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When I was a child, I was the question asking machine. Now that I am an adult, I am the question asking machine. Not because I want to be annoying. I really want to understand why. Knowing the why helps me deliver on the expectations. Knowing the why gives me the follow through to see an opportunity to completion.
Understanding why gives me access to understand the process and how each step is critical for the next step. I become a motivated participant when I understand the why and not the "just because" or the "because I told you so". I begin to see the big picture and how I fit into the puzzle, while the roles of my teammates become easier to understand and relate to. Knowledge is power and the answers to why are my access points to this knowledge.
Consequently, not understanding the why can lead to breakdowns in process for an individual and often the entire team. For example, I spearhead the marketing department for a national recruiting and training firm. During a department head meeting, I asked the recruiting campaign manager to post our recruiting ads in a couple of our social media opportunities. There was a half-hearted attempt and then abandonment of this request, as it was seen as additional work that seemed to only benefit the marketing department with little return for the recruiting team.
At the next department head meeting, I asked the recruiting campaign manager if they were aware that I push the job postings that are featured in social media to Twitter. They were not aware. I asked if they remembered a special recruiting campaign that we had done recently regarding a specific niche skill set. The recruiting manager did recall that difficult campaign. I demonstrated online that I had pushed that campaign to Twitter and showed the recruiting manager where that Twitter feed had been re-tweeted seven times. I asked if the recruiting department had access to the followers of these seven Twitter accounts. After a quick glance, the answer was no. I also asked if they had seen the review written by a recruited candidate from that campaign on our Facebook fan page. They were unaware of this positive review. I asked the recruiting manager if they were currently working on a similar campaign for a different client. The answer was yes. I showed them in our CRM where the inbound lead for this client had come from. The notes for this lead stated that the client had seen a re-tweet of our posting on one of their vendor’s Twitter feeds. The client had heard of The Manus Group before, but was unaware we provided highly specialized recruiting campaigns. They did a little research and found our review on Facebook and decided to call and see if we could design and implement a similar campaign to meet their specific needs.
The point made, the recruiting manager did not ask the questions necessary to bring about the understanding of the value of the task. Therefore, the big picture never came into focus on how job postings bolster brand visibility and clarity of provided services, which in turn brings in leads that become additional recruiting campaigns that affect the financial growth of their department. Today, I have a fully enrolled recruiting department who re-posts job listings on social media and asks me how they are doing.
The lesson learned, understanding the why of a process often provides the motivation for fully participating in a process. When training process, demonstrate the why. Ask and answer the questions your team may be afraid to ask or may not understand the importance of asking. Lay out each brick in the pathway of a process, even when that brick lies in the territory of another department. Take regular breaks in training to ask if there are any questions. Create an environment in which asking a question is a positive and rewarded experience. Check back often with your team during training to confirm they understand the why by literally asking them to tell you why this step is part of the process. If they are missing the mark, re-teach that point with an emphasis on the why. Engage in spiral learning with your team by going back to previous steps in the process and tying them to the current lesson with an explanation of how and why these two steps influence each other. With your over-achievers, keep them motivated by giving up your role as the sage on the stage and become a guide on the side as they bolster their learning by teaching others.
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