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I have spent a lot of time in my LinkedIn career interviewing clients and urging them to tell their why.

Most balk, punt, obfuscate, or laugh nervously. Then they tell me no one ever asked them that before.

Good. Now your answer, please?

Not good enough, I imply in my follow-up question.

You see, we are not programmed to explain our why. We rely on a resume, which uses factoid incomplete sentences and limit you to 2 stylized pages. Ugh. We are comfortable substituting our “what” as a watered down attempt to tell our “why” through facts.

Why is beyond the facts/factoids. It is emotion and intellect wrapped together. It is the brand you bear in the market. It is your identity beyond your given name, and in the long run, it’s your earned reputation.

So I ask clients any of these questions, and in no particular order:

  1. Answer in relation to your business persona: broadly, who are you, really?
  2. Don’t over-think this, just answer with what comes immediately to mind: what do you want people to think about you at first thought?
  3. Think a bit further and answer this: what do you want them to see in their mind’s eye at second thought about you?
  4. Here’s an out-of-body experience for you: what do others say about you:
    1. To your face?
    1. To someone else when you are not in earshot?
  5. Now, in an ideal world, answer this honestly: what else do you want others to say about you?
  6. Dig deeply here: what satisfies you in your business life?
  7. Practically when you are pitching a new client, what gets you excited most?
  8. Overall, in your personal business brand: what one or two things do you most want to change?
  9. Put yourself in your prospective client’s shoes: what 2 or 3 things do they need to know about you to seal the decision to use your product/services?
  10. Now, a harder derivation of the above question: what one truly unique thing do we need to consider to “wow” us, to tip us over the edge, and decide to use your product/service vs. the competition?
  11. Thinking of your entourage of most trusted connections and valued clients: what can you ask them to say about you to reinforce what you have already said in your LinkedIn profile?
  12. After someone gets to know you and work with you directly: how do you want people to remember you?
  13. Thinking about your everyday business life: what aspects do you gain most satisfaction from?
  14. Fast forward to your next career chapter: if you could push a button, what would you do next?
  15. Finally, why do you do what you do?

To me, the answers are more telling than these provocative questions, and I do watch the body language too, even more telling.

Why do you do what you do?