LEADERS MAKE CLEAR REQUESTS 2023-12-18T00:37:45-05:00


Several weeks ago I attended a webinar led by Rae Ringel of the Ringel Group in Washington, DC. Rae is a master coach and facilitator, one of the faculty leaders of the Georgetown University Institute for Transformational Leadership (ITL).

The subject of the webinar was “Making Clear Requests” and it was partially based upon a wisdom-filled book, “Language and the Pursuit of Happiness” by Chalmers Brothers. I highly recommend that book for all subscribers of this newsletter.

Rae reminded her participants that leaders can focus on what they control, including their communication and their presence. As leaders, we can be intentional about how we are showing up – in emails, in meetings and in personal conversations. Through our presence and words, we can focus on making clear requests.

Proper requests – whether oral, digital, or written, require four essential elements:
-What: Saying exactly what we want from the other person(s)
-By When: Saying exactly when we want it
-From Whom: Saying exactly from whom we want the product
-Conditions of Satisfaction: Saying exactly how we want it, stating our conditions of satisfaction

This seems so easy, doesn’t it? Nevertheless, we leaders make requests so frequently where we do not satisfy these four elements. Our inability to address these four requirements of clear requests often leads to messy or unmet results and anger or resentment from our teammates or from us.

When me make requests to our teammates, they can respond with one of four replies:
-Accept: They say “yes,” they will do it as we requested
-Decline: They respond that they will not be able to comply, and offer a reason for their decision
-Counter-Offer: They say that they will not be able to do exactly what we are asking, but they offer an alternative option
-Promise: They are noncommittal, and promise to respond or get back to us at a later date

Unfortunately, what often happens is we receive non-responses:
-People distract
-People waffle
-People express uncertainty.

Very often people are afraid to say “no” to their leaders, so they strive to change the subject or engage in a long conversation or debate. It is up to us as leaders to push further for clarity and to reject non-responses.

We ought not to accept typical responses like these we hear so often:
– “I’ll try”
– “I’ll think about it”
-I ’ll look into it”
– “I’ll do it as soon as I can get to it”

These kinds of responses do not further communication. They do not help you as the leader or your teammates. They produce confusion and uncertainty.

Frequently, unclear requests and unclear responses lead to one of the most frequent aspects of office culture: complaints. As Rae Ringel pointed out, behind every complaint is an unarticulated request.

Employees are so often afraid of the consequences of a “no” response – afraid it will adversely affect their working relationship with you, afraid it may hurt their relationship(s) with their teammates, or afraid that it may hinder their job security. So instead of saying “no” to us – their leader – they live in a place of mushy communication or complaint.

Complaints will always happen within the workplace. They are part of human nature. However, clear requests – all the time – can move managers and teammates to a better, stronger place.

I invite you to think about your own communication patterns:
-Do you think about your requests before you make them?
-Do you pause and consider your choice of words?
-Do you focus on making very clear requests?

If you are not sure how your requests are showing up in the in-boxes, on the screens or in the ears of your teammates do one thing: ask them! They will be glad to give you feedback!!!

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