Why is asking so difficult and what is the best strategy? The importance of asking has been a topic of great discussion, with books such as The Art of Asking and Women Don’t Ask delving into the struggles and benefits of asking.
Many of us simply don’t ask and hope our efforts will be noticed and rewarded. This doesn’t usually work. Many of us find that collaborative problem solving or aligning an ask with a shared goal are preferred strategies. Sometimes the only way to get something is to ask for it directly. It is important is to recognize when a direct ask is necessary and the best way to achieve what you want.
I have experienced life changing moments that were defined by the success of a direct ask
(really!). I am a true believer in the direct ask.
Here’s my proof:
A Career Making Ask
In 1990, I was a few years out of graduate school and making my way in the corporate world. I was also pregnant with my first child and wanted to return to work, integrating career and motherhood. There weren’t any women in my office that had done this yet, so there was no defined path, no standard, no guarantee I could make this work. It was paralyzing. I was going to have to take the lead and ask the firm to structure a maternity package and successful return to my career if I was going to have a chance at getting what I wanted.
I knew the ask had to be direct, like a cost benefit analysis showcasing a win for all. I crafted and
pitched with fake confidence. The firm said yes to all – 5 months off, commitment to a continued
career path, and a contract for me guaranteeing 1 year with the firm upon my return. A big deal
in 1990. What if I had not asked? My life may look very different.
Crafting a Direct Ask
So how do you craft a direct ask? I use and teach a simple formula that has been very successful,
independent of personality type:
1. Base all points on reason and logic. The merits of an ask are bought into more easily when the core points are based on fact, logic, and reason. There is always emotion in what you want or feel you deserve. This is normal, but check these at the door. Leaving these out of the ask and out of the room is very important. Be humble but confident, and allow fact, reason and logic to prevent the ask from being solely about you.
2. Demonstrate benefit for all stakeholders. Every quality ask has benefit for a number of stakeholders. Even if the benefits seem obvious, it is necessary to tangibly list them. This allows for a visual of the good in your ask, in the potential ripple effect even.
3. Be formal. Be structured; be prepared; build a case that starts with the ask and ends with a strong result. It is helpful if you can provide analysis, statistics or projections.
Don’t let the opportunity and powerful benefits of a direct ask pass you by.