REALITY #7: Knowing why is essential.

When leaders provide details regarding who, what, when, where, and how, they provide the basics for an anticipated course of action. Such information generally assigns tasks, establish goals, sets time and place guidelines, and generates the basis for supervision. And although all of that information is vital, a critically essential piece is still missing.

For a project, a plan, or a proposal to be fully realized, understanding the rationale behind it is indispensable. Understanding why you are doing something promotes engagement, empowers imagination, inspires creativity, builds trust, and strengthens situational awareness. It puts planning into context, and it provides reasonable assumptions regarding boundaries and parameters. Simply asserting authority with a “Because I say so,” just isn’t enough. Such an approach may have worked when you were a teenager and your mother said, “Because I’m your mother,” or your dad said, “This is my house and you’ll do what I tell you.” For adults, if a just-because-I-say-so explanation works at all, it won’t work for long.

In emergency situations the rationale is either self-evident, or articulating it can wait. Similarly, tight timelines can impede thoroughly sharing the rationale behind needed actions. In such instances, dealing promptly with critical essentials and concrete details is the first order of business. However, even in such instances, as a project or process continues, it will only be successfully supported if there is some level of commitment, resolve, and cooperation. Knowing why can be the base upon which these intangibles are built and the power which will sustain them. This is particularly true when a project encounters difficulty, when initiatives begin to faulter, or when success becomes illusive.

Regardless of your individual role, position on a team, line of responsibility, or personal inclinations, the ability to explain why you are involved is fundamental. Even if there is some level of personal disagreement, knowing the rationale behind what you do is nonetheless important. In fact, the ability to articulate that rationale is an element in most contemporary supervision models. When a team questions if the light at the end of the tunnel is the light of hope or an oncoming freight train, knowing why they’re in the tunnel is imperative!

Tell them who, what, when, where, and how, and they’ll follow. Tell them why and they’ll join you!