why their why beats yours

As a leader and influencer, you know that a big ‘why’ matters. When the going gets tough, and it always does eventually, people are more likely to carry on and give their best if they have a big reason for doing so. But, have you ever struggled to sell your ‘why’? Have you wondered why some people just don’t get it? Here’s why.

As leaders and influencers, you’ve been told that you need to cast a vision. A compelling vision. Your vision should be of a time when a major problem has been solved.  Your organization has triumphed.  Things are better somehow.

That vision compels you to get out of bed every day ready to take on the world, but for some reason it just doesn’t seem to fire up some of those you lead. You inevitably wonder if you might just have some people in the ‘wrong seats’ or on the ‘wrong bus’. Why don’t they get it?

Simple. It’s not their vision.

If you want to see the power of ‘why’ alive in each of your people, you have to tap into their why! You were right all along that purpose matters. It is one of the most compelling drivers of human behavior. You are just missing the mark if you think you can give it to them.

Of course, your organization needs its own mission, vision, and values, and you are in business to fulfill those ‘whys’, not everyone else’s. But, if you want to get people to lean into the fire fight with you, to keep going when things get tough, help them connect your organizational why to their unique purpose.

Ask them, “Why are you here?”

The question is simple. The answer is not. Frankly, if their answer doesn’t stir emotion, they haven’t answered the question. Not for a job, not for a paycheck, not so their kids can merely live indoors or go to college. How does their involvement in whatever they are doing with you connect to why God put them on earth?

Oh, no. Now you’ve done it. You just opened a whole can of worms.

That’s okay. That’s where the good stuff is. Just be prepared for what comes next. They may have absolutely no idea how to answer your question. They may need some time and help to connect the dots between their unique talents, their values and unique life experience to the people they feel drawn to influence in the world. For more on discovering purpose, check out this past post.

Want to get ahead of this challenge in the future? Ask earlier. Put it on the job application. Years ago I was trying to develop an employment application that would help us do a better job of selecting people with passion for our work. I figured I wasn’t the first to tackle this question, so I decided to look at the questions other highly selective organizations used. I went to Harvard University’s website to see what they asked candidates. The first question was simple, “Why do you want to attend Harvard?” Bingo.

What have you done to tap into the big why of those you lead? If this is new, what are you going to do now?