Feeling annoyed at not getting what you want? Did you get the chance to step-up and manage a new project or activity for a few weeks. Did you do a great job. Then, well, nothing? No offer of doing it permanently? Just back to the same old boring work that doesn’t light you up?
Are colleagues getting more opportunities than you, even though know your work is of an excellent quality?
If this is you, then it’s time to talk about asking for what you want. Yes! Ask!
If we don’t ask for what we want, why would anyone give it to us.
In today’s podcast I’m discussing why we sometimes don’t ask for what we want, and how to start doing it. I’m removing your objections, and calling you out on assuming someone has noticed how awesome you are! Just because they know you are awesome, doesn’t mean they will give you that next step.
So let’s break this down, and discuss how to ask for what you want, so you can take that next step and let go of those frustrations.
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Want to read instead of listen? Here’s the transcript:
Hello Hello, Welcome (or welcome back!) to the Leading Women in Tech Podcast.
It’s me, Toni, from ToniCollis.com. How are you doing? I hope wherever you are this week that the sun is shining down on you.
Today I’m digging straight in to the topic of today’s podcast: ‘are you asking for what you want?’
With pretty much every single person I’ve ever coached, at some point I’ve had a discussion with them about how frustrated they are that they aren’t being given an opportunity, a promotion, a payrise, or some additional responsibility.
I was having one of these conversations, just a few weeks ago, with one of my clients. Earlier in the year, she had been asked to take on some additional leadership and management responsibilities. It added a lot to her workload and was quite stressful. But resulted in focusing her priorities improving productivity and figuring out what she really needed to be doing at work – something that every time I see someone uplevel is a requirement of that up-levelling process! But there was an element of relief when the work went away, things went back to normal, and her workload decreased.
Then a few weeks later, we were discussing how she was frustrated at her boss for not seeing the right way to do things. She was frustrated at decisions being made, work assignments given out without her consultation, and colleagues who were in leadership roles beyond where she is, even though she had mentored these people when they started. Her frustrations were legitimate – there is no doubt, given the feedback she gets, that she is great at what she does.
After a little digging, it turns out she really enjoyed that time in the more advanced leadership role. She thrived on the responsibilities and was upset that it was given back to the person that she had temporarily been doing the work for . So I asked her the questions many of us don’t like to be asked: have you put your name forward and made it clear that is what you want?
The answer: not really.
The real answer: not at all.
She made the assumption so many of us (myself included) make: that our work will speak for itself. If we shine, someone will reach down and pick us up. She was and is shining. But she is so good at her current engineering role, that her boss wants her to keep doing it. If she wants something else, it is time for her to ask.
So today, we are going to dig into how to ask for something. Its one of the key skills in your negotiation toolkit that helps you become and stay a leader. Leaders need to negotiate… and negotiation is often uncomfortable. Putting ourselves forward is uncomfortable. Impostor syndrome will rear its ugly head. But if you are getting annoyed at not getting opportunities, if you haven’t asked for something, then the only person you should be annoyed at is yourself. And side-note my love, being annoyed is a waste of energy, so don’t be annoyed at yourself, recognise you are annoyed, and channel that into action that overcomes your fears.
Today I’m sharing with you a step-by-step process of how to ask for you what you want. Because yes, you could just ask for it. And that probably works more often than not. But if you are finding yourself resisting, then a little bit of preparation can do two things. Firstly it will boost your confidence because you’ll feel equipped to make your case. But secondly, it will also increase your chance of success!
Because being good, or indeed excellent isn’t enough. In fact, it can be a hindrance! If you are the best at your current role, what is your boss going to do when you aren’t doing that anymore? It certainly isn’t going to magically make your boss recognise that you are ready to step up to the next level because what your boss is seeing is one area of the organization that is working like a well-oiled machine – why would they worry about it?
Now I don’t want you to stop being excellent at what you do. But you will need to make the case for why giving you what you want is in everyone’s interest.
So let’s dig in. Let’s get you what you want!
STEP ONE: Figure out what you want.
This probably sounds obvious – you already know what you want. Right? But here’s what I want you to do here: get specific. If you are going to ask for something, especially something that hasn’t just landed on your plate, you want to know that what you are asking for is worth going for. If you are clear, and the thing you are asking for is well defined, or indeed moderately trivial, then just go for it. But if it is a little bigger, such as taking on responsibilities, decision making, or anything where someone is going to be trusting you with something that they haven’t trusted you with before, then its worth taking the time to know what you want and why you want it.
So here are some questions to ask yourself:
- The obvious: What do you want to try out?
- What is your ideal job?
- When are you happiest? What would you need to do or change to spend more time doing this?
