In today's dynamic work environment, effective communication isn't just about what tasks need to be done and how to do them.
It's about why they matter.
The 'why' behind our actions and goals is often overlooked but is, in fact, the key to motivating and aligning your team.
In this article, we'll explore why it's crucial for managers to communicate "the Why" to their teams, its significance, the broad and profound benefits it brings, and strategies for mastering this skill.
So, what is "the Why"? It's the reason behind any task or goal, the driving force that fuels motivation and engagement.
When your team comprehends why they're doing what they're doing, they become more than just workers; they become purpose-driven contributors.
Understanding 'the Why' gives your team a purpose. It transforms mundane tasks into meaningful contributions towards a shared goal, ensuring everyone's efforts align with organizational objectives.
In the militaries of the 21st century, the why is ingrained in the management methodology in a very effective way. Commander's intent is a publicly stated description of the end-state as it relates to forces (entities, people) and terrain, the purpose of the operation, and key tasks to accomplish. It is developed by a small group, e.g. staff, and a commander.
Commander's intent (CSI) plays a central role in military decision making and planning. Commander's intent acts as a basis for staffs and subordinates to develop their own plans and orders to transform thought into action, while maintaining the overall intention of their commander.
The commander's intent links the mission and concept of operations. In complete transparency, it describes the end state and key tasks that, along with the mission, are the basis for subordinates’ initiative.
Transparency breeds trust. When managers communicate 'the Why,' they're showing vulnerability and honesty. This openness fosters trust within the team, making each member feel like a valued stakeholder, not just a nameless cog in the machine.
Motivation thrives on the 'why’ as well. When team members see the significance of their work, they’re inclined to become more engaged, committed, and willing to go the extra mile. Understanding 'the Why' also empowers your team to think beyond the manual. It encourages creativity and critical thinking as individuals seek innovative ways to achieve the purpose. Problems become surmountable challenges, not obstacles.
'The Why' unites your team. When everyone comprehends and buys into the purpose, it sparks collaboration and shared responsibility. Team members are more likely to support each other, knowing they're working toward a common goal. Let’s bring our minds back to the military’s method with Commander's intent.
Strategies for Effective Communication of "the Why"
To communicate 'the Why' effectively, managers must be clear and concise. Explain not just what needs to be done but why it matters and what the desired outcomes are.
Always be providing context
Context is crucial. Managers should provide the backstory, the industry landscape, and the reasoning behind tasks. This empowers team members to make informed decisions. Sharing relevant information, background, and reasoning makes all the difference.
Connecting to organizational values and mission
'The Why' should be rooted in the organization's values and mission. Managers should show how individual tasks tie into these broader objectives, reinforcing the sense of purpose. Always strive to be demonstrating how exactly tasks contribute to the larger goals.
Active listening and feedback
Communication should be a two-way street. Managers should actively listen to their team members, address concerns, and encourage questions. This creates a culture of openness and learning. Commit to being relentless about encouraging team members to ask questions and provide input.
Tailoring communication styles:
Not everyone is motivated by the same 'Why.' This is an unforgettable insight and ignoring it would be at your peril.
Managers should adapt their communication styles to resonate with different team members. Understand what drives each individual and tailor your message accordingly. Adapting to individuals' preferences and understanding their unique motivations plays a large role in leadership’s heavy and complex workload.
Always seek out and be Proactively Addressing resistance or scepticism from team members
Not everyone will immediately embrace 'the Why.' This is an inescapable flaw in our human nature. Some team members may resist or be skeptical. Managers should be patient, address concerns, and provide evidence of the benefits over time.
Remain Vigilant in Ensuring consistent communication of "the Why" across different levels of the organization
'The Why' should flow consistently from top to bottom. All levels of management should be aligned in their communication of purpose to avoid confusion and dissonance. The mechanically driven circular flow of water from trough to spout in a fountain is a good metaphor to help you grasp what is being espoused here.
Handling situations where ‘the Why’ may be difficult to explain
In complex or ambiguous situations, managers must still make efforts to convey 'the Why.'
Even if ‘the Why’ may be difficult to explain, the simple act of trying to explain it the best you can is likely to build trust and understanding amidst your ranks.
A Couple of Illustrations:
Let's look at a manager in a tech startup. They commit to explaining 'the Why' behind each project and not just assigning tasks. This approach leads to a substantial increase in project completion rates and a noticeable boost in team morale.
Another case in point is a mid-level graphic designer. Once they understood that their designs weren't just graphics but vital tools to persuasively communicate the brand's message, their creativity soared. The brand's visual identity improves, and they feel more connected to their work.
Building a Culture of Understanding "the Why"
Leadership role in fostering a culture of purpose-driven communication
Leadership is responsible for setting the tone. Leaders must model 'the Why' communication and encourage their managers to do the same. This creates a culture where understanding 'the Why' is the norm.
Incorporating "the Why" in goal-setting and performance evaluation processes
'The Why' should permeate every aspect of work, including goal-setting and performance evaluations. This reinforces its importance and ensures that everyone is aligned.
Encouraging open dialogue and feedback loops within the team
Create channels for open dialogue. Encourage team members to share their thoughts and feedback regarding 'the Why.' This continuous feedback loop refines the understanding of purpose.
Last but not least...
In a fast-paced and complex world where we're constantly bombarded with tasks and information, understanding 'the Why' can be a beacon of clarity and motivation. Managers are mandated to unlock the power within their teams.
By communicating 'the Why' effectively, they create a workforce that is not only productive but passionate, not just compliant but genuinely committed to the shared purpose. So, as a manager, remember: don't just tell your team 'what' and 'how,' but also 'why.'
Your team's success depends on it as well as your own career trajectory.
You may want to also check out the following:
Start with why - how great leaders inspire action | Simon Sinek
Leadership on a Submarine
Emanuel Perdis is a trauma-informed Anger Management therapist who administers therapeutic counselling for individuals as well as couples. His key specialties for counselling are Anger, Relationships, Trauma and Anxiety. All therapy is delivered online, via Zoom, and enquiries can be made through https://www.emanuelperdis.com/let-s-talk or on the phone via +61 412 288 081