The Magic of Powerful Requests
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In the course of our personal lives and professional pursuits, we have all had those moments when we didn’t get what we wanted, and most, if not all, of us have come to realize that such is life and everything is not going to go our way. It is indeed a good thing to be able to cope with the feeling of rejection and an occasional failure, or find ourselves challenged to still deliver a certain outcome in the face of scarce resources. One of the Japanese Senseis I’ve had the pleasure of working with used to say wisdom is never developed when you have an abundance of resources.
It is also important to recognize, though, that many of the things we want in our personal or professional life, we don’t get simply because we don’t ask! Have you ever hesitated to ask for something, or asked but in a roundabout way, rather than making a clear and powerful request? While we can all think of a few people who are not hesitant to ask anyone for anything, I believe we have all experienced this in some circumstances in our lives, whether we hesitated to ask our boss for a promotion or if we hesitated to ask someone out on a date, etc. What I’d like to do is to dig into this a bit further and share my thoughts on the topic with the intention to liberate you from whatever is holding you back from making powerful requests and involving others in creating value in areas of life that are important to you and your community. I would, as always welcome your comments and I will take it one step further and request that you leave a comment with your thoughts on this subject or at least email me, if you don’t want to share your comments publicly.
Leaders are called to not just make things a little better but to transform the results and capability of the team and increase the level of fulfillment its members enjoy. When there are low hanging fruit, it is possible to deliver game changers that everyone gets excited about, but in every transformation there comes a time when the leader must create an environment in which people stretch themselves beyond the constraints of the past and try new things, or learn new ways to apply their knowledge. Every visionary who takes on a transformation finds himself/herself making requests of people who can contribute to the cause. No worthwhile social or organizational transformation has ever come to fruition due to the efforts of one person alone. Transformations that have made a mark in the world, or in the history of large organizations, have involved a few people enrolling, energizing, and involving a few more people and those people doing the same to others, and so on. Making powerful requests that call others to action and compel them to take on stretching goals and a new mindset or habits, then, is a necessary element of transformative leadership.
What exactly is a powerful request? What distinguishes a powerful request has to do with both its content and the way in which it is delivered. When a request for the right action is made in the right way, it compels the other to consider it in a way that he/she had not in the past, and make an informed choice based on what the request makes possible for them and others.
The content of the request must be:
- Possible, though perceived improbable
- Focused on win-win outcomes and the greater good, not selfish pursuits
The delivery of the request must:
- Be clear
- Call for compelling action on the other person’s part
- Communicate the need for a declaration, one way or another
- Be done with a balance of commitment to the desired answer and respect for whatever choice the person makes
You may have had an experience with sales people or not-for-profit organizations soliciting you to buy something or make a donation, that made you uncomfortable. You may have also found yourself grateful that a request was made of you so that you could have the opportunity to participate. I’d like you to consider how effective you are at making powerful requests in the course of fulfilling your responsibilities, or whether you shy away from those simply because of the experiences you have had in the past.
What holds us back from making powerful requests? There are a number of reasons that cause us to water down our requests of others, or not make them at all. Maybe you don't want to make the other person uncomfortable. Maybe you are afraid of what they might say or how they might react. Consider that no matter what your reasons are, they are constructed and supported by evidence you have gathered from your past experiences. You have a choice to either continue to act according to your past experiences and get what you’ve always gotten, or act in the direction of your commitment. The choice you will make is largely dependent on just how committed you are to the outcome you are working toward. In the end, what makes the difference is not to try to ignore or downplay all those internal forces that are holding you back as much as it is to supersize your commitment and be “unreasonable,” meaning acknowledge your reason(s) and act anyway.
The pre-requisite of powerful requests – If you think of negative experiences you’ve had when someone has tried to sell you something you didn’t want to buy or when you felt coerced into getting involved in an activity you didn’t want to have anything to do with, the missing element was that you weren’t enrolled in the idea. I freely and willingly give to charities that I believe in and I hesitate to give to others and often refuse to, in spite of the guilt trip that some requesters try to put on me. The pre-requisite, before you pop the question, if you will, is to communicate the cause and the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) in a way that raises the person’s interest or at least piques their curiosity to find out more. Ideally, by the time you are ready to ask them to do something, they will be somewhat interested in getting involved and they can’t wait to find out how they can contribute. This step also gives you the opportunity to understand if there is a total mismatch between the request and the person’s interest or willingness, so you can determine if it is right to make the request and if so, how it might be modified to increase the chance of getting a favorbale answer and create a win-win for all parties involved.
My request of you is to consider the following questions and let your answers guide your next steps:
- What requests to solicit the cooperation, involvement, or support of others have you been hesitating to make?
- What has been holding you back from making the requests? What stories have you been telling yourself about the possible outcome? What is the worst thing that can happen if you make the request?
- What positive outcome is possible if the answer is favorable? What opportunity does it make available in the other person’s world? What does it make available for you and the community your cause is serving?
- Are you willing to commit to courageously make a powerful request of someone in an area of life that is important to you? What will it be? Of whom will you make the request? By when?
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Leaders are called to not just manage change but lead transformations that bring about a step change in the results, capability, and the level of fulfillment of their team members. The process of accomplishing this often requires the leaders to make powerful requests that make opportunities available for people to get involved and get themselves and others beyond the constraints of the past. It is crucial that leaders understand the characteristics of powerful requests and gain personal insight on what keeps them from making those requests and develop the skill and will to utilize powerful requests to continuously elevate their game and that of their team.
Have a great week! May you Boldly Declare, Courageously Pursue, and Abundantly Achieve the Extraordinary! As always, I would love to hear about your victories and/or challenges. Please leave your comments below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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