From Under the Why to Over the Top

By: Kimberly Gleason

I’m betting you’re no different than my kid.

“Why do I have to clean the living room?” she whines.

I roll my eyes, making a grand sweeping gesture toward the chaos—books littered across the floor, legos crammed in the sides of the couch, a nice splat on the carpet (Peanut butter? Dog vomit? Does it matter?). “Because I like a nice, clean house. And, because I said so.”

She stomps toward the living room.

Like I said, I bet you’re no different than my kid. She wants to know why she has to do what she has to do. A nice, clean house and “because I said so” doesn’t cut it. What she really wants to know is why this is important; why a clean house matters. Do I go into a lengthy discourse on how an uncluttered house equals an uncluttered mind? Or how clean evolves into peace and a sense that everything is okay? Or that a clean house makes me feel as if I’m a good mother? She is only nine, after all.

Similarly, we all want to know the purpose and importance of what we’re doing. From a workplace standpoint, coaching helps you get to the bigger “Why” of your staff, colleagues, clients, and customers.

But first…

The Smaller Why

The smaller “Why” is exactly what I gave my daughter—a nice, clean house. Smaller why’s include reasons such as

  • Because I said so.
  • Because this will make your customer satisfied.
  • Because she is on your team and needs to be included.
  • Because the deadline is next week.
  • Because this will save you a lot of money if you buy right now.

The Bigger Why

The smaller why’s are important, yes. But coaching gets to the heart of the matter—the bigger “Why.” Bigger why’s answer the question “So what?” For example,

  • Because a satisfied customer will refer their friends to us. And when we have a larger customer base, you will have greater career opportunities as we grow.
  • Because making sure that she feels part of the team will help us become more innovative and creative. This aligns with our company values.
  • Because if we finish this project by the deadline, you can expect a big bonus.
  • Because not only will you save a lot of money if you buy this service right now, but you’re also buying peace of mind and knowing you’re keeping your family secure.

Notice the difference between the two why’s? Coaching individuals uncovers their greater why’s—the larger questions of purpose and meaning and significance. Coaching is about probing, digging beneath the surface, unlocking potential, finding courage, creating insight, and aligning passion and vision with action. Coaching taps into people’s motivations—what drives them, excites them, makes them want to work hard and put forth their best efforts.

So do you sincerely want to take yourself or your organization to the top? Unearth the why. Discover the coach approach to tapping into motivation and unlocking potential.

Kimberly Gleason is a Grand Rapids-based personal and executive leadership coach, author of over 60 newspaper and magazine articles, professional speaker, and trainer. She specializes in helping leaders to improve individual and team performance, effectiveness, engagement, retention, and results. You can find out more about her free e-books, blog, resources, presentations, and programs at