September 21, 2016

Lawn Cutting with a “Y”

No, lawn cutting does NOT have a “Y” in its spelling. But I recently lived through and want to share a real life example of how effective it is to communicate in a way that moves others (by starting with the “why”) that Kenway Consulting embodies.

The context: My son, Brady, is 16 years old and a passionate high school baseball player. For high school aged boys, the baseball club summer season is one of the most competitive and time consuming seasons in sports; the athletes typically practice 1-2 times per week and play in tournaments Thursday through Sunday.

The situation: As many parents do when one of their children turns 16 and gets their driver’s license, I strongly encouraged (okay, maybe insisted) that he find a job for the summer. In addition to learning life skills like responsibility, diligence and working with others, this would allow Brady to put a few dollars in his pocket to pay for gas or other summer fun activities he wished to do with friends.

The problem: After applying to numerous restaurants and stores displaying “wanted” signs, Brady learned the harsh reality that business owners have difficulty hiring someone that can, at most, work 3 days a week for the entire summer.

The suggestion: Having cut lawns in my youth, I suggested that Brady create a flyer and offer his lawn cutting skills (which I had been using for years) to others in the neighborhood. I positioned it as a chance to be his own boss, learn how to run a very small business by factoring in expenses and profit, and hopefully make a little money during the summer baseball season. His excitement was overflowing, so he went right to work on his flyer that explained his different service packages and prices. Like any good father would do, I asked to review his flyer prior to him making copies. Although his 1st draft was informative, it lacked personality and any sense of why he was offering a lawn cutting service. So I explained the “Kenway Why” to Brady and asked for him to revise his flyer to lead with “why” he was offering his lawn cutting services.

The outcome: Brady added his top 2 reasons for starting a lawn service to the top of his flyer:

1. Passion for baseball posing an obstacle to getting a summer job

2. Desire to help make the neighborhood look more beautiful

Next, Brady made 50 copies and began to distribute them around the neighborhood. Brady ended up with 5 customers, most of whom did not know Brady or our family. Having met each one of his new customers, they almost universally told me “Brady’s Why” was the single most compelling reason for hiring him, despite many of them having their own lawn equipment. Although I was most proud of Brady’s means of getting a job on his own, his use of a “why” was inspiring.

The lesson: Don’t underestimate the power of the “Why”! Many of our professional jobs center around the ability to “move others” (as nicely described in a book by Daniel H. Pink), and leading with the Why in your communications, whether verbal or in writing, is a very effective way to be understood and heard by colleagues, clients or customers alike! Embrace the “Why”!

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