In my last blog post, I addressed the importance of getting clear about what we want next professionally. Once we have established this, we must be intentional about asking for what we want. If we don’t ask for what we want, can we really keep complaining that we’re not getting it? Speaking for myself, I know that I have fallen victim to this cycle (maybe more often than I care to admit). In many cases, I don’t want to put someone out, or I’m worried that my “ask” might be perceived as selfish, or maybe I just want to do it myself because (at the time) it seems easier.
I have, like many of us, refrained from asking for what I want (and often need!) at home and at work. Putting ourselves last results in everything from annoyance to downright exhaustion and everything in between. So, I recently re-committed to practicing—early and often—the art of asking for what I want. While I don’t always get what I ask for (like an upgrade to a seat with more legroom on a long flight), there have been rewards to asking. The least of which is that I’m less annoyed with the people around me who I formerly assumed should know what I need, and I bet they are relieved too because 1.) There isn’t as much guess-work about my wants, and 2.) I’m not as busy over-doing it only to be annoyed that I’m not getting what I need.
Just this week, I had a less-than-ideal reaction to a colleague who didn’t provide the information that I wanted in advance of a meeting. This is the risk that we run when we are not clear and don’t ask for what we need and want: our own disappointment can have an unintended negative impact on our most critical relationships. I spell this out in different detail in my Forbes.com article “Coaching Your Inner Critic” which I co-wrote with marketing guru Dorie Clarke.
We advocate on behalf of our children, our companies, and our families, and yet continue to struggle to negotiate for ourselves. Over the past several months, I have been sharing my insights about the Seven Hurdles Women Face. As it turns out, skills directly related to a few of these hurdles can help us get better at asking for what we want. Let me explain:
We must know what we want. (Hurdle: Clarity – Do I know what I want?)
Having a compelling vision for who you want to be as a leader and/or how you want to contribute in the working world will help you stay focused when asking for what you want. Knowing what we want and need in the moment—the “micro requests” that make our day-to-day easier is critical too. If your request is connected to something that you are very committed to (or would make your moment more comfortable), you will be less likely to waiver when it comes time to speak up.
Take Maria, for example, who works in a sales field office of a global financial services firm. Her future vision is to work at HQ in a role that will give her more visibility into the operations of the company, access to executives, and cross-functional learning. She is very clear that this is what she wants and why.
We must know our value. (Hurdle: Branding & Presence – How am I showing up?)
Do you know what you bring to the table? Are you able to articulate your unique skills, knowledge, and contribution? Can you point to data inside or outside the organization that substantiates the value of your ask?
Let’s go back to Maria. Having been out in the field with the same company for 10+ years, Maria knew what it was like to be “out there” and away from corporate home office. When she heard that one of the company’s stated objectives was to include field offices more in day-to-day business operations and streamline business processes, she communicated her strengths in this area with the appropriate stakeholders.
To ask for what we want, we must feel deserving. (Hurdle: Recognized Confidence)
Are you standing in confidence that you are worthy of receiving what you are asking for? Coaching our Inner Critic and understanding what’s ok and not ok for us in all aspects of our life go hand-in-hand. When we believe in our unique value and speak from a place of respect for ourselves and others, our power can be triumphant.
Maria had to step in to believing that she is “corporate HQ material”—that she is worthy of being said yes to. And as a matter of fact, when she put her name in for an opportunity that would relocate her to HQ and confidently interviewed for the job, she got the offer.
As with all of the practices I share and teach, I imperfectly practice what I preach. Today, if that means avoiding feeling disappointed in myself or someone else because I am aware enough and courageous enough to ask for what I want, then I am making progress. The journey starts with a moment-to-moment choice, and with recommitting to yourself each and every day. It’s all about progress, not perfection.
Are you ready to stop procrastinating and start asking for what you want and need?