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Why should you explain WHY?

Remember the five “W’s?”

In my early journalism classes, I was taught the five “W’s” of good news stories, and that most should be in the first paragraph at that.  Who, what, when, where and why are the five, with sometimes a “how” thrown in for those followers of the macabre.

Which of the five is most important for you?

But of the five, “why” is by far the most important for business leaders to consider and communicate.  Employees, contractors, even investors want to know why they are asked to make use of their valuable resource to support your effort.

So now: Why explain why?

Failure to explain why will scare away potential investors – other than closest friends and family.  The same failure will disenfranchise your workforce to a degree that most will give less effort to a project, and certainly with less enthusiasm.

What about hiding the “why” from employees or investors?

[Email readers, continue here…]   Especially if a company is in trouble, perhaps with an urgent need to make a deadline, or facing a cash crisis caused by something your employees can help control, explaining the importance of the action required empowers all to work smarter and harder to achieve the stated goal.

A personal story to illustrate

I’ve recently experienced an example of this. One of my companies where I have an investment and am on the advisory board was in the midst of a sprint to close its acquisition by a larger company before the cash ran out and enterprise value plummeted.  Do you tell the employees about the pending acquisition early in order to focus them on increased performance to increase cash flow, or just keep the secret and hope that all would turn out OK and the acquisition proceed to an orderly closing on time?

Our solution

We chose to tell the employees, with the obvious risk that some would be scared into looking for another job right in the middle of the acquisition process.  The effort worked, and all did come together to make it happen. No–one jumped, and the buyer closed the deal without a question.

When in doubt, don’t be shy.  Tell them why.  Your people will rise to the occasion.

  • Cricket Lee

    This is great – to know that honesty is ALWAYS the best policy!

  • greg wood

    Good thoughts. Just today before reading this, I talked to my 14 year old grandson who is going out for football. I asked him WHY? He did not have a real good answer other than he “felt” he might like it. My question was to challenge him to think through the “why” at its most fundamental foundation. When you have honestly articulated to yourself the “why” it will either reinforce or cause abandonment of what you are doing. A clarified “why” will focus, motivate, and build character.

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