Because is an answer

When you were a kid and you coughed up the answer “Because!” following a question by your parents, a teacher, or other adult in your life, you would tend to get back an exasperated claim of “Because isn’t an answer!”

Be honest, you can see the situation clearly in your mind because you were a culprit of a ‘Because!” response too. 🙂

When I began teaching I found myself trotting out the tried and tested “Because isn’t an answer” statement frequently. Now I’m older and wiser I’ve decided “Because” is a actually great answer. It just needs a ‘follow up friend’. It needs some clarification support.

Take for example one of my previous Year 5 students. This is how the conversation went…

Me – “Jamie, why did you dig a hole in the middle of the football pitch?”

Jamie – “Because.”

Me – “Because isn’t an answer, buddy”.

You can guess what came next – Detention!

Now let’s shift that for a moment and replay it with a ‘follow up friend’…

Me – “Jamie, why did you dig a hole in the middle of the football pitch?”

Jamie – “Because, there was a family of plovers on the football pitch and they needed some water so I dug a hole and filled it so they had something to drink. “

The response to this was markedly different, resulting in the filling of the hole and a donation of a bird bath from the local nursery. Now being the good teacher I was, there was also a creative writing lesson about being a bird, an art lesson where you drew the earth from a bird’s perspective and a science lesson on the life cycle of a bird. But I digress…

The ‘Because’ + ‘follow up friend’ equation is the part that is missing from a lot of our incident communications. We have the best of intentions in writing Incident Action Plans with strategies on how to achieve the Incident Controller’s objective, but very rarely do we communicate the reasoning behind WHY. We make an assumption that everyone just knows the reason we are putting wet stuff on red stuff, or sandbagging the shops in the main street of town.

Despite the time sensitive nature of emergency communications, more often than not, there is still the opportunity to include the smaller details that are so important. Why is that highway or road being used as the containment line for the fire? Why was that evacuation location chosen for people escaping a flood? Understanding the reasoning behind the actions we are being asked to undertake helps us to determine the level of importance of the work we are doing and how we are contributing to the bigger picture.

Joann Sternke, 2019, thinks that leaders often forget to convey the ‘Why’ because they are immersed in the ‘Why’ all the time. They assume others must intrinsically have the same beliefs and understanding too. But we never all have access to the same information, or understand it through the same lens. Plus, you know what they say about people who assume things…

Partners In Leadership, 2011, believe that most leaders will spend 95% of their communications on the ‘What and When’ and only 5% on the ‘Why’. Imagine for a moment what might happen if you flipped those statistics? Could it be that your team will feel more included, respected and consulted? Will they have a greater level of understanding about the environment change is happening in? Would they feel more confident in their ability to make decisions when pursuing goals and targets for your organisation?

All it takes is an extra sentence to support a goal statement, a minute more in your briefing, a moment to add in a ‘follow up friend’ comment.

So next time you think ‘Because’ isn’t a proper answer, think again. Give it a ‘follow up friend’ and ‘Because’ is the key to unlocking the door to success for your communications.

Communicating The “Why” – Partners In Leadership. (2011). Retrieved 27 February 2020, from

Sternke, J. (2019). Feature: Sternke. Retrieved 26 February 2020, from

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