4 Questions to Help You Define Your 'Why'

A number of years ago I listened to an amazing leadership podcast by Andy Stanley. In the podcast he gave 4 questions a leader must ask to define their vision. These four questions have immensely helped me as a leader. They've helped me cast a convincing vision. They've rallied our team around a central purpose and cemented us together for a cause. They have helped me steer a number of churches through seasons of change. And they have worked to help me personally define my 'WHY'.

Here are the four questions:

  1. What problem are we called to solve? Other ways to ask this same question is "what would go undone if our organization ceased to exist?
" Or, "what must be done in the environment we find ourselves in?
" The mistake I've often made as a leader is describing an idea before defining the problem that idea was designed to solve. As you might have guessed those ideas rarely gained traction with the people. It didn't mean that the idea itself was bad, it was just lost through poor communication. When I learned to clearly describe the problem first, the vision almost presented itself. I've discovered that clearly defining a problem rallies a team around finding a solution and gives lasting energy to the entire organization.
  2. What is our consensus solution? The obvious next question is "what is our solution to the problem we're called to solve?" Your vision is simply a solution to a problem and it must be presented as such. I must warn you here, it will take an enormous amount of time and effort to come to a clear consensus on the solution to the problem. But it's vital that you invest the time with your team! The truth is, we as leaders often know the answer before our people do, but if we would patiently allow our team to come to the consensus solution they would take a deeper ownership of the vision, giving it a lot more traction. It's also important that you take the time to state the solution clearly and concisely. Remember, memorable is portable. If the solution is simple, short and clear, it will fade less quickly in the minds of your people and will provide lasting energy to your team.
  3. Why us? The next valuable question to answer is "why should we be the ones to solve this problem?" Hint: the answer isn't "why not us?" It needs to be deeper than that. The more clearly you can answer this question, the more buy in you will get from your people and the easier it will be to recruit quality team members. To help answer this question you can ask, "what special gifts or talents do we have that qualifies us to answer this problem?" Or, "what opportunities/advantages do we have that position us perfectly to provide the solution to this problem?" "What do we see that no one else is seeing right now?"
  4. Why now? Timing is everything. It's important to be clear on your timing and deadlines. Are you ready to begin offering the solution to the problem you are called to solve? If not, when will you be ready? And what would it take for you or your organization to be ready? Brian Tracy in his book Goals! said "there are no unrealistic goals, just unrealistic deadlines." The same can be said about vision. If you are called to solve a problem, you have a WHY. But you and your team must be convinced that now is the time to begin offering the solution. And if not now - define when.

Answer these four questions and you will clearly define your WHY.

Questions: Which one of these four questions is most difficult for you to answer? And why?