Communicating Better: Convey The Compelling "Why"
Feb 19, 2021
Throughout history, the greatest leaders have also been motivators, able to encourage others to work toward a common goal. This ability to motivate has been a result of solid communication skills. Take Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill as examples — two of the most effective leaders in history, approached challenges in different ways but both excelled at communication. They have set the point that it is critical even for today's leaders (i.e. managers, and executives) to focus on and hone their communication skills to successfully guide their teams and drive productivity.
Moreover, communication has been proven in many studies as a core leadership function, and a key characteristic of a good leader. Also, effective communication and effective leadership are closely intertwined. Thus, leaders need to be skilled communicators in countless relationships at the organizational level, in communities and groups, and sometimes on a global scale.
Communicating The "Why"
If you’re a manager or a team leader who is tasked with providing new projects, tasks, actions, etc., it’s important to communicate it in a way that will motivate employees to work with urgency and with their best effort. For employees who are on the receiving end, the question that comes to mind when something unexpected occurs is not how they’re going to get it done, but it’s going to be why.
Because you’re not going to try something new or hard unless you’re motivated to do so. Not knowing the why is forcing people to step out of their comfort zone and out of their routine, and that will leave them unmotivated. The why serves as the "value proposition" that will help people deeply understand the importance and benefit of the matter at hand.
Nancy Duarte explains why communicators often overlook answering why: “They assume explaining what and how is the fastest way to influence their audience, and they think the answer to why is so self-evident it doesn’t need unpacking.”
In difficult situations that call for people to rally and align, such as getting through these trying times, leaders must clearly communicate to their audience. People will understand the what and how but being able to really understand the why is when the message will actually be received. Leaders often don’t pack in the why into their message because it seems so self-evident to them and they think it’s obvious to everyone else.
The Golden Circle
Leadership expert Simon Sinek formulated the "The Golden Circle" theory that explains how leaders can inspire cooperation, trust, and change in a business based on his research into how the most successful organizations think, act, and communicate if they start with why.
Start with Why
Sinek explains that why is probably the most important message that an organization or individual can communicate as this is what inspires others to action. 'Start With Why' is how you explain your purpose and the reason you exist and behave as you do. Sinek's theory is that successfully communicating the passion behind the why is a way to communicate with the listener's limbic brain. This is the part of our anatomy that processes feelings such as trust and loyalty - as well as decision-making.
Successfully articulating your why is a very impactful way to communicate with other people, especially in defining your particular value proposition and inspiring them to act. In addition, Sinek's theory is that communicating why taps into the part of the listener's brain that influences behavior.
The organization's how factors might include their strengths or values that they feel differentiate themselves from the competition. Sinek's view is that how messaging is also able to communicate with the limbic brain - the important part that governs behavior and emotion. But he points out that organizations would do better to improve how they articulate their why, in addition to how.
Sinek argues that what messaging only engages with the neocortex - the part of our brain that's rational. He points out that this part of the brain is less of a driver of decision making than the limbic brain: the part that why and how reaches better. Successful people and organizations express why they do what they do rather than focusing on what they do.
Six Ways To Craft The Compelling "Why"
Capturing people’s hearts and minds requires compelling reasons for people, such as “Why we need to do it” and “Why we need to do it now.” Here are six ways how you can convey a better and compelling message:
- Tailor the why to your specific audience.
- Make it short, simple, and clear.
- Be candid, honest, and forthcoming so people believe it is real and genuine and not just the “company line.”
- Make it a dialogue, not a monologue.
- Create “The hook” that catches people’s attention and persuades them to “Buy-in.”
- Frame it in a strategic context (how the expectation fits into the big picture).
Communicating “Why” does much more than merely clarify the reasoning behind a mission or purpose; it shows people they are worth the time and effort it takes to enroll and engage them in the mission or purpose, to persuade them to own it and make it happen. It sends people the unmistakable message that you respect and value them as key contributors making things happen. When you do this, you boost morale, people take ownership, and everyone’s efforts get supercharged to help them achieve the results you need. Most leaders spend 95 percent of their effort on the “What-When” and only 5 percent on the “Why.” Reverse it, spend the majority of your effort on the “Why” and you’ll begin to see your teams aligning more completely around what they need to achieve.