Coaching Skill for Everyday Use — Make a Clear Request
Throughout my career as a coach, facilitator, and consultant, I have often found myself asking people to clarify what they are requesting, from whom, and by when. In most cases, these conversations begin with a concern, challenge, or problem. I’ve discovered that shifting the focus from problem to solution is quite powerful. The first step toward getting to a solution, or having a need met, is simply to ask.
It is profound how strongly failing to ask for what we want correlates with never getting what we want. In this blog, we will explore when and how the coaching skill of making a clear request may result in a higher chance of solving some of our day-to-day work challenges.
Although the solution you desire cannot be promised, the act of asking gives others a chance to consider our requests — and potentially reply favorably. If you fail to request the things you want or need, they may never be addressed. Are you making clear requests?
Clients often bring career and daily work challenges to their coaching sessions. Topics sometimes include mounting responsibilities, nagging coworkers, complicated bosses, broken systems, and workplace culture. For example, a Federal employee, we’ll call her Jessica, was very unsatisfied at work but did not want to leave her job. Jessica sought the assistance of a leadership coach to help her adopt a more positive mindset at work. She talked about the many challenges she faced, including increasing complexity, changing rules, and day-to-day uncertainty. The relationship she had with her manager was particularly troubling. Jessica wanted to be promoted, have clarity in her responsibilities, and enjoy her work more. While she blamed the job for her situation, she also knew that she was stuck and needed the help of a leadership coach — someone who could introduce her to the topic of making a clear request.
Jessica’s leadership coach began by asking a few powerful questions. Here’s a summarized version of that conversation:
Jessica: “I want to like my job more.”
Coach: “I certainly understand that, and I want that for you. What is your request?”
Jessica: “To understand more clearly, what is expected of me in my job. Right now, it’s so blurry.”
Coach: “Ok, what is your request — exactly?”
Jessica: “I request clarity in what is expected of me. I want to know if I have room to do more things that I enjoy — things that are in line with my skills and qualifications. It seems like I am stuck doing tactical work and managing politics all day.”
Coach: “This is excellent. So, it sounds like at least two requests for now?
Identify what is expected of me in my current role
Find out if I have room to do more of what I love (and am skilled/qualified in) at work.”
Coach: “Let’s explore this; Who do you need to make this request of?”
Jessica: (Sighs deeply) “My manager.”
Coach: “Why the sigh?”
Jessica: “I realize that I never asked this of my manager before, even though I have been annoyed for months.”
Coach: “I get that, but today is our chance. By when would you like to make the request?”
Jessica: “I can see if he is available to meet by Friday?”
Coach: “Can you meet with him tomorrow?”
Jessica: “Well, I may not be ready that quickly.”
Coach: “Ok, so I request that you get ready in the next two days and make your request of your manager by Thursday at 5:00 pm.”
Jessica: “Well, I guess you made a request of me, so I’ll do it (laughing).”
Coach: “Perfect. Will you follow up with me on Thursday to share how the experience went?”
Jessica: “Sure thing.”
The meeting between Jessica and her manager was a success because it opened a new dialogue between them. In response, Jessica’s manager told her that he too was unclear about their future because the agency had lost a significant portion of funding and would need to reorganize. He requested that Jessica provide some ideas of what their department needed, and what more she felt she could do.
You can see from Jessica’s story that making a request can be the most powerful way to co-create the circumstances you want. Do not assume that anyone knows what you need. Go forth and request! If you don’t make your request, the answer is sure to be no.
Now It’s Your Turn
Think about a request you may need to make of someone and answer these questions:
- What is your request?
- For whom?
- By when?
- What is getting in the way of you making the request?
- Why is this request important to you?
- What doors may open once the request is made?
- If your request is not fulfilled, what’s next?
- If your request is fulfilled, what’s next?
Congratulate yourself for being more visible and sharing your request.
Ayana Coston is Coach & Mentor Practice Lead at Management Concepts. She has more than 15 years of experience in human resources, consulting, leadership development, and coaching. In addition to certification in life and executive coaching, Ayana holds a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Temple University and a master of science degree in organizational development from American University.