This week, I have the extreme privilege of hanging out with a 2-yr-old. She has a pretty good vocabulary but still struggles to find the words, so it’s tough to communicate. We ask her…do you want juice? NO! Do you want to eat? NO! Do you want to nap? NO! She keeps getting more frustrated because she can’t communicate and we are running out of ideas on what to ask her. Finally, we figure it out because she says “Mingos”. Oh yes…the Flamingos…she wants to see the Flamingos!
This got me thinking. When I managed a team, I used to love it when my team knew what they wanted and spoke their truth. Then, I could deal with it. I could work with them on a development plan, or a budget, or training. Or if I couldn’t fulfill their request, I could have that honest conversation with them and try to work out something else. What was more frustrating were the employees who I had to ask a zillion questions to try to figure out what they wanted. They would answer something like “Oh..I am really great right now. Thanks for asking.” Then they would eventually become frustrated because they didn’t get the promotion or raise or vacation or whatever.
This would be my advice to employees who are looking for something from their manager; whether it’s a promotion, a raise, education or training, a flexible work arrangement, a new chair, whatever it is….
1) Define your plan – put a short business case together. What’s your why? What are the benefits to you and the business? What will the Return on their Investment be? What is the timeline?
2) Get realistic – depending on what you are asking for, it can take time and budget to make it happen. A promotion could take years with the right development plan plus budget and an organizational change approval process. A flexible working arrangement could require approval from many other levels and potentially a policy change which can take a lot of time depending on the organization. Understand the organizational culture you are working within and ensure you are realistic. If you are unsure of the process, this can be a great question to work through with your manager.
3) Set up a meeting – even if you have regularly scheduled meetings, set up a dedicated time to meet solely for this purpose. You might even want to prep your manager in advance to let them know you want to meet about the topic.
4) Prepare yourself in advance – get ready to answer questions. You should be the expert on this particular topic. Also get ready for the answer. If it’s a ‘no’, at least you know and can decide accordingly what that means for you. If it’s a ‘maybe’ or a deferral in any way, get a follow up date. If you need to provide more info, respond quickly. And if it’s a ‘yes’…woohoo!!
5) Dig deep, find the courage and say the words. Hoping for what you want is not a strategy and is not an action. Your manager is not a mind-reader.
What do you want that you need to ask for?