WHY Ask WHY?
Forget the who, what, when, where and how. The only question that needs to be asked is why. If you're not asking it, you're doing something wrong. Before I share my the Miller-WHY Theory© (self-dubbed), let me give you some background.
The Background Story and MY Thoughts on WHY
I bet a lot of folks were taught that why is a question of dissent. It may go back as far as "Why do I have to eat this?", "Why do I have to clean my room?", or "Why do I have to do my homework?".
Don't even try to pull the "Why do I have to work?" question on me. We all know why we have to work. It's simple: food, shelter, clothing.
On the way home from work today, I took the great big list of my teenage son's "whys" and related it to the "why do I have to work hard?" question that I'm seeing is an issue with working adults in various industries and capacities.
My version of "WHY" is totally different, though I'm sure it was simply a question of dissent in my younger days.
Parents and WHY?
When I asked "Why do I have to eat this?", my parents would tell me about all the impoverished and underprivileged children in the world. I don't know if that really did the trick, though I'd like to think it had some effect on me. I cry during television commercials for goodness sake. I've always been a caring person, but I just might have been too young to understand the full scope of things.
That's when parents get crafty. When you're young, it's easy for parents to make a game out of things. We had the "Clean the Plate Club", but there was no way that was working for calf liver, so they told me it was something else.
My parent's response to "WHY" as it relates to cleaning was limited to "because I said so" or holding the loss of some privilege over my head. That works for children. An in-depth response is not necessary. Parents have the power then, for the most part.
As far as homework went, there was no question in my mind. I was always raised to do homework right when I got home from school. I wouldn't dare turn on the TV for fear it would explode or send some secret signal to my parents. A "C" grade was unacceptable.
When WHY Meant More
WHY really started clicking when I became a parent myself. I was 19 when I gave birth to my son and anytime he asked me why, I tried to give him a literal, relative response.
Somewhere between late elementary school and middle school things got hard for my now 17-year old, but only on occasion. I worked closely with him on schoolwork when he had trouble, but it was frustrating beyond belief. Things are being taught differently than they were when I was that age.
After a while, things calmed down a bit and my son no longer "needed" my assistance. His grades were just okay. Now that he's in 11th grade, the topics are becoming more difficult. He's challenged by Algebra II and Physics Honors.
His excuses to me were "everyone is failing Algebra II" and "WHY do I need to know this" (for both Algebra II and physics). He couldn't understand how he could possibly need either in real life. At first thought, I couldn't understand WHY myself.
As a budding young adult, my son deserves to know WHY, so I sought out reasons. Now, you may ask, WHY I think he deserves to know WHY?
The Miller-WHY Theory
This is where my Miller-WHY Theory comes in. When (most of us) become adults, why is no longer a question of dissent, but rather a question in an effort to gain a better understanding. Even before adulthood, you can see this in our toddlers and young children, when WHY is more of a "how stuff works" question.
We may not be able to answer "WHY" the grass is green or "where do birds go when it rains" off the top of our heads, but we've got this wonderful-ish thing called Google. For a while, I was anti-Google, but they're bringing so much innovation to the World, I had to latch on.
As adults, just because we understand the "how stuff works" thing, doesn't mean every working adult does. Most are just looking to put food on the table and cover basic needs. That doesn't mean they don't aspire for more.
For adult "WHY" questions, including teenagers and young adults, the key to motivation is answering the question for them in a way that relates to the individual.
WHY and Education
When it comes to educating my young adult, it is my responsibility, as a parent, to answer my son's WHY questions. His teachers have to cater to so many different personalities and learning styles. It is NOT solely their responsibility. Since I know my son best, I know what motivates him and I can find a way to relate things like Physics to him.
For physics, I found ways to answer his question of WHY. I hit the nail on the head by starting with the car that he was just licensed to drive. After I studied a bit more and went throughout the course of my days following, I realized Physics is all around us from running water from a faucet to doing laundry, leaves falling from trees, snacks and gravity, surface tension in cereal and more. Now, if I can just focus on cars/driving, computers/gaming and video game design (his career aspiration), I'll be set. I've got some research to do, but I'll get there and I'll be sure to share it with you along the way.
WHY and Adults in the Workplace
How does this relate to adults in the workplace? I've heard lack of motivation due to pay hundreds of times, but I strongly believe that can be overcome. The role of a supervisor/manager involves both "parental" (aka guidance) and "teacher" (aka education) aspects.
You could sum both up with the word leadership. Get to know your employees, maintaining professionalism, of course. Once you find out your employee's interests and motivation, outside of monetary compensation, you'll then gain an understanding of how to lead (guide and motivate) them.
Tell Them WHY Before They Ask
Going back to the "Why do I have to work?" question, the next questions are "Why do I have to work harder?", "Why do I have to work harder than him/her? We are paid the same.", and so on. To answer these questions, even when they're not explicitly asked, you should focus on the end result.
A great response to these questions is "what do you want out of life?". Of course, that's just my opinion and bold at that. If you only want to provide food, shelter and clothing than being "average" will generally get you where you need to be, but where do you want to be?
WHY vs. WHY
Let's say you're an independent contractor. You accept a job, you complete it and then you're paid. As an employee of a company, there's usually a delay in pay of about 1-2 weeks. Same thing. You do the work first, then you're paid.
As an independent contractor, if you do a good job, you get more work. If you do a great job, you get more referrals/recognition. More referrals/recognition means you may have the opportunity to increase your rates.
As an employee, you can do a good job and work overtime to get more pay. If you do a GREAT JOB, you get recognition (assuming their is a witness). That recognition may not always be in monetary compensation, but by doing a great job, you have a much better chance, even if someone tells you it's IMPOSSIBLE.
Can I Get A Witness?
A common rebuttal is that you're doing a great job, but there's no one around to see it. Are you really doing a "great" job? DEFINE a "great job". To me, a great job is understanding the company ideals, philosophies and goals and exceeding them by making a difference. If you're not doing something differently because you don't feel it will be allowed, you're afraid or you have questions, step it up and ask the questions.
Think outside of your "role", "department", "branch". There is so much more connectivity than the average worker who is just trying to put food on the table may realize. As Newton says "for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction". This doesn't ONLY apply to Physics. It applies to LIFE.
The Art of Why
The thing about asking why, is that you can't always just ask why. You have to phrase the question in a way that tells the listener that you really want to understand more about the subject.
Phrases like "what is the reasoning behind that?", "what is the desired end result?", "can you tell me more about the process?", "how does this affect X", etc. At the end of the day, the Miller-WHY Theory© is simply the art of understanding in an effort to keep moving forward in life.
The Miller-WHY Theory©
The Miller-WHY Theory© is not limited to school or work. It's a theory that is all-encompassing with a focus on personal, educational and professional growth. It's about wanting more. By more, I don't mean wanting more "things", but by wanting more out of life, you can get more "things" if that is what you desire.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to this....
The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary. - Vince Lombardi