Ask for what you want!

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Not what you don’t want.

I was speaking with a client the other day about their business culture. I asked them: “What do you want?”

They proceeded to list a few things the team were doing they didn’t like.

I noted this down and held back comment until they had finished.

We discussed few areas of the business. The common phrase kept coming back: “I don’t want them to…”, or “They do this … (negative thing)”.

After a bit, he said, “Okay, now you talk!”

I mentioned the language he was using. He recognised it immediately.

I’d taken notes so offered a couple back to him and asked him if they stopped doing what he didn’t like what would he see them doing?

He proceeded to list some behaviours he’d love to see.

Sometimes all it takes is to stop and listen to ourselves. Hear the words we say and turn them around. But we get into autopilot mode and the words come bumbling out. We react when we need to respond.

The Insidious Part – Part I

And here’s the insidious part – often the words don’t come out but are stored in our mind, our subconscious. And our attitude towards someone can become “They always do that!”, “They never help out”, and “They always leave early!”

(I can hear some of you now … “But they dooooo!” 😉)

The Insidious Part – Part II

And this is now conveyed, without words, to the party these words are meant for. Attitudes change, behaviour changes and all of a sudden, there is tension at work. And, almost, no-one knows why!

What to do?

Step I – Identify the issue/s

Below there is a link to a template you can use for this. List the things you want to be different/better.

Caution: different isn’t always better but better is always different!

Make it a brain dump for now. Let the thoughts flow and don’t self critique. Just write.

Once you’re done, you’ll find that some can be combined, some are trivial, others will be fixed by other actions and then there are the priorities.

Pick one!

Step II – Be clear about what you want

This may take some time at first but it gets easier, like most things.

Write down what you want. How would this make the situation better? Writing it down helps you get clear about what it actually is you need. I’ve asked this many times of myself and my clients and it can be hard at first. I asked someone this earlier today and their response was:

“Yes, but then I’ll need to take action!” Correct answer!

Using the template, now write down what ‘good’ would look like. What do you want to see? Be clear about this as you need to explain this to another party.

Step Ia – Work within current procedures

It makes it a lot easier if what you’re asking is based on current known procedures. If it’s a brand new process, more explanation may be required. But most requests come from within the Business As Usual (BAU) model. So, the conversation that will follow won’t be a surprise.

Step II – Have the conversation

Thomas J. Leonard (1955 – 2003), father of the modern coaching industry, has this great saying which cannot be avoided:

“All problems exist in the absence of a good conversation”

This can be the tough part, but it doesn’t need to be. Honestly.

If the request is reasonable, simply ask. Don’t make it “bigger than Ben Hur”.

I have found that it is very much the molehill when compared to the mountain.

Step III – Offer support

It’s possible what you are asking for may be out of someone’s comfort zone. You’ll need to offer some support as they make the necessary change. That support may best come from a colleague. A colleague might be better placed to do this both from a technical and empathetic perspective.

The objective is to improve the business or situation by a change of behaviour. It doesn’t really matter who helps make it happen.

Step IV – Don’t make this mistake!

One thing I used to do, along with my manager colleagues, was ask someone to come to a room to speak privately! God what a mistake that was! You can imagine what was going through their mind: “A manager, taking me into an office! What have I done?” 😞

If the topic is sensitive, sure, privacy is important. But many times, if an issue is caught early, all it takes is a quick “Hey, can you do this for me?”

The “Always” Step

Relationships are so important in any environment.

It’s not a step in the procedure. It’s an “always on” fundamental.

With the above steps, what makes it far easier is by ensuring the relationships we have with people are always being reviewed for improvement. “Reviewed” meaning, “what is my role in this relationship and am I playing as best I can?”

We are human and therefore not perfect. But we can continuosly work towards being better in this arena.

  1. identify the issue
  2. write down what you do want (is it known to the other party?)
  3. have a conversation (professional, polite, constructive)
  4. offer support
  5. maintain the relationship

Let me know what you think in the comments. Let me know how you handle these situations at work? Would love to get more ideas.