Why ask why?

Remember the “Why ask why, try Bud Dry.” commercials?  This blog isn’t about those.  What it is about is the importance of asking, “Why?”

Why is a pretty popular question asked in conversations between friends, it’s even more popular in conversations between adults and 3-year olds.  Where it’s not as popular is in the business world.  By now, you know I love to talk about credit unions, but I’m sure the absence of “why” in the workplace is fairly prevalent throughout the entire business world.  Why you ask? (If you asked why, even in your head, this blog has already served part of its purpose.)  Well, in my humble opinion, the absence of “why” is primarily due to fear.  More specifically, fear of possible repercussions.  Coming in at a close second, perceived lack of time is another culprit.

If you ask me, “why?” has got a bad rap.  This is probably due to those conversations between 3-year olds and their parents, but let’s set those incidents aside for a minute and look at why asking “why?” is essential to developing sound business strategy.

“Why?” is a portal to deeper understanding.

So, your CEO, President, VP (you name it) has asked you to complete some task.  You and I know that you’re asking yourself, “Why?”, but you wouldn’t even entertain the idea of letting those three letters cross your lips.  Right?  Why?  Because no one wants to questions the boss person (See, I am politically correct most of the time.)  This may be true with some “leaders”, but I guarantee that an effective leader is secretly waiting for you to ask.  For more on leadership, check out Matt Monge.  He’s got a lot of great stuff but this blog is especially relevant to this discussion.

Consider another situation.  Imagine you and your team are assembled around the table discussing a new marketing campaign or business initiative.  Have you ever questioned the motives, intentions or expected results?  Those are pretty important issues if you ask me.  Sure, your leadership team probably (keyword probably) has answers to those questions, but shouldn’t you be privy to those as well? (Sometimes you might not, I get that.)  But, what if a simple, “why” could pull those motives, intentions and expected results into question?  What if a simple “why” could help fine tune those expectations?  What if the expectations are unrealistic?  “Why?” is the only way to start conversations that NEED to happen, but most of the time they don’t.  We must to be flexible or cartilaginous as an industry.  We can start by being flexible with our employees.

If we can not get our entire team (I’m talking CEO to newest employee) to understand why they are being asked to do something, there’s no possible way that the proposed initiative will be as successful as it could be.  We are thinking creatures.  We are asking, “Why?” unconsciously all day long.  It’s time we make a conscious decision to grow in understanding about why we are doing the things we do.

 The best laid plans…

The best laid plans are NOT laid without someone asking, “Why?” (Several times in most cases.)  Bringing a product or service first to market is a great thing, but if you don’t have a clue as to what you’re going to do once it’s “out in the wild”, you’re bound to be spending a lot more time creating a plan of action that could have already been established if one brave person would have just asked a simple question or two.

Even if you launch a product, service or initiative and it’s wildly successful, we still need to ask “why?”  What did we do?  Was it just good timing or did we rock it out because we did all of our due diligence and had a solid plan in place?

If you didn’t quite accomplish what you set out to do, “why?” becomes even more important.  Why didn’t this work (Why is a gateway question)?  What could we have done differently?  What can we learn from this?

No one likes to play 20 Questions, but I’m confident that any sensible business person would choose 20 Questions over a failed business initiative.

In summation

Asking “why?” is essential!  Pick your spots, but seeking a deeper understanding is always a good thing.

Do you have any examples of when simply asking “why?” has helped you?  Any stories of when “why?” may have not been worth it?

I’d love to hear them!

 Without wax,



What Can Credit Unions Learn From Rudy?

Rudy, Rudy, Rudy…

First thing’s first, among my unhealthy love of Star Wars, Apple and quite a few other geeky things, I am a hardcore Notre Dame fan.  Regardless of your personal proclivities in regard to college football, I think we all can enjoy an underdog story.  If you’re reading this, you are probably:

  1. Really bored
  2. Humoring me
  3. Affiliated with a credit union

Either way, you might as well read this until the bitter end.  No one likes a quitter.  So, what can credit unions learn from Rudy?

