Why Ask “Why?”

As business leaders, we often find ourselves asking a lot of questions. We have become proficient at asking all of the standard questions: Who? What? When? Where? How? We ask who the client or target market is, what the customer wants us to deliver, when and where they want it, and how much they’re willing (or able) to pay for it. While these are all very important questions, we very often miss what I think is the most important question…why?

Asking why gets past all of the objective data and really forces us to examine ourselves. When we look at why, there are really two basic angles we need to focus on; one causes us to examine ourselves, and the other the company or organization. The first question comes from Sherpa Coaching…“why it matters,” or more specifically, why does it matter to us? The second question is, why does our company/organization do what we do? Rephrased, that might be why do other people want to do business with us (buy our products or services)?

Brenda Corbett with Sherpa Coaching preaches “why it matters.” The “why is matters” is a Sherpa Coaching concept that addresses your core motivating factor. Your “why it matters” gets you out of bed in the morning, it makes you successful in your career, and it ultimately can become your greatest weakness if not managed. Ask yourself, why are you doing what you’re doing? Knowing your “why it matters” helps you understand what gives you contentment, or what causes you dissatisfaction…it helps you understand why you do the things that you do.

The second why comes from one of my favorite TED talks, and presenter Simon Sinek. Simon talks about what he calls the Golden Circle. At the center of that Golden Circle is the question why. The traditional business approach starts at the outside of the circle and works its way in to the middle. The outside of the circle is what…what do we do/sell (what’s our product or service)? Then moving inward, we have how…how do we do it? The how is often our unique selling proposition or point of differentiation. It’s at the how that most businesses stop…they miss asking “why?”

Simon says that “people don’t buy what we do, they buy why we do it.” So the question then is, why does your company/organization do what it does? This answer to this is not profit; that is a result. This is the purpose or cause of your existence. This is what, more than anything, will influence the behavior of your customers, and ultimately why they will choose to do business with you.

Once you’ve found the answer to the question “why?” the rest becomes very easy…just start at the middle of the circle and work your way out. Lead with your why, then convey your how, finishing with your what. Presenting the information in this fashion connects with the primal tenants of biology in the brain of your customer, and how the brain processes information and makes decisions. When you lead with the “why?” it appeals directly to the emotional portion of your brain, your gut feeling, and then finishes with the rational portion of the brain. As many of us are probably aware of, emotion drives action, it drives purchasing decisions. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it!”

For example, here’s what SpotOn Productions’ Golden Circle looks like:

Why: We believe the process to create great visual communication should be uncomplicated and gratifying.

How: Our Production Brief streamlines the video production process, yet covers all the details, allowing our experienced production staff do what they do best…create.

What: Creative, engaging productions…spot on with your communication goals.

Today, tomorrow, this week…sit down and figure out the answers to your whys. Not only will you better understand yourself and your company, but it will help you stand out with your customers, especially when it comes to them making the decision of who to spend money with. When you lead with why, people will chose to work with you because it’s what feels best to them.

I encourage you to pick up a copy of Sherpa Coaching’s book, “Why It Matters: The Sherpa Guide to What You Are Looking For” by Brenda Corbett and Jennifer Chloupek for more on why it matters. You can also check out Simon Sinek’s TED talk called “How great leaders inspire action” at ted.com for more on the Golden Circle concept.

Blog by: Ian Murray

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