In a few weeks the end of the summer holiday is coming, which means that you are all getting back to work again. As a last republished post in this summer series I thought it would be helpful to translate the one on how you can start a meeting and make the outcome more successful as a result of that start. You can not keep on using this one, so choose wisely for which meeting in the coming weeks you want to use this exercise. Usually it is a nice exercise to bridge goals for your personal life with the intentions you have professionally. It has become a classic Minkowski exercise. If you’ve ever participated in one of our sessions you’ll recognize it straight away.
Starting with the ‘why’
Simon Sinek has argued for a long time that organizations should start with describing their why (only after they’ve answered that question should they focus on the ‘how’ and ‘what’). Raimo van der Klein suggested that companies should start with the who, even before they start with their why, because if you don’t have the right people your why doesn’t make any sense at all. Both those questions are relevant for organizations, but also for individuals.
The answers to them will also shift over the course of time. You shouldn’t just answer it once and never come back to it. I’d suggest to revisit them regularly. Not only from a strategic perspective but also on a personal level. Ask yourself more often why you are doing what you are doing? And pose those question to the people around you as well. When you do, you’ll be much more aware of your own purpose in life, that of your organization and that of your team. It will also make you more aware of the purpose of the meeting you are about to start when you begin with asking: ‘why are we here’? And when everyone is aware of the reason for spending that time, the effectiveness of your meeting will increase.
5 times why
Every program that I have ever designed therefore always starts with that ‘why’ question. It is posed to every single participant. After the exercise (which only takes 15-20mins) the rate of success for the session jumps up. Participants always have different motivations for participating in something and when they are given enough time to share their intentions their commitment and engagement with the process grows. Even when you are just having a conversation with 3 others: start with the why. But also when you are facilitating a session with 300 others: start with the why.
This is how you can set it up as an exercise (it is called ‘the 5 times why’ exercise):
Ask participants to find one other person to do this exercise.
During the first round one of you asks the other: “why are you here?” and then the other reply. The interviewer repeats this question 5 times and listens to the answers given.
After the 5th time the interviewer shares what he or she heard: what was the essence of why your partner is participating in this conversation, meeting or event?
You now swap roles and repeat the exercise. If you were asking the question you will now reply to the other person asking you: “why are you here?”
When everyone is done, reflect on the exercise and share each other’s intentions.
When you are truly being a facilitator in this exercise (when you are asking the question) and listening to the answers with attention, then you will give your partner a great present. A deep insight on what they have uncovered themselves: their reason for being there and a realization on how they can give their personal purpose space in the purpose of the organization they’re working for.