Asking “why?” is critical to motivating ourselves and others.

As children, we were naturally curious. We asked “why?” when we began to talk: “Why is the sky blue?” “Why is the sun yellow?” When parents answered a question, we usually followed with another “why?”

As adults, though, we’ve stopped asking “why?” for various reasons. Perhaps we think we know the answer. Maybe we don’t wish to come across as unintelligent. We may even hope the answer will simply reveal itself.

However, to effectively communicate with our colleagues and customers, we have to be convinced that what we’re communicating is important. We have to create a connection to move others to take action. Therefore, we must ask the questions necessary to help ourselves and others fully understand the business.

We ask “why?” so everyone can develop a mindset to think deeper about the significance of their responsibilities. Motives influence our productivity and goals, and our aim should be to achieve positive results.

To boost productivity and shape motives, here are several ways we should be asking “why?”

Why are we doing this?

For any project or task, it’s imperative employees understand why they’re starting it in the first place. Simply tackling a project for the sake of doing it is not a reason to devote our time and skills to it.

Rather, knowing the purpose of the individual project or task at hand will persuade employees that they’re doing important work. Questions to consider are:

  • “What is the end goal?”
  • “What do we hope to accomplish?”
  • “How does it contribute to the larger picture?”

Employees’ personal and professional motives will also affect their attitudes and the effort they apply to the task. Managers should ask employees why they’re undertaking the assignment so that team and company motivations can be mutually aligned. Understand their mindset so that you can help redirect it or guide it if necessary. If your team understands the “why” of the task or project, and hopefully agrees with it, then their own motivation will be clear and that will drive them to give it their all.

Why is there value in the organization?

Helping employees move beyond the routine of clocking in and doing their jobs is important to keep them motivated. Make sure they understand what the company is about, what drives the organization, what values it represents, how the company is embodying its mission, and how the employees fit into the overall picture.

It can be a challenge for employees to feel the same passion for a company that its owner does, but leadership can help with this area. Leaders are persuasive when they embody the values of the organization, are driven to help the company grow, and feel the same passion for its overall goals. That passion trickles down to the team, motivating individuals to devotedly serve the company in reaching its aims.

Why is this important to customers?

To motivate your team to provide better goods or services, help them move beyond asking why a project or task adds value internally to asking why it’s meaningful to customers.

Ask employees to put themselves in the shoes of the customer so that they learn to think as a customer.

Encourage them to visualize how their work benefits others. Employees may feel more motivated after they answer: “How is this going to make the customer’s life easier?”

Why is this important to employees?

Entry-level and mid-career staff aren’t the only ones who need to ask themselves “why?”

Executives, leadership, and management should be concerned with the benefits to their employees. They should ask: “How do the values of the company benefit employees?” “How will projects and tasks bring satisfaction in employees’ work?” “Why will this initiative motivate them to be more productive?”

Asking “why” moves others to think and assess why they’re doing what they’re doing. It causes them to move beyond the simple task of doing to instead evaluating the reasons behind their motivation. When people put meaning into their actions, it humanizes the process of decision making.

Help your team see the value in their work and the value in themselves by asking “why?”

This post first appeared on Thomas Insights