Why the ‘Why’ matters in influencing behaviour

Recently I visited my brother in the UK. On my long haul flight, I noticed that the first things I did after getting my bags settled on the plane, was to read the safety card, note where the exits were and watch the safety video…all the way through. I never used to do this. What changed?

A few months ago on a flight to Sydney I was lucky enough to sit next to an Aviation Safety Expert. His job was to consult to airlines about passenger and crew safety. Of course I took the opportunity to grill him on his work. What’s the best airline to fly with? What’s the worst airline to fly with? What’s the number one cause of death during air travel? What’s the best safety tip you can give me?

His answers were the reason I now read the safety card, look for my nearest exit and watch the video! In a nutshell his tips were:

  • Centre yourself and pay full attention in the first few minutes before take-off and before landing.

Why? Most air incidents occur in the first few minutes after take-off and the first few before landing.

  • Know where your emergency exits are and how to OPEN THE DOOR.

Why? Because a very high percent of deaths occurs when the plane is stationary, filled with smoke, the crew are unable to assist and the passengers just didn’t know how to open the door (and couldn’t read the instructions through the smoke!) The dead bodies pile up at the exits – a sad testament to the preventable situation.

  • Fly any Australian airline.

Why? They have the best safety flight records. Enough said!

I’ve been flying for most of my adult life…without monitoring the exits, knowing how to open them and reading the safety card with any real intent to understand or remember it. All this changed in a chance conversation with a safety expert who gave me the ‘why’. When you read between the lines of this story it’s easy to see that with full understanding comes real engagement. And when it comes to life and death, that’s a big deal.

Coaching tips:

  • Make sure that any important message meant to influence or change behaviour, has a compelling ‘why’.
  • The stronger the ‘why’ the more influential the message.
  • Build a robust ‘why’ by focusing on all angles - what will you get if you do and what will you avoid if you don’t.