Trust on Purpose

Strengthen Trust with Clear and Complete Requests

August 08, 2022
Strengthen Trust with Clear and Complete Requests
Trust on Purpose
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Trust on Purpose
Strengthen Trust with Clear and Complete Requests
Aug 08, 2022

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We make and receive requests every day. Sometimes we are delighted with the result, and other times we are frustrated that things didn't turn out as we had imagined. Ilaand Charles delve into two real-life situations about how requests that lack clarity and completeness lead to frustration and damaged trust and what we can do to be more effective as requester and as the person performing the work.

We want to thank the team that continues to support us in producing, editing and sharing our work. Jonah Smith for the heartfelt intro music you hear at the beginning of each podcast. We LOVE it. Hillary Rideout for writing descriptions, designing covers and helping us share our work on social media. Chad Penner for his superpower editing work to take our recordings from bumpy and glitchy to smooth and easy to listen to episodes for you to enjoy. From our hearts, we are so thankful for this team and the support they provide us.

Show Notes Transcript

Send us a message - we'd love to hear from you

We make and receive requests every day. Sometimes we are delighted with the result, and other times we are frustrated that things didn't turn out as we had imagined. Ilaand Charles delve into two real-life situations about how requests that lack clarity and completeness lead to frustration and damaged trust and what we can do to be more effective as requester and as the person performing the work.

We want to thank the team that continues to support us in producing, editing and sharing our work. Jonah Smith for the heartfelt intro music you hear at the beginning of each podcast. We LOVE it. Hillary Rideout for writing descriptions, designing covers and helping us share our work on social media. Chad Penner for his superpower editing work to take our recordings from bumpy and glitchy to smooth and easy to listen to episodes for you to enjoy. From our hearts, we are so thankful for this team and the support they provide us.

Charles: Hi, I'm Charles Feldman.

Ila: and my name is Ila Edgar, 

Charles: We're here for Trust on purpose, which is a podcast dedicated to helping people build trust in their work and personal lives. And so today we're going to take a look at something that keeps coming around for me as a coach, when I work with my clients, having to do with how people make requests of each other, or listen to requests and respond, that seems often to lead to situations where trust is damaged.

Charles: and so I'm thinking specifically of two instances recently where I had coaching clients and I'm of course not gonna name anybody and I'm going to disguise the, particulars so that, the confidentiality is maintained. but two somewhat recent, situations where clients had, either made a request of someone that was not being fulfilled and was creating distrust or ultimately had. Received a request that was not very well made and, nonetheless followed exactly what the request, what the requester asked for. And, because of doing that was not able to actually get to the end result very quickly, as quickly as the requester had, wanted. 

Charles: So first I think why don't we just quickly review, what are the key elements of a clear and complete request?

Charles: So there are, are some basic pieces that need to be in what would be a clear and complete request. one is who's making the request and that may seem weird because typically you get a request from the person who's making it, but sometimes they're making it on behalf of others, someone else.

Charles: And so that's useful if you're receiving that request, if you're the intended performer, and you're getting a request on behalf of a third party, It's useful to know who that third party is for an, oh, you can imagine for a number of reasons, including, you know, what's the urgency behind it. If it's the CEO of the company, you're gonna sit up and listen and, probably be on top of that one a little more quickly than, if it's on behalf of, someone who doesn't have quite that stature, not that that should necessarily make a difference in how you respond.

Charles: But, it usually does for most of us, but the other thing is. If I'm getting a request from someone, who is not the person who's talking to me about it or sending the email and I have a question or I have a concern, or I need to get back to them at some point, it's useful to know who that person really is.

Charles: Who's behind the request. So who is making the request. And of course, part of that is, is that person really committed to the request? They're. so my assumption when I get a request is that that person is committed to the request. They really want me to do this, and they want me to do this for a good reason.

