Clients often ask me a series of “why” questions during engagements. Here’s a list of the most common ones:

  • Why do people do what they do?
  • Why do leaders do what they do?
  • Why do salespeople do what they do?
  • Why does the person I work with do what they do?
  • Why does my sister/brother act that way?
  • Why does the owner do that?
  • Why did that person do what they did?

The answer, put simply, is because they want something.

Here’s the process:

  1. What a person wants and how they judge the results they’re getting (whoever that person may be) is based on their individual interests, attitudes and values.
  2. The difference between what that person wants and what they perceive they’re getting is the driver for their behavior.
  3. That person’s behavior is an attempt to close the gap between what they want and the result they perceive they’re currently getting.
  4. Achieving results means that the person either changes what they want or how they behave. (Actions).

Many times, what is illogical in action is quite logical in the mind of the person around whom the questions are being asked. The confusion comes in the gap between what they want and what they’re getting. It also comes in the space of thought between what someone is doing and the understanding as to why. And lastly, confusion comes in the gap between what the individual wants and what someone responsible for leading them wants.

The good news is that there’s a series of questions, used individually or collectively, that can help close the gap of understanding and bring greater clarity and direction to your leadership and the relationship.

Questions to consider:

  • What do you want?
  • How does what you want reflect your values?
  • How does what you want connect with what the company wants?
  • What are you doing to get what you want?
  • What actions have you taken to get what you want?
  • What exactly did you do?
  • What are you doing now?
  • Is what you’re doing helping you get what you want?
  • Is what you’re doing working?
  • What’s the gap between what you want and what you’ve achieved?
  • If you aren’t getting, or don’t get, what you want, what’s your plan?
  • What do you need to do differently to help you get what you want?

The purpose of these questions isn’t abstract. On the contrary, the purpose of these questions is to expand the dialogue of awareness and understanding that leads to greater opportunities to coach and develop—practical, real and challenging. It’s not enough to say that you value the development of people or that you want to grow future leaders. You must demonstrate this value.

Why do people do what they do? Put simply, it’s because they want something.

With intent,
Brent