- Is there something you love but have stopped doing? What would it take to do more of that/restart it?
- Are you good at something that you never get the chance to do?
- What would you want if you were certain you could get it? Consider money (e.g. salary, business income, personal goals, health/wellness goals, short and long term goals).
Use those questions to figure out what you want in the short, medium and longer-term. Then go back to your original ask – the thing that is making you listen! The thing you are frustrated at not being offered already. How does it fit into this bigger picture? Does it align with a longer term plan? Is it exploratory in some way (totally cool by the way to explore and do that by trying stuff out at work – but you’ll need to know that when you asked, because you don’t necessarily want to be stuck doing something for a decade if you were just planning on trying it out!)
So now you know what you want, let’s look at STEP TWO: Ask yourself: what is the next step to get you more of what you want and less of what you don’t want?
This one is a useful step if you know you aren’t going to get 100% of the way to your ask immediately. Perhaps you want to step up immediately to a full-time strategic role. But unless you’ve built a resume on strategy already, or you are already doing 60%+ on strategic decision making, this will be a hard sell! The same is true if you want to be the face of your team at a big conference. Yes, you may get what you ask for (but if you knew that was the case – you would already have asked I hope!), but if you have never stood up in public to speak on behalf of your team, then you are less likely to get there immediately.
So ask yourself, what could you ask for that would get you part-way to your goal?
Then stretch yourself – because in my experience many of us don’t ask for what we really want and under-ask. How close to what you are annoyed at not having/being offered is what you are now asking for? Are you being realistic, or just being scared to ask for more?
This step is really about figuring out a sensible roadmap, but don’t fall into the trap of asking for too little. Remember, they can always say no. But if you know what your end goal is, and also where you would be happy to get to that is along that road to your end goal, you can make the big ask but know you’d be comfortable with a compromise.
Once you know what the steps along the way might be to where you want to be, then its time to Get Specific on what you will request in your initial discussion.
For example, if you want to take on a leadership role, what specific role do you want? Are you asking to spend 10% or 20% of your time doing something? Do you want to be a public speaker? Yes? Get specific on the venue and the topic.
When figuring out the specifics ask yourself:
- what responsibilities are you asking for?
- What changes will this mean for you, your workload, your team, your organisation. What repercussions are there likely to be?
- Is there a pay increase attached to it?
- If yes, what pay increase are you asking for?
- who do you need to ask?
- who are the decision-makers are that will be involved in making the change happen? Are there policies, procedures and precedents that you need to address?
Once you have all of that you are finally getting to the point where you really know what you are asking for. So its time to pre-empt concerns!
As I mentioned at the beginning of this episode, my client who is in this situation has a reputation for delivering a high standard of work, on-time. So one of the things she needed to address is what this means for the team when she takes on different responsibilities. Does that mean the output from her team will be lower quality.
Remember, that your boss’ number one priority probably isn’t you! Their priority is making sure the teams and work they are responsible for is delivered on-time and to a required standard. So if you are going to suggest something to them that makes them at all concerned about their number one priority not being met, your request is far more likely to fail. They will need to put effort in to solve this problem. So lets do that for them! Let’s get in their head and solve those problems for them, so they don’t have to. And that is what this next step is all about.
And by the way, this is also true if you are a business owner: get in the head of the person you are negotiating with. Are you pitching your product or services – yes? Then what concerns are they likely to have that would stop them buying from you? Are you pitching to investors or funders if you are a non-profit? Yes? Then what concerns will they have that would make them concerned they weren’t going to see their return on investment back?
Getting inside the head of not just the person you are asking, but the decision-makers involved (which is why in the previous step I asked you to think through who the decision-makers will be), will help you address issues up-front-and-center, so they aren’t an issue!
And even something small, such as ‘can I be the one to present this work at the upcoming meeting’. The decision-maker here, might just be your boss, or the team lead, but what concerns might they have? Are they likely to worry about their reputation if you make a mistake?
Figure out what concerns the decision-makers are likely to have. What problems might prevent them from giving you what you want. Then it is time to talk mitigation. For example, offer that your boss will get to review your slides/preview your talk. Or if you are asking for a workload shift, suggest how the team you are working with will be able to pick up the work, and how you will ensure continuity of quality.
Which brings us to the next step: paint a picture of how stepping up will help the decision-makers. So you’ve now got the ammunition you need to address any areas of concern, but we don’t want them focused on negatives, we want them focused on positives. So it is time to show them how you being given what you are asking for is going to improve things they care about. What outcomes will improve? Why should they be interested? How does this address the priorities for your team or organization?