Charles: and we can circle back to this one because this one sometimes is an issue. but in terms of just the general pieces of a request, there's, who's making the request. What's the action that is being asked for. what are the requester conditions of satisfaction? How will you the performer know, and me the requester know that. It's actually been done to my satisfaction, not me, the requester or customer. has it actually been done to my satisfaction? And that's actually really important. It turns out and we'll see in the two examples that I will bring forward here in a few minutes, that can be, a real issue. And when it's not paid attention to can cause a lot of problems. And then finally, what's the time. when do you, the customer or requester really need this to be done by, or want it to be done by? 

Charles: So that's, what you might call the fundamental pieces of a clear and complete request. Another piece that's often very useful is context. Why am I making this request?

Charles: How is it connected to the larger commitment that we all share, whether it's others on our team or me and my boss together, or me and my peer, or just all of us in this company, what's our bigger mission or purpose. And how is the request connected to that? so providing that context, we have A regulatory review coming up and we need to have all this information together for the regulators to look at by a certain date.

Charles: giving that context can often help the intended performer, understand the reason and value and, urgency or non urgency or whatever it is of the. having said all of that, let me just, take a moment to talk about two different instances recently, when I had clients who, made requests that could have been better and had they been better, they would not have resulted in distrust or increased distrust in the relationships with the other person.

Charles: So I'll start with one in which, the requester was a supervisor. My client, whom I was working with was the direct report. and in this instance, my client, had had a long time difficult, challenging relationship. there was some distrust already in the relationship with her boss. And so she was kind of, to some degree walking on eggshells wanting to please her boss, not to kinda mess things up. 

Charles: and so, the. Request that she got was very specific. It was having to do with something that needed to be dealt with potentially, at the facility that she, my client managed. The request that she got was okay. I want you, the boss saying, I want you to talk to these two people to find out what to do, basically ask them what to do about this. and so. Not wanting to do something different than what her boss was asking. She set out to do that. And she contacted those people.

Charles: the bottom line is it took quite a long time for even the contacts to come back with information, they didn't really know everything. They had to do a lot of research, which they did. the boss in the meantime is checking in every few days what's going on, how's it going?

Charles: And my client is, pretty sure that this is gonna come up at review time, how this, was handled and how there was this long delay. So finally, she went, before she'd even gotten enough back from these other two people to really know what to do. She went and checked on how, these materials were being used in the use logs for them.

Charles: which was very clear turned out about what they were when they had been used before. And, it became obvious that there was no real issue that needed to be dealt with right away. It was not gonna cost a bunch of money, which was part of a concern that her boss had. Her boss was worried that if this was something that was going to cost.

Charles: You know, a couple hundred or even  to, mitigate. She wanted to know so that a decision could be made quickly about it. Fair enough. What was missing here was that the boss's request, gave two specific information, gave my client information that didn't really allow her flexibility to, think about the problem and execute it in a different way.

Charles: And of course my client was concerned to, Do what the boss said, because she knew she was already skating on some thin ice. So that was one too much, too specific information. The action was too specific. did not leave my client with any kind of room to, maneuver on that.

Charles: I mean, she could have, of course she could have just done what she thought might be the best way. And. She was really concerned about that, given her relationship with her boss. So that's one. 

Charles: Now another one was in this case, it's the boss and my client's 

Charles: the boss, 

Charles: and he made a request of, uh, a direct report, a fairly new direct report he had recently hired.

Charles: and his request basically was to do something about an issue.

Charles: But what he didn't 

Charles: spell out, 

Charles: even though he did have a deadline, he said, you know, I want you to do something about it and do something about it by the end of next week, 

Charles: what 

Charles: he didn't supply was what it would look like. When it was done right. And you and I, you have talked a lot about how bene brown says, paint me a picture of what dun looks like.

Charles: not only was there no picture, none. There's a totally blank canvas. no one even pointed to the canvas. So a his direct report. didn't know what really needed to happen. What was his charge what's he supposed to do? so he, the direct report then went about making different runs at it.

Charles: Well, okay. I'll try this. Whoops. That didn't work. the boss is still upset. I mean, I'm kind of laughing here. The fact of the matter is it created some distrust, the boss, my client, in conversation with me said, I really don't trust this. I just hired him.

