Why? Why? Why?

Eileen Fisher is  major women’s clothing brand with 67 stores across the USA and Canada and in London and $430 million in revenue.  Eileen Fisher, the woman, is a savvy entrepreneur who started it all back in 1987.

Here are Eileen Fisher’s three biggest life and career success lessons…

  • Sometimes the best way to lead is to listen.
  • Women do things differently.
  • Always ask why.  You don’t need the answer, but keep exploring that.  It makes the work more meaningful.

I really like the third bit of advice here.  When I was a kid, the Hronas family lived next door.  Like lots of families in my hometown (mine included), it was a three generation household.  Mr. and Mrs. Hronas and my friends John and Steve lived on the first floor of the house.  Old Mr. and Mrs. Hronas, John and Steve’s grandparents lived up stairs.

I really liked old Mr. Hronas.  I used to spend time with him whenever I could.  He liked me too.  We used to talk about lots of things.  He called me the “why kid.”  He used to say, “All you do is ask why Bud, you always want to know so much.”  He did his best to answer all of my why questions.

Old Mr. Hronas was right.  I always wanted to know why — still do for that matter.  Sometimes this could get me in trouble — like the time I asked the flight attendant why my Kindle would interfere with the plane’s navigation system on landing when it didn’t do so when we were in the air.  Truth be told, it didn’t’ that’s why you can use your ereader during taxi, takeoff, flight time and landing now.

On the other hand, wanting to know why has really helped me in my professional work as a leadership consultant.  Some of my clients weren’t always crazy when I asked them “why?”  Often, the answer was “because we’ve always done it this way.”  Not a very compelling answer.

I find the same is true with some of my career mentoring clients.  They will complain about their job/company/boss.  But when I ask them “Why do you stay if you’re so unhappy?” many look at me with a surprised expression on their faces.  Usually the answer is “I don’t know.”

My follow up question is something like, “Why don’t you look for another job?” or “Why don’t you see what you can do to change things?”  The answer to these questions is usually something like, “It’s not that bad,” or “It’s too hard to make changes around here.”

In other words, the why behind the complaint usually isn’t strong enough to move the person into action, to making some changes.

The next time you find yourself complaining about something ask yourself a simple question, “Why?”  Then see if the answer is compelling enough to get you do commit to doing the work to make the change you want a reality.

Your career mentor,


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