Making Requests

15 Oct 2013 9:11 PM | Anonymous
Which of the following requests is most likely to result in the least amount of time and energy spent? 
  • Would you look at movies for this weekend and let me know which ones you want to see? 
  • Would you look at the movie listings for this coming Saturday and let me know which ones you want to see?
  • Would you look at the movie listings for this coming Saturday matinee and let me know by Wednesday no later than 9pm which ones you want to see?
We make requests constantly of our staff, our board, our family and even of friends as we are in a constant state of asking questions and getting answers. We start with an intention, (going to the movies with a friend), set of criteria (needs to be Saturday afternoon and to know by Wednesday night) and a clear set of expectations.

Yet, most of us fail miserably at this practice.

  • Our request is too broad or “clumped” in with several requests.
  • We assume that the request is clear and understood, without checking in, to see if this is true or if it is creating a welcome environment for questions.
  • The fit between the request and the conditions for meeting that request is not adequately assessed. 
The Broad or “Clumped” Request:
“Can you make sure the Board has the materials from our last meeting?”
This request is broad and clumps several tasks together and leaves indicators of success open for interpretation. This can create a risk of not meeting expectations of all involved as well as a perception of failure unnecessarily. 

A more effective request would be:
Please email the Executive Board members today by COB the minutes from the last meeting plus the memo dated October 1st, 2013 regarding our Capitol Campaign. CC me on the email. If you have any questions please let me know by 2pm as I will be out of the office after that. Thank you!

Not Creating Conditions for Partnership:
A clear and detailed request is only as clear as it is received. If we don’t take the time to check in to determine if the request is clear enough -- our efforts might as well be spent knitting. Even more important, if we don’t create conditions where check-in is welcome, then everyone loses.

After making a request, leave time for inquiry and even “stupid” questions as it’s possible that what you perceive as stupid or petty might be your own struggle with detail which is why you hired this detailed person to support you in the first place!

Failing to Assess Capability:
In many cases, we fire requests without spending time (spend more time on our request than on) assessing the capabilities of others to fulfill it. A host of factors like mood, team dynamics and self-confidence can weigh in beyond the practical skills needed. If we don’t take time to listen for and consider these factors, we may be missing an opportunity for taking care of more than, what we think is just a, (our) simple request. 

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