Charles: And I don't know what to do here because he's really already creating a situation where I don't know if I can trust him. He's not getting this done and I need to have it done. And so we dove into, of course, what is the request that's going to. Work in this instance, in this case, it's not enough information. Where So I'm gonna stop here and Eli, let me check in with you. what do you hear here?

Ila: Well, excellent situations for us to unpack related, to clear and complete requests. One of course being specific and the other being, not specific enough. And as you're telling both of these stories, think about the impact of the relationship on the request.

Ila: So in the first story that you told this direct report already had a tricky relationship with her supervisor. And so I have a history and I know what that feels like. So I'm not gonna do anything other than. tick the box that she's asking me to tick. I'm not gonna step out of that box. I'm not gonna ask for more.

Ila: I'm not gonna ask for less. I'm not gonna do anything because I already have a felt sense and a lived experience of this relationship. So then interestingly enough, the second situation is there's no relationship to rely on. So I have no idea if this is how this, supervisor typically makes requests, like, do I need to figure this out?

Ila: Is it okay for me to ask for more? Is it okay for me to not understand completely what I'm doing? So it's so fascinating in this listening, how the leader, the supervisor relationship impacts so much the ability for people to get good work.

Charles: Yeah.

Ila: Whether it's a clear and complete request or not, that relationship really, really matters.

Charles: Yeah. And I would say that. No matter what the relationship it's going to be better. If the request is well formed. if there's enough, but not too much information or it's, specific, but not too specific or, what's there is what's going to help the listener, the intended performer. well, first of all, allow the intended performer to even, know what they're saying yes 

Charles: to. 

Ila: right. 

Charles: and if they can say yes to that, if they have a capacity to do whatever it is, that's being asked of them. but also to, ideally, I mean, talk about shortcut if, in both situations, if the intended performer. felt that they could ask questions like, what is it that we're actually trying to do here?

Charles: what do you want to have happen? Oh, I want, in this case it was chemicals on site in the facility that were seemingly unknown. didn't have labels on them. so. Hey, I want to have these chemicals, wanna know what they are, wanna know what needs to happen with them. And if it's something that has to happen, it's gonna cost a lot of money.

Charles: I want it to happen while there's still money available. And the other one, this one it's okay. What does done look like? What is it that I want? Or, Me, the boss wants to be different that I can direct the intended performer towards what do I need them to do?

Charles: So, yes, the relationship in both cases has a lot to do with how the intended performer listens the filter. Okay. The first one, it, as you said, already skating on thin ice already worried, about further damaging the relationship. Let's tow the line here. Let's not get creative here at all. And the other one is brand new.

Charles: I don't know. I don't know how to deal with this.

Ila: well, and so I wanna pause on that statement for a second because you also, in your story set up said that this direct report in the second situation had made multiple runs. At getting this request fulfilled

Charles: at least two,

Charles: I 

Charles: think. 

Ila: So when the first, run or the first here's, I think I've solved the problem or I've done what you've asked me to do.

Ila: There's also an opportunity in that moment for the leader to go, oh, this isn't what I asked for or what I think I asked for, how can I help make this. how do I take accountability for seeing now that this wasn't a clear and complete request or that this person is struggling to try and get this request taken care of?

Ila: How can I actually support right now before you go spend and waste more time trying to get it right? How do I set you up so that you can get it right?

Charles: And that would be great, except in this case the intended performer did not come back and say anything. They just assumed that, okay, I've done something. It wasn't until after a couple of. failed attempts that this, became known that the direct report had even tried anything.

Charles: So, from the, leader's perspective, nothing, the outcome wasn't achieved and had not heard anything like, okay, I've done it. How was it? did it work? 

Charles: So, there is that piece there too, which didn't help. 

Ila: Right, And, okay. So here's part of the story that I'm making up may and may not be entirely accurate, but as a new hire, working with a new leader, I'm gonna do my damnedest to impress the hell out of you.

Ila: I'm gonna pretend that I know exactly what I'm doing and how to do it, and I'm gonna deliver to you. And I'm gonna hope and pray that it's the right thing. It's pretty courageous and vulnerable, especially in a brand new relationship to go. So I'm not exactly sure what you need. Here's what I think. Can I repeat back?

