Five Outcomes of Effective Leaders Who Never Stop Asking “Why?”
In this blog, we explore five outcomes of effective leaders who never stop asking “why?” Let your curiosity live on throughout your life’s journey—both in the workplace as well as in your personal life. As children grow up, they go through the season of “whys.” They ask “why” about everything—especially when you tell them not to do something. But they ask “why” when you tell them to do something too! What drives them to ask “why” repeatedly? Curiosity. Children are naturally curious. And adults should be too. But we lose our curiosity along the way as we learn not to ask questions as teenagers and at work.
But not asking questions and not asking “why” is detrimental to our society in general. And the workplace especially suffers when we simply do what we’re told without asking why or what is the purpose or deeper reason for doing an activity. I don’t propose employees should question everything they are asked to do or their entire job description. I suggest that employees ask legitimate questions to understand their jobs and feel free to challenge a process if necessary.
Below are five outcomes of effective leaders who never stop asking “why?”:
Improved efficiency is the first outcome leaders obtain when they continually ask “why” things are done the way they are. When a manager asks that question and gets the “because we’ve always done it this way” response, something must change. Leaders challenge processes when they ask questions and, at the minimum, the result is improved efficiency. If nothing changes after reviewing the current process now you know it’s the most efficient way possible of doing it.
Uncover potential internal fraud.
The level of internal and external fraud that businesses encounter these days is at an all-time high. Financial institutions track and report fraudulent activity. When I ask them what types of fraud they see, they respond “all types relating to checks, ACH, and wires.” One way this is happening is with personal and business checks stolen right from people’s mailboxes. Fraudsters create illegitimate checks the old fashion way and deposit them at various institutions.
Company leaders, regardless of size, can ask questions of their employees—especially bookkeepers, finance, and accounting employees. Those who “keep the books” and have been there longer are the ones business owners should ask questions the most. By asking “why” leaders can discover fraudulent processes and schemes that will save them thousands of dollars down the road. Businesses must work with their institutions to fight this type of crime.
Establish a life-long learning culture.
Children learn by asking lots of questions. Guess what? Adults do too. We learn when we ask questions and keep an attitude of curiosity. Leaders who encourage their employees to not be afraid to ask “why,” establish a culture of life-long learning. Companies need employees to continually learn to stay on top of technology, improve systems, and to grow.
Along with curiosity comes innovation. Some companies form an “Innovation Committee” with the sole purpose to create new ways of doing things. They take employees’ input in all areas of the organization and end up with great ideas and savings that impact the bottom line. Another byproduct of fostered innovation is higher employee morale. Working on “creative mode” using innovative solutions increases the team’s overall energy. Innovation does not necessarily mean utilizing technology. It means doing things in a new way and thinking of new ways to solve problems.
As your organization develops leaders who are not afraid to ask “why?” it experiences improved efficiencies across the board. You also establish a culture of life-long learning which helps to keep employees engaged. When employees care, they start asking the “why?” questions too resulting in increased accountability. Employees know that processes are double checked, and internal controls are in place to avoid potential internal fraud. Lastly, with innovation at front of mind, your organization finds new ways of doing things and apply new solutions to problems. All these outcomes result in improved profitability which every business strives for.
Does your organization experience these five outcomes of effective leaders who never stop asking “why?”? I encourage you to start asking “why?” When you explain why you’re asking why and share these reasons explained above, employees will understand and get on board.
Making mistakes is human. But making the same mistakes repeatedly is unwise, unproductive, and lazy. When I worked at the community bank and we discovered an error, I asked what happened, how it happened, and why it happened. My employees knew that I was not asking in an accusative way, but only to get to the root of the problem. Then we identified the right solution that would fix the problem for good. I hope this blog encouraged you to remember what it was like when you were a child and asked “why?”