I’m a ‘why’ guy. I like to know why things happen, why certain things are the way they are, and why people do what they do. Especially in the last few years, I’ve really started diving into the question why, and the answers are often fascinating.
What sparked this as a post was another bike ride. I was pedaling past an elementary school and on the marquee out front was this message, “Have a safe a relaxing summer”. A nice sentiment, I thought, but then I quickly wondered why schools take the summer off. I’m sure it’s not to give teachers a break (although I am sure they need it) or to keep amusement parks in business, so what could it be?
I continued riding and wondering… was it due to farming? I don’t know much about harvest cycles, but I didn’t think summer was prime harvest season. So what was it?
Turns out that in rural areas, it was farming that set the time frame for school, but the kids we not on vacation during the summer. They were in school in the summer and winter and working on the farms in spring and fall. In more urban areas there were concerns of the poorly ventilated schools being too hot and that kids were too fragile to be in school that long. Eventually the urban and rural schedules met in the middle and viola – summer break. If you’d like to learn more, click here.
Now, as interesting as that is, what does it do for me? Increased my personal knowledge? Sure. Exhilarating party conversation? You bet! More importantly, I now understand why it is the way it is. The more I understand, the more intelligently I can act.
How often do you ask why? As a leader, it can be easy sometimes to simply accept certain things for the way they are. This may not be due to a lack of curiosity, but maybe a lack of time or energy to pursue the real why. I definitely think this happens with our employees a lot.
We see them leaning and tell them not to. We see them not smiling and we tell them to be happy. But do we every get to WHY they are doing those things in the first place… and I mean the REAL why… not because we think they are lazy or they don’t care? Before we can alter a behavior, we have to understand why it’s happening in the first place.
For now, think about the things you do just because you do them. Is it a process, a habit, a business practice? Why do you do it that way?
If you can’t come up with a good reason, maybe it’s time to ask yourself why you do it in the first place.
Thanks for reading – stay optimistic!