Don’t Ask “What”, Ask “Why”

Recently, I was reading an article about how to help your two-year old during tantrums or when they are “acting out”. The concept was that you don’t ask “What do you want” but “Why do you want it”.

I loved this for leadership, whether it’s a leader as a parent or leader in a Fortune 500 company. When coaching your people, don’t ask them “what” questions, ask them “why” questions.

Look at the difference in perspective:

“What are you going to do to fix this?” to “Why is this broken?”

  • The first question, while valid, is focused on just fixing the problem and is more reactive
  • The second question looks at why did it break in the first place and how can we be proactive.

“What is your problem? You don’t have to yell!” to “Why do you feel you need to yell to get your point across?”

  • The first question can place someone on the defensive while the second question forces them to stop and communicate why they are upset.

While “What” questions certainly aren’t all bad, “Why” questions can add a new perspective to the situation.

The key is to not focus just on addressing the problem but more so to have a proactive approach so the problem does not exist in the first place.

It’s about making sure we are looking at the whole picture in a situation and not just a small piece.



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