Every single day we contract with people and don’t know it. 

How many of you have said at one point or another: “I didn’t sign on for that…” or “they got me doing something different now then when I was hired…” or “I switched roles and thought we agreed to this, but I spend most of my time over here…”???

There is always a conversation going on beneath the surface of what we agree to in our relationships-family, professional, romantic-the question becomes: are these agreements… low context?
High context?
Spoken?
Unspoken?

Or how about: what are the terms and did we really ever agree?!

The following is what I have learned this past year about contracting, inviting or coming to agreement in a worthy and excellent manor. 

First, I want you to know that this principle applies regardless of the situational leadership position you are in.

Whether you’re leading down (someone you are hiring, recruiting, leading, are responsible for) or someone you’re leading up (your boss, supervisor, higher-up) or leading across (those equally positioned across from you in the relationship or organization.) 

Regardless of whether you’re the one doing the asking of if someone else is doing the asking of you: when a leader is requesting buy-in, opt-in, sign-on or commitment, there are at least two elements that should motivate the conversation:

  1. Passion
  2. Clarity

PASSION

I’ve spoken to this issue at least monthly, but see there’s no accident in that.

Many leaders are missing if they are not viewing the world through the lens of opportunity… challenge as opportunity, economic turmoil as opportunity, circumstantial change as opportunity…

Shoot, every stinking work day that you draw breath and are going to punch in for 8-hours is one great big opportunity for passionate pursuit of SOMETHING!

And if you’re going to invite someone into something, if you hope to create tremendous buy-in, if you’d like to contract with someone for the long haul on a worthy project or mission, you had better bring the passion like one thunderous drum of relentless enthusiasm.

Because if you don’t, I’ll find something else to be a part of. And so will your people. 

CLARITY

George Bernard Shaw once said:

The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

Unfortunately, I do not have this massive table of data that proves how often in our personal or professional relationships we ASSUME we’ve agreed to something and then the details turn up wanting, but I guarantee it happens a lot!

It happens because we lack the intentionality and care to honor people with a crystal clear ask!

So you’re either lazy or you don’t know how to do this. Fortunately, the solution is simple: begin by writing down a list of 5 or fewer, tangible, practical, time-based details of the ask. These are the core responsibilities that will drive the time spent together, these aspects will continually serve as anchors and laser-pointers to the whole original purpose.

And therein lies the importance and power of “the ask”… the bottom line is this: we have an opportunity every single day to contract with people all around us. You may not know it or see it in the moment, but it’s there.

Whether leaders, co-workers, spouses ask for it or even think they need it, they need to be envisioned and enrolled around a very clear ask.

From the most simple, “hey want to get together tomorrow at 10am for coffee?” all the way to, “hey would you be willing to mentor me?” and everything in between, we are facing opportunities to contract. And when we don’t, it’s a huge miss, people suffer and flail because of it. 

CHALLENGE: its time for a mid-year, 30-day, 90-day “review”… sit down with 1 person who you KNOW that you have some overdue contracting with… OR re-contract with someone who has been meandering about in the fog of apathy and aimlessness!

Don’t waste time… your shared mission is too important! 

2 thoughts on “Mastering the Art of “The Ask”

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