I recently purchased The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2017. It is a great cookbook, but there is something especially unique about it compared to other cookbooks and it applies to team building and leadership application. (You can watch this newsletter here.)
What is unique is that every recipe is preceded with a section titled “Why this recipe works.” The reader is given background on the recipe that addresses important factors about the development of the recipe. The section “Why this recipe works” is not really necessary, as thousands of cookbooks don’t address why and the recipe alone has everything you need to cook the meal. However, “Why this recipe works” provides context that makes you better equipped and/or motivated to cook the dish.
Just as most cookbooks don’t address the why question, most leaders do not either.
It is the leader’s role to address why, but often the leader is too busy to address why or more commonly the leader assumes the team or stakeholders know why. Sometimes why can seem redundant but it is okay to be redundant when it comes to why. In fact, you should always answer the why question without it even being asked.
Evaluate the work you currently have assigned to others; do they understand all the aspects of why with regard to the tasks, why it is important, why it has to be executed a certain way, why it has to be done by this date, etc., etc.
Think about the work you have been assigned to complete. Do you understand all the aspects of why with regard to the assignment? If you don’t then you need to ask questions. At a minimum when you don’t understand why, inefficiencies happen and sometimes you get bad and/or unexpected outcomes.
I am taken aback about the strong criticism a few in my generation place on Millennials. When I was young in my career at NASA, there was criticism of my generation, and I imagine in caveman times some grizzled old caveman said "these young people don’t want to carry the load on their backs, they always want to use the wheel."
Criticism of the younger generation will go on for eternity, yet somehow humanity continues to advance. One thing I have observed of Millennials is they need to know "why" much more, as compared to my generation. If you are having challenges communicating with millennials in the work environment, assess how well you have communicated why. This not only applies to millennials but to everyone.