Context. Context. Context.

Franklin Roosevelt, a former President of the United States, was a precocious young man.  He devoured books whenever he had the opportunity and made it a personal mission to accomplish whatever he could academically.  In 2nd grade, he recalled reading the dictionary, but couldn’t recall any of the words he learned from that particular book.  I have a sneaking suspicion that some other readers were just as precocious as Mr. Roosevelt at a young age and took it upon themselves to read the dictionary as well.  So, then, why don’t we remember everything that we read? 

Without context, nothing sticks.  

Increasingly, everyone in today’s Information Age has the information to make better decisions.  Companies are drawing from similar data sets.  Individuals have more access than ever to online courses, texts, academic papers, and videos.  The ‘what’ is becoming commoditized faster and faster. 

The context around the data matters more, in my opinion.  That’s the role of an organization’s leadership: to provide context around the decisions and data so that everyone in the organization can make the best decisions possible on a regular basis.  And I’ll definitely admit that I’m still trying to figure out the best way to do this myself!  The best methods or preferred methods seem to change quite rapidly as the company grows. 

The importance of our vision, mission, and values is paramount.  Without a shared context and shared framework for making decisions, it’s challenging for everyone to understand key questions I know many of us have asked ourselves: "Where do my contributions and actions fit into the bigger picture? Does my work matter to anyone?  If so, who?  If so, how?” 

To effectively lead, it’s my belief that one must over-communicate context, or the ‘Why’ before the ‘What.’ 

I hope that even though it may take us a few minutes longer to do so, that we acknowledge that providing the reasoning behind our thoughts is just as important as our thoughts themselves. Of course, not everyone will agree with the Why. The Why is nearly certain to differ based on the person. But without the Why, the What at best will be an answer, and at worst a pure directive.