 Being huge isn’t a prerequisite

“Size matters not.” – Yoda

How I managed to get a Star Wars reference in here amazes me…

Anyhow, the size of your membership, your asset size or the number of employees under your roof will NEVER be as important as the effort your team puts forth.  We must always be mindful that our members have chosen us as their financial institution.  We should be working everyday to show our members why they made the right choice.

Rudy Ruettiger was the smallest guy on the field.  He wasn’t an All-American, he wasn’t even a starter, but he is remembered.  Why?  Because his efforts and constant desire to  succeed left a lasting impression on those around him.  This leads into my next point…

Win your team over and your fans (members will follow suit.)

If you can’t win your own team over, how can you expect others to buy-in to what you’re doing?  A culture of success is a tough thing to build, but it is absolutely necessary.  If you want to know more about culture, I strongly suggest you follow Matt Monge on Twitter and read his blog posts regularly.

During Rudy’s time at Notre Dame, there was a culture of success.  Today, well, not so much.  Either way, Rudy bought-in to that culture.  He did the things that no one wanted to do and he took a beating while doing it.  Eventually people noticed.  In fact, Rudy had no right to even dress for a game.  The only reason he dressed for the final game of his Senior year and actually stepped on to the field is because his teammates saw what he was all about.  As credit union professionals, we have to work hard everyday with the resources that we have.  Hard work hardly ever goes unnoticed.  If you can get your teammates to do this you are on the right track.

The Practice field

In my humble opinion, too much emphasis is based on immediate results. People are always looking for a shortcut or an easy way to achieve what it has taken others many years to accomplish.  Don’t get me wrong, no one should be making decisions willy-nilly, but success takes time.  Your office is your practice field and chances are you’re on that field at least five days a week.  Are you doing the research?  Are you thinking: “How can I create a solution?”

Put the time in, make a plan and then execute.  A good friend and mentor of mine, Kevin Ralofsky would say this, “It’s all about blocking and tackling.”  I’m not sure how Kevin would feel about this reference, but here goes: If you find yourself struggling, ask for help.  In Rudy’s case, D-Bop (played by Jon Favreau) was that help.  Yes, Kevin, if you are reading this, I just called you D-Bop.

A good mentor is hard to find and admitting you need guidance is usually even more difficult.  Regardless, a healthy apprentice/padawan (again with the Star Wars references) relationship can go a very long way.  Credit Unions are in the business of collaboration and cooperation.  Have you started building a network of people who can help you achieve your goals?  They are out there and there’s no doubt in my mind that they are waiting to help.  Find your D-Bop, get on the field and do something memorable.

Persistence pays off

If you succeed at first, congratulations.  For many of us this won’t be the case.  If it is, again, congratulations, but ask yourself, “Am I setting my goals high enough?”  Setting easy goals and checking them off may feel good, but how much better does it feel to do something big?  Answer: It feels fantastic.

It won’t be easy, and it won’t come quick, but it shouldn’t.  The toughest part about being persistent is, well, being persistent.  When things get rough, our natural reaction is to seek some way to alleviate the “pain”.  I call this finding a solution.  What is important to note is this: There are no simple solutions for complex problems.

The first solution is not always the best.  It’s not like a multiple choice exam where you just go with your first thought (this got me through college.)  These sort of things need to be thought out.  If it is a problem that requires immediate attention, stop the bleeding and then go in search of the source.  Whatever you do, don’t quit!  If you’re reading this, you’ve put a lot of time into (reading this, and) what you do. I bet you’re proud of what you’ve done.  You should be (not talking about reading this blog post.)

I’ll leave you with this.  Rudy almost quit.  The underdog story of this young man almost never happened.  Some of you may wish it never did happen because then you wouldn’t have to read this.  Either way, sometimes, when we are the closest to accomplishing the things we’ve been working for, the opportunity to quit presents itself.  Don’t do it.  Don’t compromise either.  Seek the guidance of a good friend or mentor and find the right solution.

Without wax,


(All spelling and grammar errors are my gift to you.  Free of charge.  You can thank me later.)