Most of us have a ‘To-Do’ list but how many of us have a ‘To-Ask’ list? This was the intriguing question prompted by a recent CEO-level coaching session. My client and I were brainstorming the capabilities required to achieve a specific goal. I asked him if he could see a common theme among the five or six points he had written in his notebook. He stared at the words for some time and then concluded calmly ‘I need to shift from task to ask’.
It was a brilliant insight and it triggered the next stage of our coaching session – building his first ‘To-Ask’ list. This would be a list that would sit alongside his existing ‘To-Do’ list and be treated with equal importance in his daily and weekly routines – for to know how and when to ask is as critical as knowing how and what to do. And many of us hesitate from asking. We hesitate to ask for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes we are not prepared and the moment passes. Sometimes we fear rejection and the words get stuck in our throats. Sometimes we worry that others will not be capable of meeting our ‘ask’ and settle for completing the task ourselves.
Asking isn’t just about delegating, it is a much broader topic than that. For sure, you can ask your team members to complete a task but there are many other people you can ask and many things you can ask of them. For example, a big ‘ask’ is when you ask a client prospect for their business. You have gone through all the steps in the sales process and now the moment hangs in the air when the only way forward is to ask for the business – ‘When would you like me to start?’. Another type of ‘ask’ is when we manage upwards and make an ‘ask’ of our boss. You are in your annual performance review and being set some new targets for the coming year and your boss says ‘How could I help you achieve these goals?’. You can either respond ‘I’m fine but thanks for the offer’ or you can say ‘Thanks. I would really appreciate if we could have a weekly 1-2-1 meeting in which I can pick your brains on these challenges.’ Maybe the biggest ‘ask’ of all is to ask for help. We struggle on with an overwhelming challenge, hoping people can read our minds and hoping they will rush to our help then resenting the fact that no-one does. ‘Why didn’t you ask?’ they plead after the event when it is too little and too late.
So what are the steps in creating your first ‘To-Ask’ list? In the words of Barbara de Angelis : ‘You can’t ask for what you want unless you know what it is. A lot of people don’t know what they want or they want much less than they deserve. First you have to figure out what you want. Second, you have to decide that you deserve it. Third, you have to believe you can get it. And, fourth, you have to have the guts to ask for it.’ Let’s recap on that:-
- Figure out what you want
- Decide you deserve it
- Believe you can get it
- Have the guts to ask for it
So here‘s a challenge for you. Next time you pick up your ‘To-Do’ list, create a new column on the page or in your file and write at the top of this column ‘To-Ask’. Prioritise these ‘asks’ in exactly the same way that you prioritise your tasks. Imagine yourself making these ‘asks’ calmly, politely and confidently. Then take a deep breath and make a start. This simple routine has the potential to transform your productivity and your self-esteem. Please do it. That is my ask.