If you are not getting what you want, you are not asking for it!

We’ve been working with a number of executives recently whose primary concern revolves around not getting what they want either from their team, the people they work with, or the person they report to.

I would offer that getting what you want requires taking a moment to step back and look at what you actually want. Just doing that often reveals that you’re not clear about what you really want and this is at the source of why you’re not getting what you want.

As an example, I’ve been coaching an executive who talked about being frustrated regarding a request he made of his team to agree on a go-forward approach that he could bring to his board meeting. After three iterations, he talked about how they were “not giving him what he wanted.” So we took a moment to look at what he actually wanted. Within a few minutes it became apparent that he was not very clear about what he wanted and his original ask of the team was not at match for what he actually wanted.

He initially asked his team to agree on an approach that he could take to the board. They did exactly what he asked, but the solution they identified conflicted with his preferred approach -something which he did not initially share with the team. As we talked, he got clear that what he actually wanted was for the team to validate his preferred approach and test it against other possible pathways so he could better understand what the risks and benefits were and weight his options before going to the board. This was not what he asked his team to do. He also saw that, after three iterations with his team, and him not being satisfied after each of them, that “I probably left my team with a negative experience…and they were probably just as frustrated as I was.”

To help avoid being frustrated or causing frustration, here is a check-list of things to consider when crafting your request:

  • Clarify what you know and what you don’t know about what you want – Taking time to get clear about what you know and don’t know about what you want; will help you formulate a request that actually asks for what you really For example, identifying that you have a preferred solution that you want to test, and identify alternative approaches and the risks and benefits of all options, helps you sort out what you will ask for.
  • Be clear about your expectations and conditions of satisfaction – Once you have clarified what you know/don’t know about what you want; you can start to define your expectations about what you’re asking for. What is the appropriate level of detail? Are you asking for a 50 page report or a 1 page summary? How many sources do you want people to test? Do you have a preferred solution, and if so what is fixed and what is up for debate? What do you want them to challenge? What do you want identified? Clear conditions of satisfaction create clear requests that will increase the possibility of you getting what you want.
  • Identify who you are asking – When you have more clarity about what you are asking for, you can start to identify the most appropriate person or people to ask. Do you want just one person to spend time on this? Do you want them to engage others, or do you want to be the one to engage the group? If you engage a group, who is the person on point (do they know they are on point)?
  • Be clear about when you want to receive what you asked for – Be specific about the date and time you are expecting to hear back, check-in, or get the final result. Often I have seen executives ask for things with no clear delivery date. Unless the people you have asked are clear and have agreed when they are providing you what you asked for, it is highly unlikely you will get it when you need it (if at all).
  • Clarify if they accepted your request – Unless you are certain the person or people you asked actually accepted your ask/request, you have not completed making your request. Assuming they will do it is NOT the same as being certain they said “yes.” Are you confident they are clear and have it in their calendar? Do you want to set up weekly/biweekly follow-up meetings to check-in? How do you want to be included, if at all?

Getting what you want requires the willingness to clarify what you want. Using the checklist will help you refine what you are asking for, of who, by when.