Explaining the WHY

What does it mean?

Great leaders are transparent in their communication and share the big picture of WHY something is happening at every opportunity. They recognize that explaining the WHY behind the organization’s purpose and behind organizational changes is a part of how we make employees feel safe.

When we don’t explain the WHY, we risk creating compliance within our team. If an organizational change is taking place and we don’t intentionally communicate that change and the WHY behind it, what happens? Typically, rumours or gossip. People will make assumptions and come up with their own WHY which is usually worse than the reality of the change.

Save your team the stress and anxiety and share all of the information you can with them. Be as transparent as possible. The more they know, the safer they will feel and the more likely they will be able to handle any change proactively.

How to explain the WHY:

  1. Look for opportunities to share and reinforce the organization’s vision and purpose at every opportunity. Tie discussions around big picture objectives and projects to the larger organizational purpose. Every employee in an organization should be able to paraphrase the WHY of their organization — why the organization exists and why they are in the business they are in.
  2. Be intentional in communicating the WHY behind changes. Take the extra 5 minutes to tell the team the reasons behind the change, how it will impact them and next steps. The more people know the more ready and able they will be to adapt. In addition, the more they know the easier it will be for them to get on board with the change even if they don’t entirely agree with it.
  3. Invest in one-on-one time with your team to make sure their questions are answered and that they feel safe (and know where they stand).
  4. If you’re not clear on the WHY of your organization or on a change that is taking place, ask your leaders. It is important for you to understand the situation, get on board and effectively share that WHY with others.

Why it matters?

Now more than ever, talented employees are drawn to organizations that have a purpose and are transparent. Every for-profit organization needs to have a profit motive, but the purpose motive guides business decisions and connects employees to the bigger picture. Top talent wants to feel that they are a part of contributing to something that matters.

When employees don’t feel like they know where they stand, or what is going on, they don’t feel safe. When employees don’t feel safe they put all of their energy into protecting themselves which often results in throwing others under the bus, making poor customer service decisions (because they are afraid to be wrong) and ultimately just acting in their own self-interest. They don’t trust their leader, so they only worry about themselves.

When employees know the WHY, they feel supported and look out for the best interests of their co-workers, their leader and the organization. They give others credit and have each other’s backs. They take healthy risks that are in the best interest of the customer, product, service and organization.

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