One of the most important words in the English language is once again the topic of today’s episode – Why. It is honestly one of the hardest questions for most people to answer. Why do you want that job? Why are you so interested in that reward? Why are you spending so much time each day working on specific tasks? We also cover the importance of taking a pause between stimulus and response, and discuss a better way to get honest answers from your employees.

Why is such an important and word and question. We can answer “why” to most things superficially, but that’s not enough. The trick that emotionally intelligent people learn is to ask again and again, deeper and deeper. It is not always a comfortable experience. I want the job because I want to make money. (OK, but why?) Well, I need money because I have to maintain this lifestyle. (OK, but why?) If I don’t maintain this lifestyle, I’ll feel like a failure. (OK, but why?) The question is hard to answer because ultimately, there’s often a hidden fact or emotion influencing the deepest answers. If you can’t articulate a compelling, defensible “why,” that’s a big red flag. There’s either something wrong with your ultimate goal, or there’s something wrong with the specific activity you’re doing to try to reach it.

We say honesty is the best policy; I think that’s right. But, it’s not just about just honesty toward other people; it’s about being honest with yourself. Here’s an example. As a boss, you might smartly make a habit of asking your employees if they have everything they need to be successful. Maybe they tell you they do, and that’s comforting to hear. An employee might think, even in the short instant it takes to reply: “I’ll say, ‘Yes, I have what I need,’ so I don’t look as if I can’t do my job.” “I’ll say, ‘Yes, I have what I need,’ because honestly, I haven’t thought about what I need.” “I’ll say, ‘Yes, I have what I need,’ because I simply want this conversation with my boss to end.”

If you’re looking for hard truths, that might mean asking again and again (much like asking, “why?”) until you find them. An article Dan read taught him to ask about problems three times:

Boss’s first question: “How’s everything going?”

Boss’s second question: “What are the things that are getting in the way?”

Boss’s third question: “OK, but if there were a problem, what would it be?”

Ask in order to get past the emotions, the assumptions, and the power imbalance–and give people implicit permission to speak up. Ask in order to find the hard truths.

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