Posts Tagged ‘motivate’

Motivation for Action

The How Doesn’t Matter Until You Know The Why

Over the course of my business life – that’s more than 40 years – I’ve seen a lot. I have observed a number of successes and a greater number of mistakes. Let me be quick to add that I too have had both. So not only has this been my observation it has also been my experience. One crucial element of anything that we set our hand to is determining our “why.” We get an idea in the shower or some other moment of inspiration. It energizes us and we jump into action and forge ahead with how to make it happen. This could be a mistake.

What I see is this. Very often a business owner, entrepreneur, pastor, or leader will take an idea and establish or focus on the mechanics of the task. That is to say the “how to” without first establishing clearly defined reasons – or the “why” of what that task, goal, or objective may be. We create the list of what needs done and start taking action to move us toward the goal.

Without clearly defined “whys” it is likely no matter how noble the objective may be it is going to run out of gas at some point. This is the reason a lot of things get started but never get finished. Without strong reasons why when resistance is met, challenges come our way; naysayers rain on our parade it is easy to throw in the towel. Strong ‘whys’ are the fuel that keeps us going when setbacks come our way. When seemingly insurmountable obstacles are in our path strong ‘whys’ keep us on the path after the feeling of excitement has subsided.

CHALLENGE: Take some time to examine what you are doing and ask yourself the why question. Do have strong enough reasons that will compel you to move forward regardless of what may come your way?

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Here is a real life example from my professional experience. While limited in perspective it highlights the difference between the “how” and the “why”. During my stint with an international direct selling company one of my fellow executives was let go. The president and CEO called me to his office and gave me the news that I was privileged to do my job and I was also picking up this former executives roll too. One of the first things I did was to look at some of the ideas my predecessor had on policy and procedure. The company had been buying 5-drawer lateral file cabinets like they were going out of style. Not only was this expensive the labor costs of making multiple copies, moving paper, filing all this paper were enormous. My question – why?

I started at the beginning of the paper trail and asked each and every person along the trail this question. Why do you make three copies of this form and what do you do with them? Then I’d go to the next ones along the line. To make a long story short everyone knew the “how” but not one person knew the “why” and nothing was ever done with the vast majority of all this paper. After two days of working through this I issued a new directive – stop making all these copies. The staff was elated. They couldn’t believe their ears. Turns out this procedure was an aggravation to all of them. It was busy work that served no purpose. Eliminating this policy and procedure reduced the company’s labor costs; it reduced the company’s capital investment in file cabinets. It elevated employee morale. Well we did have to make one more purchase – a commercial shredder to shred the reams and reams of paper we’d been storing.