Walking out of Whole Foods today I heard a son ask his mother the following question.

"Mom, do you want a muscle car?"

To which his mom gave him a sideways look, shook her head and simply answered "no".

But I really wish his mom had asked the best follow-up question -

"Why do you ask?"

I wanted to know why this little boy could see his mom zooming around town with groceries in the back of her muscle car. Maybe this little boy thinks his mom is super cool and needs to upgrade her ride, maybe he just saw a car he really liked and wanted to talk to her about it.

Either way, this was a missed opportunity for them to connect on a deeper level--to gain a deeper understanding.

In your business, asking "why" after any question you receive is the best way to get to the root of what the other person is really asking. It's fundamental to your growth as the owner of your company, or the manager of a successful team, to uncover what your customer really wants and what your team really needs.

I was reminded of this point at a recent meeting of the Emergency Food and Shelter Board - an organization I have served on for several years now with a primary goal of providing transitional housing to at risk homeless. One of the board members shared the following story:

An individual showed up at an aid office looking for money to pay for a place to stay.

The intake agent asked the best follow-up question--"Why do you need money?"

Response--"Because I don't have a job."

Question--"Why don't you have a job?"

Response--"Because I don't have my driver's license"

Question--"Why don't you have your driver's license?"

Response--"Because I don't have my birth certificate."

Question--"Why don't you have your birth certificate?"

Response--"Because I don't have an address to send it to."

After this extensive line of questioning, the agent learns it isn't about a need for money, this individual's need is much deeper - a very solve-able problem. Asking why--multiple times--is key to resolving the true root problem.

How does this play out in your workplace?

An employee asks, "Can I have more time for this project?"

You may be tempted to say "No" or ask "How much more time?

But if you ask "Why?", you may find the employee is running into a roadblock getting the information they need or that they don't have the skills to get the job done.

Or if a customer asks, "Does your product have the following feature?" Instead of immediately answering their question, asking "why" can lead you to potential enhancements or a different way to solve their problem.

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