“What’s in it for me (WIIFM)” is a very powerful question.
As I made decisions about where to go to college, I did it with me in mind. What will I gain by going to this university? What will I get if I take these classes over the summer?
Then as I moved into my professional career, this question helped again with decisions. How would going to this company help me? What could I leverage from this project/role?
Sure, there were times that I helped a teammate without this question but for the really big decisions, this question was always taken into consideration. I need to remember this as a leader! When an individual’s motivation/attitude is not as high as I would expect, I would think “This is for the good of the customer/team, what’s your problem? Are you selfish?” Not only am I being a hypocrite, I’m not doing what I need to lead the team. People have intrinsic motivations and they don’t just disappear when it’s convenient for me. Plus, taking the time to ask “what’s in it for them” helps me see the situation from their perspective/perception.
That’s powerful by itself but where I have found this question most difficult is for me personally as the actual leader. Asking WIIFM seems selfish and inappropriate. Yet, I’m as human as I was when I was part of the team. My intrinsic motivations haven’t disappeared. Yes, they’ve changed. I am more motivated by helping other people succeed but I as an individual need other things too. This past year has helped me accept that leaders asking WIIFM is not necessarily a bad thing. Since I didn’t frequently ask myself WIIFM for the past several years in my last role, I really struggled with making a very selfish choice in pursuing my dream. There were a thousand pros and cons for the company, for my teams and for myself. However, the most important one was taking care of myself so that I could further challenge others. Sometimes the best way to help is to make sure you want to help. It’s kind of a catch 22 that I’ve learned to accept.
So I say, as a leader go ahead and ask yourself WIIFM. If there is a conflict, then you acknowledge it. Always make a decision with good intentions and you’ll make the choice that allows you to sleep at night but taking care of yourself is as important as taking care of your team. A happy leader makes a better leader.
How do you feel about “WIIFM”?