Getting More of What You Want and Need

Most of us know that to get what we want, and need to get our job done, we have to ask. That said, many people have difficulty summoning the courage to ask for what they want. It may be fear of rejection, it may be uncertainty about who to ask, it may even be uncertainty about, do I even have the right to ask.

For those who have a fear of rejection as the big limiter may want to try the experiment that Mark Moschel took on to handle his fear of rejection. As you can see it was fun, confronting at times, but ultimately a breakthrough experience for him.

Who to make the request to is another challenge in many organizations because roles and responsibilities are not clear. If you have that concern about am I making the request of the right person, preface your request by asking, are you the right person for me to make this request to? If not, do you know whose role it is to respond to my request? Then make your request, being specific about what you are asking for and by when you want it.

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Remind people they can either accept, decline or counter your requests.

When it comes to the question, do I have the right to ask? As we get clear about what our role is, and what we are responsible for in that role, and who is counting on us to fulfill our role, we soon get clear that not only do we have the right to make our requests, we have a responsibility to ask for what we want and need to fulfil our own responsibilities in our own role.


We Can Become Wiser over Time

Wouldn’t it be great if we actually did get wiser as time passes? However, I don’t experience that learning, or new insights or wisdom even, is an automatic function of life being lived and time passing. As far as I can tell from my own experience, learning and new insights need to be sifted out of day-to-day experiences much as early gold prospectors sifted grit and dirt for the bits of gold they craved.

Have you ever wondered how extraordinary our lives, our organizations and our society would be if we had, as a natural human way of being, a craving to learn, to grow, to be a better version of ourselves, our organizations and our society as each day, week and month passes?

Some people seem to do just that – they grow in stature, in competencies and in wisdom over time. I know people, not headliners mostly, just people who are clearly sifting life for its gold.  

I meet them mostly through my work as an executive coach and consultant. I get to see them first as business people, people focused on making the part of the organization they are accountable for more closely aligned with their vision and intentions.  But I also get to know them through the larger dimensions of their lives – as musicians, athletes, parents, hobbyists of all stripes, and members of their communities. In each aspect of their lives what I mostly see are committed people striving – striving to make today a better version of all their yesterdays.


What do we know that works?

  1. Reflection works – stopping every now and then to pause and take stock – where we are going, what are we up to, what are we striving for, what are we trying to make happen, who are we striving to be...
  2. Observation works – being conscious about what is happening. It is so easy to operate out of habit, on automatic pilot, that a lot goes by that we don't see 
  3. Being non-judgmental works – stuff happens! However, labeling it good/bad, right/wrong, should be/shouldn't be and so on, or being upset with what happens doesn't work as a learning step
  4. Discernment works – being able to sort out the gold from the grit really works. Scientists run experiments. In the process they have lots of failed experiments. The point of experimenting in the first place is to discover what works. By discerning what works we can now consciously and deliberately replicate it, we can show others what works – we have expanded our conscious competence. With hindsight we will also discover what did not work, what was missing that had it been in place we would have had a different outcome, or what was present and in the way we need to remove so as to have the desired outcome
  5. Practices work – Practices, being who you say you want to be. And practice doing what you say you want to do. Practice not so you will remember, practice so you can’t forget

If You Don’t Make Requests and Get Promises You Get What Shows Up

A leader’s primary job is to cause desired outcomes, outcomes that are not predictable given the usual drift of day-to-day business. Outcomes that will not occur without the intervention of a leader.


Which means as a leader you cannot settle for speaking equivocally and at the same time expect the outcomes you want, for example:

  • Somebody needs to …
  • Why don’t they…?
  • We ought to…
  • We should…

Instead, as a leader you will be able to get more of the outcomes you want by mastering conversations for action by making requests to a specific person to do a particular thing/stop doing a particular thing, so as to produce a specific outcome, in a specific period of time.


In other words, shift from speaking about things…our thoughts feeling and opinions, and start speaking for the outcomes that are wanted and needed to forward mission, values and intentions.

If you want to stop something, start something, continue something, or do something differently your best starting point is make a request and hang around for a response.


So, You Missed Your Target in Q1

You failed in other words to deliver the result you wanted. A result other people were expecting, relying on even.

What to do?

The tried and true default option is to come up with the best reasons, explanations, justifications and excuses you can think of. And, we all know the bigger the miss the bigger the justification needs to be. We all know from experience that that strategy has worked well in the past. In fact, we can even state it as a winning formula:

No result + a good explanation, justification, reason, and excuse = the result.

This may be a good CMA strategy however, it is not a good strategy if the commitment is to learn, grow, and develop. Or, in other words, stay in your job, or stay in business.


Here are some steps that are much more powerful in dealing with failure.

  1. Acknowledge I/we failed to meet our Q1 target. Not bad or wrong, just a fact.
  2. Do an after-action review
    a. What worked? Even in failure we did things that worked. It is important to recognize that, and to make sure that all the things that worked are embedded in processes and practices, so you can reliably continue doing what works

    b. With hindsight, what did not work? The hindsight part is critical. Had we known in the moment of action that what we were doing was not going to work we would not have done it. By framing our question with the benefit of hindsight we are more able to see what we could not see in the moment of action

    c. With hindsight, what was missing, that had it been in place I/we would have had a better outcome?
  3. Build the insights from your after-action reviews into your day-to-day habits and procedures.
After Action Review

Failing is not something to be avoided. Failing to learn from failing that is a potential career/business killer – and we should definitely avoid that self-inflicted wound.