Next, its time to decide how and when you will make your pitch – yes everything else we’ve discussed is just preparation.
How and when to make your pitch is crucial. You want the person who you are approaching in the right frame of mind – so doing it when a deadline is approaching unless you are going to be painting a picture of making that all far easier, isn’t going to get you what you want. Also, don’t ask for an hour of someone’s time if you just need to make a short pitch! 10 minutes for a well-polished pitch that cuts through straight through concerns and paints a picture of a better way, should take just a few minutes. If they want more time, they can ask for it. But your boss is probably busy, and if you want an hour with them, unless you get that each week, they are less likely to be in a giving mood when the meeting starts.
Consider if it is appropriate to do this in-person, online, phone call or by email. In general, by email doesn’t work too well when you are asking for something, as you can’t read the other person’s body language. But do follow the culture of your organization. And try and choose a location free of distractions (so corridors, coffee rooms or a video conference where you have a lot going on in the background are all bad ideas!). You want them focused on you and what you are suggesting.
So you’ve done all the hard work!
It is time to make the ask! If you’ve done this prep suddenly asking seems a lot simpler. I’m not saying your impostor syndrome won’t rear its head. But simply prepping can help dampen that, especially if you have gone through and actively addressed issues arising and painted a picture of positive outcomes. That will help you as much as the decision-makers!
Oooh and remember, if you are struggling with this, and would like some help pushing through how to negotiate, or to have someone (lovingly) call you out when you are making excuses for not asking, then I am here to help.
If you are ready to work through getting more of what you want, learning how to ask for it and getting results, then I’d love to help. I help them amazing women I work with (because you are all amazing!) to not just build their dream career without all the hustle, overwork and stress, but shortcut their route to success. If that sounds like what you want then book a call with me and we can find out if coaching is what you need (or indeed if something else instead would work). Find out more about working with me at tonicollis.com/workwithtoni, scroll to the bottom and book yourself a free no-obligation discovery call, and we can chat and find out what you are after, what you are stuck on and if we would be a good fit to work together.
But let’s just get back to asking for what you want and recap!
STEP 1 is: Figure out what you want and get specific
STEP 2: Look bigger: is this the next step in the road you want to go down? What do you want more of? What do you want less of?
STEP 3: Get specific on what you are asking for and identify the decision-makers (even if they aren’t the people you will be speaking to)
STEP 4: Identify concerns and issues that might arise from granting this request, and outline how they could be avoided/mitigated, particularly what you will do to ensure continuity of anything you are doing at the moment.
STEP 5: Paint a picture of outcomes and how it fits into the interests and priorities of the decision-makers involved. Get into their heads and show them how this will make things better for the organisation.
STEP 6: Make an active decision and plan out how, where and when you will bring your request up.
So there is lots of detail in these steps, and depending on the request you are making you will need more of some and less of others. For example, if you are just asking to take on a small extra task you probably don’t need to do much more than address concerns about your workload! But remember to take the right tone – suggesting that you doing work instead of a colleague will mean better outcomes, might just come across the wrong way. So use your common sense, but also use these steps to build your confidence and take action.
Remember, if you don’t ask, you probably won’t get it!
But let’s finish up with a Leadership Mindset moment. If you are new around here, a leadership mindset moment is an actionable tip to help adjust how you act or think to make it easier to up-level so you can take more positive action on the topic of today’s podcast.
Today’s leadership mindset moment is one of those things that really highlights the difference between leaders and everyone else – because we are going to be getting into the heads of those around us, and putting ourselves in their shoes.
As I discussed in Step 4 and 5, you need to identify outcomes and concerns that the decision-makers are going to have. So it’s time to think like your boss. What do you think is their biggest area of concern (as I mentioned – it probably isn’t you). What keeps them awake at night? What makes them stressed and loose their temper (which I hope they don’t do with the team!). Once you can identify their biggest concerns it can help you identify the reasons why they wouldn’t make the choice you want them to make, and also how to address this in the quickest, most succinct way. If they are most concerned about delivering to specific KPIs, ask yourself, how does your request impact, positively or negatively, those KPIs?
Thinking in this way will help you understand the inner workings of your organisation and be a more effective leader. So whenever you are looking to make a request or influence people, step into the heads of those around you and ask yourself: what keeps them awake at night. If you can address that, you will find your path to doing more of what you want and making the impact that lights you up, far easier.
That is all for today’s episode! If you loved this and would like some help up-leveling your negotiation, leadership and career then do check out my coaching program at tonicollis.com/workwithtoni.
Until next time, remember to stay on your tech leadership game, and follow your dreams, because the world really does need that uniqueness that you bring as a leading woman in tech.