“’Why do you do it that way?’ Is a great question to streamline anything.” Jeannette Seibly
Two-thirds of today’s working population is made up of Millennials and GenZs, a.k.a. the “Why Generation.” They are asking questions to understand:
- “Why were these policies and systems designed this way?”
- “How does this procedure help people access products and services easier and faster?”
- “What are the reasons for this decision?”
When digital natives ask “why,” it is not to be rebellious, disrespectful or rude. Instead, they want to offer their technology skills to makes a way of making a positive contribution.
Traditionally, the fear of asking bosses “why,” is that it was seen as challenging their authority. The truth was, bosses often didn’t know the answer or have the power to change a system or procedure. As a result, employees were wary of offering new ideas. They feared speaking up would hurt their promotion, pay increase and/or continued employment.
In today’s workplace, leaders must set aside their egos and encourage curiosity. “Why” is a great question to ask when building a win-win outcome with any project, team and/or system. It requires each person to be vulnerable and say, “I don’t know. But, let’s find out the answer together.” It’s how and why innovation and disruption get created, saving time and money while engaging top talent.
7 Ways to Engage the “Why Generation”
- “Why are policies and systems that way?” It’s one of the first questions many ask. Embrace this question. It’s a great opportunity to review and update policies, systems, and procedures.
- Educate employees about the impact they have. Train them on “how” and “why” their tasks (or lack of effort to do them well) impact the work done by others. Cross-training within the department and throughout the company will broaden everyone’s POV.
- Be available to answer “why” in a way others will understand. Some employees learn in a methodical manner (show and tell me). Others learn best by sharing the concept. Then, through trial and error, they will learn the details of how-to-do-it (tell me and let me figure it out). Using scientifically validated job fit assessments will reveal how employees best learn and help you be a better boss and coach.
- Learn how to listen and talk with one another. Listening is a two-way street. Asking and answering “why” creates new opportunities and expands old ones. To build win-win outcomes, training must include communication, critical thinking, cultural sensitivity, decision making, and other soft skills. These can and do impact the creation of improved products and systems.
- Sharing history will prevent a repeat of history’s errors. If you don’t know the “why,” find out the facts. Also, be open to having an inquiry with your employees: “Why do you believe it was done that way?”
- Be curious and ask open-ended questions in team meetings (e.g., who, what, when, where, why and how).
- “Why do you believe this system or procedure needs to be changed?”
- “How and when would your idea improve it?”
- “Who have you talked with that is affected by this change?”
- Evaluate changes before implementing them. While change may look good on paper, in reality, it may not work for your company. Don’t forget to share your findings of why it will or won’t work.
As a boss and leader, it’s important to remember “why” the “Why Generation” is asking so many questions. The answer: to offer new ideas and make a positive contribution to everyone.
©Jeannette Seibly, 2018
Jeannette Seibly has been recognized as a catalyst and leadership expert for the past 26 years. As an executive coach, speaker, and author, she provides straight talk with dynamic results. It takes courage to ask and answer “why.” Help your employees and bosses learn how to do it with ease. Contact Jeannette for a preliminary confidential conversation. And, do it now.