Confusion runs rampant when we are unclear in asking for something we want. Think of the last time your boss asked you for something. Did he or she give you clear direction? Did she state a date and time she needed it? Probably not, and you may be equally guilty of not being clear with the requests you make of others. Sloppy requests are a widespread problem in the workplace.
When I ask people, what is the most important quality in a coworker? The primary response is someone who is trustworthy and reliable. Someone who does what they say they will do, when they say they will do it. Our reputation, both individual and collective, is staked to our ability to be reliable.
I teach a very simple model of making effective requests. It’s simple in theory, but takes diligence in practice.
I request you do “X” by time “Y” and I would like it to include “Z”. Can you commit to that?
Here’s an example, “Please complete your time sheet by noon every Monday. It should include regular and overtime hours. Can you commit to that?”
Only a request PLUS acceptance equals a commitment. Without acceptance, there is no commitment.
Here are some of the common requests mistakes I see:
• Making requests via email and assuming the recipient will accept and comply.
• Not explaining why you are making the request. Explaining the concern underneath the request will help build motivation in the performer.
• Be sure to always say “by when” you need something done. The deadline affects their other commitments. The completion date is a critical part of a good request.
• Not allowing the performer to make a counter offer or negotiate the request so they can be reliable.
• Committing for others, without checking with them first.
• Not asking for and getting a commitment.
• Not giving conditions of satisfaction for the work. Without that, you are likely to be disappointed with the result.
You can also help people make good requests of you. Next time your boss asks for something and he or she is not clear on the specifics and by when it is needed, ASK. If you don’t, you’ll both suffer the consequences.