Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Give me a reason to help you: make a request

Last week I spent the day with one of the young leaders from our Engaging Young Leaders in Aged Care project. In the morning we attended a government presentation on the changes to the Aged Care Act and then we prepared the treasurers report for the Board. Our CFO Wynton Maddeford did an excellent job helping this young leader understand the financial statements including the cash flow, balance sheet and the fiduciary duties of Directors. He really enjoyed helping her and sharing his expert knowledge. We then went over the CEO report and the information and decision papers that will be presented to the board. I then invited the young leader to ask my any questions, which I had expected would be about the organisation.

However the young leader asked me a number of thought-provoking questions that were about gaining my personal perspectives on the following:

  • How do you get to the position of CEO?
  • How do you overcome challenges?
  • What do you look for when recruiting staff?
  • How important are values alignment, yours and the organisations?   

We spoke at length, one of my main points that I wanted to convey was that whether it was to get to the position of CEO or to overcome challenges, a key strategy I adopt is to ask for help. I make a request. I put myself forward as a learner and I declare I need help. My requests are always answered. I believe that people want to help and support each other. If you are an expert in your field you love to be asked, you want to share with people your knowledge, expertise and advice. The trick is to give people a reason to help you. People don’t know when you are struggling, when you are not sure and often people don’t want to intervene in case they offend.   

'Give me a reason to help you by making an effective request'

A request is asking someone to do something, or inviting someone to help/assist you or gaining their cooperation. We make requests because we want to take care of our concerns, to get things done, to coordinate actions, to meet our needs. One of the problems with requests is often people do not make them; instead they hint “I wish she would…” If only he did…” If we are not making effective requests, we may be complaining to someone or demanding things of someone. There are at least two parties involved when we make requests, the person making the request and the person responding to the request.  We are all involved in making and responding to requests every day.  The issue is how effectively are we are at making requests and responding to requests. Sieler (2005) sets out “Tips for Making Effective Requests”. They include:  

  • A direct request is spoken (i.e., it does not remain in private conversation).
  • The request is to a specific person (listener).
  • The speaker trusts the competence, reliability and sincerity of the person they are asking.
  • Care is taken in words used to ensure there is a shared understanding of terminology.
  • The task to be performed (including steps) is clearly specified.
  • The standards (quality) for satisfactory completion of the task are made explicit.
  • The mood of the situation is factored in: speaker’s words are not too sharp and the listener is in the emotional frame of mind to “take in” the request.
  • The precise time frame for completion is specified.
  • The request is made from a solid body of legitimacy to ensure appropriate voice volume and tonality.
  • The reason for the request is clear; i.e., importance of the request is spelled out to the listener.
I invite you to think about your concerns and who you need to make a request to. For a conversation on making effective requests contact

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