A theme has come up this week in books that I am reading and in conversations with clients and leaders: asking for what you need. The questions have all been different, but the next move is the same. Common questions I hear from emerging leaders are: How do I find a mentor? How do I get my partner to help with household management? How can I attend that awesome conference? In a lot of cases, the first step is simply… ask.
This is straightforward, but not always easy. In some cases, our confidence is low or we don’t want to be a burden. We can make assumptions about what might happen next that deter us from taking action. That is totally normal! It also could be holding you back from getting what you really need to feel successful and fulfilled. Looking back, there are many times I can think of in my own life when I either chose not to ask or I didn’t think to do so. Who knows what could have happened had I just asked others for what I needed. Everyone has felt stuck or unsure of which path to take at some point. That feeling of limited or unclear options is what often causes us to simply do nothing.
So, this begs the question: how many times have you just not asked? Here are a few cases when you could consider asking for what you need.
Ask for your boss’ support to attend that personal development event.
I made this mistake to not ask (or not even think to ask) early in my career. I see this repeated still, especially with younger leaders. There are countless opportunities for you to get out, meet people, learn something new, network, and develop your personal and professional skills. When you see one that is meaningful to you, make the ask for support from your boss. Many high-performing organizations have fast-paced, heads-down cultures where employees don’t recognize where they can go outside the organization for development. Perhaps it is for a networking organization, or maybe a conference. There is a whole world of people out there that are attending regularly, so it is normal and appropriate to get involved. And while you are asking for their support on spending the time, you might as well ask for them to sponsor the funding as well, since you are generally representing the company.
Ask someone to mentor you.
Many people, especially women, frequently wonder how to start a mentoring relationship with someone. Of course, it is important to have a mutual interest and connection with someone for a successful mentoring match to be made. And, if there is something that you admire and can learn from a potential mentor, the first step towards setting up a mentoring relationship is to ask for it. It can be helpful to ask for something specific. For example, if you are looking for guidance on landing a board position, perhaps you ask a specific person to mentor you in that goal. If you see that someone can help you navigate a specific need or path, ask them for that. When we wander aimlessly just looking for broad mentorship, that is when we feel lost in the process. A specific goal and a specific ask of a mentor makes the process of developing a mentoring relationship much smoother.
Ask for help from your partner.
In her book Drop the Ball, Tiffany Dufu describes in significant detail how finding the right ways to ask for the help she needed from her partner supported the life and career she wanted. In one of the chapters, she described how women often asked her how she got her investment banker husband to do things that seemingly other partners “would never do.” She understood where they were coming from (she used to think that way too), but she also replied back that it was because she actually asked.
We can begin to feel resentful of those around us where we craft what seems like a perfectly obvious need in our head, and then conveniently forget to tell the other person involved about it. When they don’t read our minds or change their behavior, we begin to feel frustration and bitterness that they aren’t giving us what we need. I am no stranger to this method, and it is unfair. The sooner we simply ask and explain why we are asking, we release the burden we are placing on ourselves, and engage our partners to take the active role they want to take in the relationship.
Ask for what you need.
Instead of choosing only from the limited “menu” of problem-solving options that you see in front of you, take a more expansive approach. Envision what you would want or need in a perfect scenario. Ask yourself how it could be done and what the possibilities are starting from that ideal state, rather than cobbling together a marginal improvement to your current state. Once you are clear on what is possible, you can make a bigger ask and perhaps craft a more ideal outcome. You might be amazed at what becomes available to you by moving from assuming it “can’t be done,” to wondering all of the ways it could be done.
This week when you recognize that you are holding you back from asking something, start a new path and make the ask. See how it feels, and what the outcome is. You may find it was the missing piece to making impactful changes.
About the author:
Katie Rasoul is the Chief Awesome Officer for Team Awesome, a leadership coaching and culture consulting firm. Find out more by visiting www.teamawesomecoaching.com or join the Team Awesome Community for awesomeness coming straight to your inbox. Follow Team Awesome on Facebook and Twitter.