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How to Make an Effective Request and Get What You Want From Anyone: A Two-Pronged Framework

How to Make an Effective Request and Get What You Want From Anyone: A Two-Pronged Framework

At different points in time, we all need or want something from a wide variety of people. You want a friend to refer you for a job. You want your boss to give you a raise. You need your team to deliver results for your department. It might seem that each of these diverse requests needs to be handled differently. But there is a simple two-prong framework that you can apply to any need or want that will guide you in making a successful request. Regardless of the request, you want to address the two issues of Willingness and Ability.

Help your friends help you

Whether you are asking for a job introduction or a dentist recommendation, the effectiveness of your request to any specific friend comes down to willingness (will this person get back to me?) and ability (will this person know the contact I need?). So when you are considering making a request, select based on who is willing and who is able.

Hopefully, you have enough friends who are willing. But let’s say that you want an introduction into a company that is hiring and you don’t have a friend in that company. You can research the company and identify someone in your target area, but that person is a stranger, so, presumably, unwilling to help. In this case, focus on making her willing to help. Introduce yourself. Follow up. Engage in intelligent dialogue. See Cold Calling For Jobs, Not Just Sales for more details on how to approach people you don’t know.

On the flip side, let’s say you have a friend who is willing to help introduce you into the company you want, but it’s a big company so she doesn’t feel able to be effective. In this case, focus on refining your request so it’s something she’s able to do easily and effectively. Instead of asking for an introduction, which might be onerous and ineffective anyway since she doesn’t know the hiring manager, ask for information about how the target area is structured, who does what, and updated news on the company. By addressing the ability of your friend to help you, you increase your chance of success.

Get your boss to agree

If you want a raise, you will need to schedule a meeting with your boss and put forth a compelling argument to justify your request. Here again, willingness and ability is a comprehensive guide to your preparation.

Will your boss be willing to agree to your raise? You have to address the business case for why you’ve earned it. Research salary data in your role in same size companies in your industry. Calculate and have evidence to demonstrate what you’ve contributed to the bottom line. Make sure you know what your boss cares about and how she determines raises. You want to couch your advocacy based on items she actually values.

Is your boss able to agree to your raise? You need to research when salary budgets are approved so you can time your request to when decisions are still open in the year. You have to give your boss talking points to successfully argue your case to her boss because once she leaves your meeting she becomes your advocate. You have to understand her potential constraints and objections so you can make it easy for her to agree.

Engage your team to follow you wholeheartedly

You think you’re a great manager, providing detailed instruction, clear deadlines and timely feedback. This is a good first step to making your team able to follow you. In addition, you want to see if there are any skill gaps you need to address. You might have someone who is 100% in your corner but just doesn’t have the financial modeling skills to do the reports right or the communication skills to craft an effective presentation. You want to make sure you’re giving your team what they need based on their ability. You want to manage and coach from where they are in their current development, not where you assume they are or should be.

However, a separate but equally important part of successfully managing a team is their willingness to do what you ask. Are they engaged in their work? Perhaps you’re relaying key metrics they need to hit, but you also need to empower them with a broader mission. (It could also be that you’re too mission-focused and they’re confused about how this translates to specific metrics.) Are they engaged with you? Make sure they respect you and buy into your direction. This doesn’t mean that you have to bend to their input but you can’t just assume your team is on board by virtue of you being the manager.

Willingness and ability are the two key issues to address with any request, whether managing up or down or just dealing with friends. Make sure you address why people should want to help you. Make sure you give people the information or skills or the right request so they are able to help you.

This post originally appeared on Forbes.


Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career and business coach with SixFigureStart®. She has worked with executives from Amazon, American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. Follow Caroline’s weekly leadership column on Forbes (where this post originally appeared).

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