Want something? Ask for it.

Stop wishing and start asking for what you want

It happens to everyone eventually. You don’t get what you want. Maybe it was the pony you really wanted at Christmas or the job promotion that went to a colleague. It really doesn’t matter because it always hurts, not getting what you want. I think most of us were pretty open about what we wanted as kids. We wrote a list to Santa, asked our parents to buy us things we saw on TV, and generally weren’t shy about making our desires known. As we get older we learn that it isn’t polite to shout to the person nearest to us “Can I have it?!,” when we pass something we really want in the store. I broke this rule once in an electronics store and I got the same look from my wife that I got from my mom as a kid, sort of a mix of disappointed and embarrassed that I couldn’t contain myself. For the most part though, as an adult, I’ve learned to be a little cagier about asking for things. After years of trying, I finally can make it through the TV showroom floor at Best Buy without embarrassing my wife. This is great for her and I’m sure my mom is proud I am finally able to keep my “I want it!” voice on the inside, but this isn’t always the best way to get things done in business.

One thing I’ve seen over and over as an executive and manager is the look of disappointment on someone’s face as someone else receives tasking or a plum assignment. To anybody else in the room it becomes immediately obvious that they were passed over. Sometimes this leads to problems in the workplace as one team member sulks over the loss at the opportunity. When this has happened to me it has often been the case that I never knew nor would I have expected the person to be interested in the assignment, but I end up fully engaged in the aftermath. One thing I’ve done to prevent this is try to more widely vet assignments and opportunities to gauge interest in the workplace. After all, I’d rather have someone who wants a particular task than someone who has been assigned a task. Secondly, I’ve tried to express to my people that it is ok to want things and to ask me for things directly. I fully believe in trying to be out in front of employee needs and desires. We are in a competitive marketplace; where even in a down economy the competition for the best people is fierce. We try to identify employee wants and needs and meet them earlier rather than later, but I believe that most people need to take a lesson from themselves at five years old and do a better job of simply asking for the things they want. You may be disappointed in the answer but at least you’ve given yourself the best possible chance at getting it because the other person now knows what you want.

I’m not suggesting that every time you have a thought about something that might be nice to have you run to your boss and I’m certainly not suggesting that you will get everything you want. All I’m saying is that if there is something you really want in this world and you need the cooperation, help, or buy in of others to get it, the first step is to ensure they know of your interest. If you think about what you are asking a bit and spend some time on your approach, I think that even on the occasions where you don’t get what you are asking for you will increase your standing with the person you’ve asked by your openness and who knows, maybe they’ll think of you down the line. I’ve told myself I can’t be disappointed if I don’t receive something I haven’t asked for and more often than not, I’ve gotten some benefit from the asking.

Anyone out there have stories about things they’ve asked for and received or not received? I’m very interested in your feedback on this topic.

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