn’t explained it clearly enough. Once the “why” was answered, everyone understood the change, agreed on it and then moved forward to success.

Affiliate, you know the “why” behind your business. You know the “why” behind the programs you start and “why” you have certain systems in place. But does your staff? Do they know the “why,” or are they simply following instructions without believing in the mission?

When you share the “why” behind your ideas and decisions, your staff can also get behind the moves you make in your business. And then they can start to do one of the most important things they will ever do at your gym: believe in you, your mission and your Box.

Heather is the editor for Box Pro Magazine. Contact her at heather@peakemedia.com.