Effective Leaders are Specific

“Hey, Tom, if you could get some of those account reviews done by Thursday, that’d be great.”

Sometimes to sound “nice”, we make requests like the one above.

It’s casual (good), general (bad), with a deadline (good), but without a specific request (bad) or a way to measure (very bad).

The result can descend into icky-ness. Picture this situation:

Tom’s boss (Jill) really wants 10 account reviews (out of 20 total) done by Friday, so she can jump on them right away Monday.

Jill assumes Tom knows that she wants to take action on these by the end of the month, which is only two weeks away.

She requested for Tom to do “some of those account reviews” by Thursday, because she thought that by being vague, they might get done late.

Jill thinks to herself: ‘If I were in Tom’s shoes, I’d know that I ought to have half of them done on Thursday.’

Thursday comes around, and Jill is too afraid to ask Tom for the reviews. Tom also doesn’t volunteer anything.

Friday arrives, and Jill asks “So, I was wondering if, um, you got any of those account reviews done?”

Tom: “Well, yeah, I did two.”

Jill: “Two!?! But, but…” She’s very very frustrated now. “But I asked so nicely!!!”

Tom is put off by Jill’s sudden passive-aggressive obvious frustration.

Tension ensues. And endures.

How can we still sound nice (good), casual (good), offer a deadline (good), and get better results (very good)?

By being specific, and making a full request for what we want.

Try simply using the phrase “Will you please…” It gives people a choice, theoretically, but you won’t hear “no” very often.

Instead of the above, picture this situation occurring:

Jill: “Hey, Tom, we need to get 20 accounts reviewed before next month. Will you please make time to get 10 account reviews done by Friday?”

Tom: “Yikes, 10? Yeah, alright.”

Jill: “Do you need anything from me to help make it happen?”

Tom: “Well, since you asked, would you pick the 10?”

Jill: “Sure. :)”

It’s all still nice, casual, and with a deadline.

But – two little additions make all the difference: specificity, and a clear request.

Bonus: “Is there anything you need from me?” thrown in equals an extra measure of support.

Kindly, casually, make specific (very specific) requests, and see what happens!

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