Why ask “why”?

More information is always better than less.
Simon Sinek
1973 –

When you’re charged with a task, whether it’s at work, at home, or with friends, does the reason why matter? Does your manager try to motivate you by instilling a sense of purpose in your work? Do you try to motivate family members by sharing why you want them to do things a certain way? We often focus on the tasks we want done and the desired results, yet fail to understand the importance of why.

To illustrate the point, let me share an experiment done by Professor Adam Grant from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. He was called in by another major university in an effort to improve the morale and productivity of the university’s call center. Most universities have call centers that regularly phone their alumni to solicit donations –  a very challenging task. A high percentage of calls are unproductive and many alumni are rude to the callers, so the turnover rate is typically 400 percent.

Professor Grant asked about the intended use of the donations and learned that most of the money went to fund scholarships. Based on that information, he divided the call center employees into three groups.

The control group received no motivational speech. The second group was given a five minute pep talk about the skills they were learning in the call center and how the experience would benefit them later in life. The third group was given a five minute talk by a scholarship recipient; this student told employees how the scholarship had impacted his or her life and expressed gratitude for the valuable work performed by the call center staff.

The results? The first group’s collections remained at the same level. Surprisingly, the second group also showed no improvement. But the third group’s actual time on the phone went up by a factor of three. The number of calls they made per hour doubled. And the amount of donations they received went up five-fold.

What caused such dramatic change? It seems that when we work to benefit others, when we understand that we’re changing someone’s life for the better, we’re much more motivated to provide our best efforts.

It’s difficult to stay motivated by focusing primarily on the benefits you’ll receive. Understand how your actions benefit someone else. If you want more out of life, find ways to help others.

Our greatest duty and our main responsibility is to help others.
Dalai Lama
1935 –

Copyright © 2019 John Chancellor

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