Always ask “Why?”

Always ask "Why"On numerous occasions, I’ve been asked by executives to create a “game-changing” leadership development program for their organization.  It’s an exciting, yet challenging proposition, to be sure!

The enthusiasm behind the request is usually short-lived.  In fact, the moment I ask, “What’s your objective behind this leadership development program,” the excited smiles usually turn to befuzzled confusion.

“Well, because we know we need to develop our leaders,” is the typical response.

“Not enough,” I reply. “Exactly what do you intend to gain by developing your leaders, and specifically what problems facing your organization are you trying to address?”

Some consultant shudder at asking such questions, as they can be the kiss of death.  Better to take the client’s money, design a leadership development program, and blame the execution than to ask the tough questions up front, I guess.  But in reality, consultants who skip the inquiry and assessment phases of such an engagement are not only acting unethically, but they are clearly demonstrating their passion for only one thing….making a quick buck.

Sure, a number of organizations will balk at having to first answer the tough questions.  But those that embrace an analytical approach to understanding the driving forces behind such initiatives are those who stand a chance at seeing improvements, not only in their leadership capacity, but their overall organizational effectiveness.

Too often, when pressed, the driving reason behind leadership development, workforce engagement, or organizational culture initiatives lies in the pages of such erstwhile publications as the Harvard Business Review or Forbes magazine.  These are great resources, with great insights, from great minds.   But if executives fail to understand the whys and why nots of the ideas presented on their pages, they have turned into mindless automatons capable of only driving ill-conceived, yet popularized concept into organizations poorly designed or poorly prepared for such attempts.  The results?  Too often failure, and not only simply failure, but misunderstood failure.  It’s the worst kind!

So, always ask the “why” before agreeing to any engagement.  That’s the only way to ensure the work you do has a lasting and positive impact.  Whether from a business development standpoint, or simply because you have pride in doing a good job, it’s all about the impact you can have on a client organization.  Failure to ask this simple question means one thing….you’re main concern is not your client’s well-being, but rather your own.  And that’s never a sustainable business development strategy!

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