How to Answer “Why should I?”

crossed arms girl cropBy the time we get to adulthood, we don’t typically use the language of a 5-year old, yet “Why should I?” is a valid question.  The receiver of a message is always asking it (on some level) or the related one  “What’s in it for me?”  They have a right to ask it and a good communicator will answer it.

When you’re a parent, you can say “Because I say so.”  When you’re the leader, you can try that too — but not much.  Do that more than twice and you’ll pay a price in resentment and disengagement.  Leaders have formal authority although relying on it will not create the kind of engaged team you’ll need to get the results you seek.

Leadership is a collaborative relationship and often with people we don’t see.  You might ask yourself “Why aren’t they responding to my email?”  “Why aren’t they doing what I want them to?”   The answer is because you haven’t told them why they should or how what they care about will benefit.

Job Number One of a communicator (and that means you, leaders) is to understand the audience.  Here’s the bad news about that one:  It takes time.  “What?!”  you say, “I don’t have any time!”  Exactly!  You cannot waste time.  When you don’t do your research to fully understand the point of view of your audience and the context around which your message will be received, you are wasting time.

You can find a few different versions for the “5 C’s” of communication.  They’re all good but here is my reduction to just 3.

About your audience, you should understand the:

  • Context in which they work and will receive your message
  • Culture of the recipients that will affect how they hear it and respond
  • Concerns that motivate them such as deadlines, initiatives and priorities.

Invest the time and enjoy the results.