The Conversations We Have With Ourselves


We pay a lot of attention to what we speak, and how we speak, and very little to how we listen. 

When we are in conversations with others we think that we and they are a blank slate that are simply ready to receive any communication from us fully…

Nothing is further from the truth! While a conversation is going on in the foreground, i.e., what is actually being said out loud between people, we are engaged in an on-going conversation with ourselves in the background. In the background, there is always speaking with and to ourselves. 

The speaking is constant and, at times, very loud, commenting on everything. 

This "conversation with ourselves" is automatic and unstoppable. We don't have it, "it has us". 


If we start paying attention to our background conversations when we are on our own we will begin to discover an enormous amount of very useful stuff about ourselves. Stuff that we can build on, and stuff we can delete, just like we update our data files...yes, keep this, and scrap that...all so as to get more of what we want for ourselves out of life.

We will hear all the obvious stuff, by that I mean the stuff we already know about ourselves: our likes and dislikes, our opinions, our beliefs, our fears, our biases, and also what makes us happy, gives us joy, and gives us a sense of meaning.



What we will also hear are a lot of conversations, and fragments of conversations, that are simply not true, and need to be corrected, or even eliminated.

Designing the life you really want starts with amplifying and editing our background conversations.

Many of the conversations we have with ourselves are simply not true. We told ourselves something, or more often, someone else told us something, which we believed and it is shaping us. Here are some typical examples:

  • I'm not good enough...I am always falling short, screwing up, making mistakes
  • I'll never get what I want, so what's the point of hoping and trying
  • I am just not very good at...[fill in the blank]



The deal then is is build on the conversations that serve you...they forward what you want to accomplish...your vision for yourself. And, eliminate the ones that don't serve you. The ones that don't make you happy, or even make you sad or depressed.

In subsequent posts we'll explore how to edit and rescript your background conversations. Your first job is to observe them and make notes...then we'll get to action editing, amplifying and re-scripting.

We All Have Background Conversations...But What Are They?


That is a useful question to start the process of encouraging people to be aware that they have a background conversation that, without prompting, they may not  think to share. 

And, if open, honest, and direct communications is our goal, we need to find ways to make it safe for people to say what's on their mind.

We have to be mindful though that we don't cross a threshold into being interrogators, after all, we are all entitled to our private thoughts...we don't have to share everything we think.

Having someone willing to share with us what they think...what they a function of our genuine curiosity to know what's on their mind when we ask.  Being willing to be completely open is a function of the level of affinity we share, and the level of trust that exists between us. 



When the relationships are good colleagues, friends, and family will share their background conversations with us in lots of different ways. For example we'll naturally ask:

  • What do you think of the idea?
  • What's on your mind...?
  • You haven't said very much...anything you want to say?
  • Any questions or reservations you'd like to share?
  • Any feedback you'd like to give me?
  • ...

And, when we are speaking...from an intention to be open, direct and becomes superfluous to announce what your background conversation is, because by virtue of the fact you are speaking, without prompting, it is not a background conversation anymore.

 As one person put it, "I noticed myself cringing when people announce that their "background conversation is...". "If the idea is to tell people what we are really thinking, perhaps the next evolutionary step in our communications with each other should be... to remove the boundary between our internal and external monologue."

Sharing Our Background Conversations a Prerequisite For Great Communications


You are in the middle of a conversation with someone, or even in a meeting with several people, and your background conversation kicks know that conversation you have with yourself: 

  • I wonder what she meant by...? 
  • Oops, that idea didn't go over very well
  • Why does he always want to debate every detail?
  • I am wasting my time sitting in this meeting...

Yet you say nothing. And the uncertainties and nagging questions persist. You may even have a "meeting after the meeting" with colleagues and share opinions and assessments about your background conversations...each of you trying to figure out how accurate they were.

Yet, the only people who can tell you for sure aren't in the conversation.



  • Anita, what did you mean exactly when you said...?
  • Did my idea just bomb with all of you?
  • Joe, what exactly is your concern with my proposal, it seems to me you have a lot of reservations?
  • I don't see why I have been invited to this meeting...any objections if I leave?


If we did we would be able to share our background conversations and, we would be able to ask others what their background conversations are...given we now know they have them.

We could even take a stab at speculation what they are. For example, instead of wondering what she meant, you could speculate and test what you think she meant. "So, are you saying we should cancel the project?" She will either validate your speculation or, she might reply, "No, I was thinking if we don't put more resources on the project we'll fail."


How else will people know what we really think and feel. How will they know our expectations, our aspirations, or our concerns. 

And how else will we know what others think and feel, what their expectations are, what their aspirations or concerns are?

Absent this knowledge our conversations are shallow. I even go so far as to say they are inauthentic. We are not being completely truthful if we are withholding part of ourselves.

This withholding goes a long way in explaining why so many attempts at communication with people don't work out well. Why relationships don't work as well as they could. Why teams don't trust each other, and don't function as well as they could