To Get Ahead, Ask “Why?”

Posted April 10, 2012 by Marcy Twete in On the Ladder

There’s a time in every child’s life where they become obsessed with the word “why.” We’ve all had those conversations. Usually the child is 4 or 5 and the conversation goes something like this:

Adult: It’s time to go to bed.
Child: Why?
Adult: Because you need to get some sleep.
Child: Why?
Adult: So you’ll feel awake in the morning for school.
Child: Why?

If you’ve ever been in this situation, you know this conversation can continue seemingly forever. But somewhere along the lines, either the child or the adult gives up on the exchange. And eventually, every child gives up on the “why” game all together. A blessing to parents, but might this change in behavior be the wrong one to set that child up for success in business? Asking “why” might be the differentiating point between a successful businesswoman and one who rests on her laurels and never excels.

Harvey Mackay, author of The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World, recently published an article with Inc. called “Why I Love Employees Who Ask ‘Why'” that argues those kids with the “why” reflex are moving in the right direction for the corporate world. Mackay says, “Conventional wisdom says they’re a pain. In reality, they are doing you a huge favor.” Employees who want to know “why” are those who see opportunities for innovation, effective changes that could save you money and time.

Mackay’s article is absolutely worth the read. My favorite point, though, comes from Diane Ravitch who said:  “The person who knows ‘how’ will always have a job.  The person who knows ‘why’ will always be his boss.”  

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."