Causal Exploration – The Two types of “Why” 

The “why?” question can be constructive or destructive.  Why can propel you forward or paralyze you.  It can keep you where you are or push you further downwards.  It is important to know when you are using it constructively and when you are using it destructively.

Let’s look at the constructive use first.  

My 14-year-old son is training to be the best possible 100 meters runner he can be.  He is striving to achieve a particular timing goal he set for himself.  He is currently fluctuating in this dash time – good days and bad days as he puts it.  He always asks someone to video record his run during competitions and during practice sessions.   

Afterwards, he will perform his post mortem surgery of the video.  Checking and analyzing the video to see what he did well, what he did not do well, where the problem was – take-off posture? Loss of momentum? turning the corner for the 200m? He dissects the entire run each time.  He is seeking out the “why” he got the outcome.  This is exploratory, this is constructive because it is outcome and performance focused.

Causal exploration is the process of examining the dynamics of actions or put simply, it is a structured approach to asking the “why” question.  It is a process of investigating the outcome and how you arrived at that outcome for improvement or for continuity. 

As a leader, asking why is important. Theories of achievement, motivation and emotions tell us that the constant pursuit of “Why” is critical to sustained performance. 

Causal exploration therefore provides a deep and holistic view of actions, effects of the actions or inactions but most importantly it offers a pedestal for improvement. It unveils the data that support future decisions. 

Successful people, experts and people with deep mastery in their fields often engage in this structured exploration of why? They are constantly asking : Why did I succeed in this and fail in that? Or Why did X succeed and Y failed? Or yet still, what do I need to do to ensure I do not fail again or improve on the result I have. 

The destructive “why” on the other hand, is a cry for self-pity.  It is the “why me Lord”.  “Why do I always have bad luck?”  Why am I the only person who bad things happen to? 

The difference here is the orientation and focus of the “why” question.  This why is not really seeking answer, this “why” is a lamentation.

The why for how to get better focuses your attention on the steps to achieve your desired outcome.

“Why am I being passed up for promotion?” is a good why question when the outcome is to do something to change the situation.  It is a lamentation and destructive when it is a moaning about how your boss hates you and how your life is ruined consequently.

One way to use your why question for growth as a leader is to gain insights, get a holistic view of yourself and understand behaviors that are standing in the way for greater influence and impact. Instead of winning about the feedback, ask why the feedback. What behaviors are problematic?

To find out more on how you take control of your leadership development to achieve your desired goal, get in touch with us.  At Authentic Transformations, we help leaders dig deeper and understand the why. We do not not stop there, we work with you to create a plan for improved performance.

Schedule a complimentary session by clicking on the contact button below for free exploratory conversation.