They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Only today it’s a video not a picture. Don’t read any further until you check out this 20 second You Tube video about mixed signals. (Click here.)

We have all been there. You think you have communicated clearly what direction you want your team to go and as soon as you are finished talking, people go off in their own direction. Ouch!

Here is a little formula for getting requests right.

Request = Who + What + When = Promise

Request: For starters, “I am thirsty” is not a request for a drink of water. It’s whining and hoping someone will rescue you. A request involves a committed speaker and a committed listener. A committed speaker doesn’t make a request as she waltzes past your cubicle nor does she do it while tending to the paper clutter on her desk. A committed listener is equally focused on the conversation and ready to respond. Anything less and you create a monster miscommunication.

A request is a commitment to take future action combined with the conditions of satisfaction. Last night I ask my husband to take me out to dinner and I end up with a “Whopper”. Guess I forgot to include the conditions of satisfaction with my request. Burger King was not on my list of “dinner” options.

Who: If you suddenly become ill and slump to the ground, most people will pass you by, not because they are cruel or indifferent but because they don’t know that you want ‘their’ help. Survival experts say that in order to get help you need to call out to a specific person. “Hey, you in the red shirt…call 911!” General requests for help often go unfulfilled. “We need to get this client proposal out the door,” does not clarify who will do what to get the job done.

What: Here’s where the conditions for satisfaction come it. State what you want but put it in context and set the standards as you make the request. “Will you write the narrative to the proposal? I would like you to use the template from the job we won last week.”

When: As soon as possible can be three hours, three days or three months. Don’t assume that your sense of time is the same as everyone else. Get a clear dead line that both parties agree to.

Promise: You are not done until the other person responds with a yes, no or maybe. Don’t assume you have agreement until you have agreed to the terms.

The poor emergency workers trying so hard to help the injured soccer player thought they had agreed but in the confusion they still went their separate ways. Try keeping your language clear when making requests and I guarantee you will drop the “player” less often.

Here’s to your success,

Linda Sommer, MBA