Recently, my senior pastor had our staff watch Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action. The basic gist of Simon’s talk is that if you want people to follow you, you’ve got to tell them why you’re doing what you’re doing. You’ve got to explain the why behind the what.
I like to think I’m pretty good at this. I’m a detailed, analytical person. Each of our ministry events has a well-thought out purpose behind it.
I know the purpose behind everything we do.
The problem is sometimes my team members don’t.
I was reminded of this when my youth ministry held it’s recent Rummage Sale, one of our biggest fundraisers of the year. This year, as parents, students, leaders and I sifted through junk, I heard something I honestly haven’t in past years: Complaining.
This is too much work.
There are easier ways to make money than this.
I’ve got better things to be doing than this.
The constant onslaught of complaints increasingly frustrated me. At one point, I nearly threw my hands up in the air and exclaimed, “Why don’t you people understand the value of this?”
That’s when I realized: My people didn’t understand the value because I hadn’t communicated it to them.
I remedied this the day of our sale.
Before the sale began, I assembled my team and explained the why behind the what. I talked about the value of working together to raise money. I described how important it is to give people the opportunity to purge. I described how it gives our refugee neighbors dignity to shop for their families at prices they can afford. I explained where our leftovers go and how that continues to benefit our community. I then turned my team lose.
To be honest, the rest of the day was a blur. One of the few things I remember is running into a young Burmese refugee who was resettled in the United States in February. Several of my teens had welcomed he and his family on the day they arrived. His arms were laden with pots and pans he and his family needed in their apartment.
I walked away from my brief encounter with him thinking, “That’s why we do the Rummage Sale.”
The funny thing is, several other people saw this encounter and thought the same thing. Over the course of the next few hours, several parents remarked how my brief orientation had changed their understanding and outlook of the rummage sale.
Days earlier, those same people had been among my most vocal complainers.
I thought their complaints meant they were unsupportive; In actuality, their complaints meant they didn’t understand.
As I was leaving church the day after the sale, another parent stopped me. She offered several reflections on the sale including “Your orientation was so powerful. It helped reframe the entire event for me.”
That, friends, is the power of the why behind the what. It reframes everything.