“Why” – A Word Not Just for Children

Vanessa Hill

“If you establish expectations of the goal and the standards to follow, then methodology shouldn’t be an issue.” Harvey Mackay 

Are you spinning your wheels and do not know why? Do you think you know how to begin a task but then find you are not entirely sure how to proceed?  Try thinking like a child!  This may seem like odd advice for a professional environment, but be assured – “think like a child” does not mean “act” like one.

If you have ever been around children, you know they ask questions – a lot of them.  Their favorite?  The never-ending “why.”  Children ask why better to understand the world around them.  So, when you are given a project, be a curious child.  Ask questions about your assignment.  Not understanding the “why” behind a project may be the reason you are spinning your wheels. 

Communication and clear directions are necessary for the smooth functioning of every team.  If you do not totally understand the task or if instructions are unclear, ask questions better to grasp the full scope of your project. Asking “why” may lead to some valuable answers.

Asking why may save time and money, and raise morale. 

A team leader asks you to complete a last-minute task.  To finish, you will have to stay late and cancel your pre-existing dinner plans.  You take on the task, but have a negative attitude.  As a result, your work is not your best.  But, consider this alternative scenario: Same task, same rush, same cancelled dinner plans, but you ask your team leader “why.”  You discover this is a rush project because the request was just received.  In addition, you were chosen because of your ability to get tasks done quickly and efficiently.  Instead of feeling put-upon, you dive into the job with a positive attitude and a desire to do your very best to live up to the expectations of your appreciative team leader.

“Why” can also be for team leaders. 

It is not safe to assume everyone understands everything about tasks and expected outcomes.  At the outset, discuss the “why” with team members.  They may suggest alternate methods for completing project tasks, possibly leading to a more efficient approach and timeline.  Learning how team members envision and pursue completion of tasks may lead to a more productive and cohesive team.

Share – just as you were taught as a child. 

Sharing may improve individual, as well as team, efficiency. For example, you notice that one team member uses Excel differently than you do.  Ask why, and they may end up teaching the whole team how to use formulas to move data from one document to another without reentering each line, saving hours of project time.

Next time you are given a task or you are giving a project to others, think like a child.  Consider the power of providing the “why.”  Will “why” improve attitudes, increase team performance, and shorten the timeline to completion?  Possibly, and it never hurts.  Let the “why” pave the way to a happier work place, a more efficient and productive team, and great results.

Vanessa Hill is the Marketing Coordinator at McManis Faulkner.  She facilitates all firm marketing events and maintains the firm’s social media pages.

About the author Vanessa Hill

Vanessa oversees and implements the firm’s marketing programs and keeps partners abreast of current trends and strategies in legal marketing.  She serves as event coordinator for all firm events at Levi Stadium and the SAP Center of San Jose.