Welcome to the jungle of WHY

Photo: edinburghmuseums.org.uk

The machete flashed in the sun as I slashed a path through the jungle green.

My hair was plastered to my head; sweat stung my eyes; my breathing was ragged; the machete slippery in my hand.

But I forged on. I didn’t look back. I knew my people would follow.


Because they knew my WHY.

I awoke from that dream at 3:13 a.m. Heart beating. Breathing ragged. I had just fallen asleep after hours of flipping and flopping like a fish struggling for air. My brain was unknotting the ideas I had about being a good leader in the business I had just started.

I knew what; so did they.

I knew how; so did they.

Now, I knew what it was, what it is, to be a good leader: show them WHY.

As a leader, I know my WHY. I know why I spring out of bed in the morning. I know why I wake up at 3 a.m. and take notes about solutions to challenges brewing in my subconscious mind.

To achieve my WHY, I need help. But for others to commit to work on my WHY, I need to know their WHY and see how the two can align to help them with their WHY.

That is my job as a leader. I need to know the barriers to my people’s success. I need to know their challenges. I need to know the things I control that slow them down, and I need to fix them.

When interviewing, I never want to feed job candidates the answers to my “skill-testing” interview questions, so my first questions are about their WHY.

Who are they?

Why are they here?

What do they hope to accomplish in their career, in their life?

What do they hope to accomplish within my business?

The more they talk, the more I can see if they can fit into my organization.

If I can see overlap between their WHY and mine, and if I can see that working on my WHY moves them closer to theirs, I share my vision, my dream for changing the world.

I watch them closely. Do their eyes get brighter? Do they lean into the conversation? Do they say “Yes, but…”? or do they say “Yes, and….”? Can they see parallels from their own life experience that will feed into our compatible WHY?

We can all wander off our WHY. Maybe we think it is too big, too grand — the impossible dream. The negative self-talk spiral starts. It is our job to shake off those thoughts, lift our heads high and keep moving.

As leaders, if we wander off, we will derail the WHY of those following us. We must be true to ourselves, true to the story we told them.

Sometimes, I will set out to motivate someone. I remind them of their WHY, reflecting their own greatness that will get them there. I will push them toward something, such as a training program, if I think it will contribute to their bigger WHY.

My goal is to help them to connect the dots between their motivation and their inspiration so they land in a place where they can be more productive, more purposeful in fulfilling their life.

If my people have not tasted the inspiration, the breath-taking challenge of their WHY, they may not understand this. But they will understand because I will be their role model.

Wayne Dyer explains the difference between motivation and inspiration.

“Motivation is when you get hold of an idea and carry it through to its conclusion, and inspiration is when an idea gets hold of you and carries you where you are intended to go.”

I want my people to be inspired to accomplish my WHY and their WHY — inspired to run behind me as I clear the jungle path. Maybe even seeing far enough ahead to have a sharpened machete ready for me.