In my executive coaching work, my clients are often working in highly matrixed organizations. As hierarchies flatten and resources are constrained, we increasingly need to become adept at influencing others over whom we have no direct authority. Being able to confidently ask is a key to meeting our goals. I often work with my clients through a five-step process on how to ask powerfully for what they want. So here are five steps to making a powerful ask.
1) Start with one simple “Ask“ Pick one specific “ask” that you want to make. Take out a piece of paper right now, not later after you’re done reading the blog post. There is power in taking action. Make sure it’s specific. For example, “I would like to ask my manager to work on Project X which will give me greater visibility to senior management.”
2) Pick decision-makers Pick who is the person who will make the decision on your ask. It could be multiple people. Also pick who will be influential in impacting the decision. Write down their names. In many decisions, it’s not just the people in the hierarchy, it is the informal networks that we need to understand who will influence decisions. In the example above, the decision maker could be your manager. It could also be other people who are leading or involved in the project. It could be your manager’s boss.
3) Convince yourself first This is the most important step. Usually one of the biggest reasons we don’t ask powerfully is that we’re not fully convinced that we want or deserve what we are asking for or we’re afraid of a “No”. These are limiting beliefs we have and we need to identify and reframe these beliefs into more empowering beliefs. Once we are convinced ourselves, it is so much easier to convince others. Go ahead and write all these excuses down. And yes, answer what would happen if they say “No”. Usually, we’re no worse off than where we were before. Putting our excuses out of our head and onto a piece of paper so we can stare at them can help us recognize patterns and how some of these excuses are fairly irrational. They come from stories we have made up about ourselves and others rather than reality.
4) Get Clear on Influencing Style Next to each name, list all the reasons a) why they would want to help you, b) what would be the best way to influence them. Write down your thoughts about what influencing style would best work with them. Is it appealing to them with facts? Is it leveraging relationships? Is it negotiating what you can do for them? For example, ask yourself, “How have I helped them in the past? How can I help them in the future”? It can be gratifying to an ego to be asked for help. A client may refer you because they have seen how valuable you have been to them and believe you will be valuable to their colleague as well. Just the act of writing down all the reasons why or how you can be valuable to a person can instill the kind of self-confidence and conviction that will energize you to ask more powerfully. Remember the first and most important person you have to convince of your value is you. Next create an action plan of who you will ask for what by when.
5) Practice & Declare Success Find a friend or colleague and start to practice making the “Ask”. A client of mine recently had an excellent piece of advice. For many of us, we are afraid to ask for fear of rejection. So it’s valuable to reframe the objective. Make the objective about asking rather than getting anything. Set a goal. You will make one powerful ask every day. Then once you’ve asked, you’ve met your goal. Declare success. It helps to journal or write about your successes in asking as part of reframing your mindset.
Success is continuing to ask and not letting someone’s “No” take away your power to make a powerful ask. Assume a “No” is “Not Now”, so always be gracious about it. Being gracious about a “No” leaves the door open for a “Yes” in the future.
Let me know how this worked for you and what strategies you have for yourself for making powerful asks. Do comment and share with the community your successes in making your asks as it helps you contribute and instill confidence in others.
If this resonated with you, please comment, subscribe, and share with others.
Five Steps to Ask Powerfully for What You Want – Workshop or keynote for your organization.