Cause and Success: How to Reach Agreement (Part One - Asking)

Heather Furby

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Hello, September, and welcome back to Cause And Success, helpful tips for women in technology (and beyond) so that you become the one and only cause of your success.

I had to put on a long-sleeved shirt today because the air is finally crispy cold in the morning. Fall is my favorite time of year. For me and my team, it's a time to take our goals and visions for the next year and turn them into action plans. This process means we have to do a lot of negotiation within our own group to reach agreement on priorities and processes, as well as agreeing who will take the lead for each project.

The process leads to a lot of laughter and some really heated discussions. We tend to pour all of our personal and business resources into creating and executing new projects. In other words, emotions can control some conversations if we don't keep our process in check.

I want to share with you the first step of our process to reach agreement, in hopes that it will help you lead your projects across diverse teams, families, and communities.

In order to reach agreement, the first step is to ask for what you want. This is also called making a request. We make requests of others all the time, but all too often we are not very effective with stating what we need.

Before you ask for what you want, you have to know what it is that you want. I explained the importance of having your personal vision in writing or pictures (vision board) in the first article. I suggest you have a written vision for your projects, as well, because if you do not, it's easy to morph the vision based on the strongest opinion in the room.

After you know your starting point and the direction you are headed, it's time to ask for help in getting there. It's important to know you can not, absolutely can not, achieve your goals alone.

So, how do you get other people's buy-in and help? By making powerful requests.

The process for making a powerful request is actually quite simple. I'm going to break it down into steps so you can see where your requests are working and where you may need a little practice.

Understanding this process, and then mastering it, will help you in your business projects, as well as in your personal and professional relationships. This is also the foundation for all of your negotiations and contracts. No matter how skilled you are at getting things done, it's always helpful to have a reminder of how you are actually enrolling help.

The Process of a Powerful Request (STEAM)

There are five elements to making a powerful request. Just think that this process adds a little STEAM to your requests:

1. Specific
2. Timeline
3. Emotion
4. Ask (about them)
5. Movement (or call to action)

A more in-depth look:

  1. Specific - Request one thing at a time. We can get excited when we finally have someone's attention and start to ask for many things at once, but that will backfire. It's hard for a person to answer with a single "Yes" when there are multiple questions. This becomes very important when you are negotiating contracts or complex deals, as you will want to hit each negotiating point individually. Get into practice by making daily requests on a single topic.

  2. Timeline - Give a "by when" deadline: "Can you get me the data analysis report by Tuesday at 3pm?" "Will you clean your room by Friday at 5pm?" Having a deadline will free you up from micromanaging the other person's process, and will also make follow-up easier ("You said you would have that done by 5pm and you did not."). I'll cover more on follow-up in next month's article.

  3. Emotion - How will it make me/the team feel? What's possible when this is completed? Emotion gives the context of why you are making the request, and people respond to emotion. We often leave it out of business requests because we think it's too touchy/feely. But if you want someone to take action, let them know how it will make you feel, or put the request in context. If you're asking for something big, like a raise, you'll want to emphasize what you've done to warrant the extra pay; but you can still add in emotion of how it helps you to feel valued and adds to the longevity of your enthusiasm for the job.

  4. Ask - "What do they need to be able to get this done?" This is a key step that is usually forgotten in a powerful request. It becomes very important in your follow-up, like if someone says "Yes" to your request but doesn't get it done (which we'll cover next month). You want to make this question about the person, not about you. What does she need to get the job done? What questions does he have in order to help you?

  5. Movement (or call to action) - This is where you actually ask for an answer. When making a request, the answer can be "Yes," "No," or they can start negotiating. Your job here is to ask for the answer.


Usual request - "Will you get me the data analysis report as soon as possible? We're on a tight deadline."

Powerful request - "Will you get me the completed data analysis report by Wednesday at 3pm? I want to include it in the final report, which I have to send Thursday because I think it will give the client a better picture of what to expect from the advertisement campaign. Is there anything you need from me to get that done? [Wait for an answer; give them time to think] Great. So what's your answer?"

Usual request - "Could you please clean your room?"

Powerful request - "Can you have your room clean by 6pm on Friday? We are having guests over, and it makes me feel more relaxed when we can show them each room without having to wonder if it's clean. By clean, I mean make the bed, pick up your clothes, and put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. Do you need anything from me to do that? [Wait for an answer.] Thanks, so can I count on you doing it by Friday at 6pm?"

Usual request - "Let's get a time on the calendar to talk about the conference."

Powerful request - "Are you available to meet about the conference marketing timeline? I think 30 minutes should be enough to run through it, and if we need more time we can schedule that next week. Does Thursday at 10:15 am work for you? I'll feel more confident in your plan if you show me your timeline, and then I won't have to check in with you daily for an update. What do you need from me before we meet so you feel prepared? [Wait for an answer.] Okay, so 30 minutes on Thursday at 10:15 works for you?"

Summary (STEAM):

  • Be specific and ask for one thing at a time. It may feel awkward at the beginning, but it will simplify in the long run.

  • Set a timeline for the action.

  • State your emotion or feeling for why this task is important.

  • Ask the person what they need from you to accomplish the task.

  • Move forward by restating the request and asking for their answer. It is powerful for the receiver of the request to actually say yes, no, or ask for something else rather than assume they will deliver.

  • Next month we'll look at how to follow up on your request so that when someone answers yes, but then doesn't follow through, you have a plan of action.