Ila: Do I have the right tools, resources, time, whatever. , but again, like we think about so many new relationships where that's terrifying to go. So can I just clarify, 

Charles: Yes. 

Ila: like, even as I'm saying that to you, I can feel like, could I, you know, just clarify a little bit, my voice is up, my breath is up. my throat is constricted because I'm like, is this okay for me to be doing?

Ila: Or sh I just shut my mouth, put my nose down ass up and figure this.

Charles: what's the same story in the other situation. Right? So in that case, my client, she was afraid to be vulnerable and say, Hey, I'm not sure what you're asking me is gonna get us there quickly enough. or even, down the road a little ways when it became clear that it was going on for a long time.

Charles: in her mind, she was thinking, well, at least I'm doing. my boss asked me to do, it's not getting us to a solution, but at least I'm doing what my boss asked me to do. So when the boss keeps kind of breathing down my neck about it, I can at least say, well, I'm, you know, I'm doing what you asked in both cases, can I be vulnerable enough? Can I trust the, situation? Can I trust a relationship? 

Ila: Mm-hmm

Charles: can I trust myself? To just ask some simple questions. So, yeah, again, going back to what's our story about the relationship we have with our direct report, our boss, our, whoever that really influences.

Charles: How trusting we can be, how vulnerable we want to be with, those people, but notice in both cases, by not being vulnerable and asking it got worse.

Ila: yes. And I even now, like, again, I'm, I'm holding my breath. I'm thinking of life real lived experience for me where similar situations and you know, you're teetering on.

Ila: Should I shouldn't I should. I shouldn't. I should. I, my, and sometimes it just feels safer to not. even though we see after the fact and in our hindsight. Okay. Yeah. I see how I could have done this and it may have resulted differently, but right in that moment in my body, I'm terrified.

Charles: Yeah. so how do any of us, deal with that. Because yes, in hindsight, I can look back and say, oh my gosh, if I had just done that, if I just asked a couple of questions here, this could. Been much better. I've actually made it worse by not doing that. And so next time my body feels like that. I'm, like, okay, should I do that or not? what do we need? What can we say to people who of course are gonna be in that

Charles: situation, 

Charles: including ourselves sometimes 

Charles: maybe what

Charles: can we say about how we can respond in that moment? How we can, be in that moment that will allow us.

Charles: Allow our, listeners allow our clients to be able to get in touch with what's really important here. Get in touch with their own resourcefulness. trust themselves. 

Ila: yeah, and I think like immediately a couple things come up for me and we've talked about this before, when I'm feeling.

Ila: nervous, apprehensive, anxious, whatever that situation might be. I find my feet. honestly find my feet. So even now I'm sitting at my desk. it's summer. Thank God in Calgary. I'm barefoot. And I can feel the rug under my feet. And so I often. I'm gonna use the word ground, but it's actually I find my feet. Can I feel them? And can I wiggle my toes and I, can I bring myself back into my body? Well, I'm doing that. I am also slowing down my breath, my shoulders. Just pause whether that pause is three or five seconds or three or five minutes or maybe longer. so what's the outcome that I need. What's the help that I need. How can I ask that in a way? I don't have to stand on my desk with my kimono open and go. I don't know what I'm doing help, but is there one small thing that I could do that helps me get closer to the goal or the outcome?

Ila: The clarity needed one small thing. so rather than. go toe to toe with a boss that I don't think we have a great relationship with. And I'm maybe scared, frightened. My past experiences told me that things don't end. Well, I don't have to go and have a huge vulnerable conversation, but is there one question that I could start with one statement, something, and I've got James clear in the back of my head, right.

Ila: With his 1%. So what's 1% of something that I could do. That's where I go. Where do you go?

Charles: Yeah, well, it, it similar place. And I think that for me, and for many of my, clients really understanding what's going on here, request is being made of me. Or in the other direction I'm making request, but a request is being made of me. And as I think about that request, I can kind of do a mental checklist.

Charles: Okay. what's the action. is that action that I'm being asked to do relevant to what needs to happen or what I think is being asked of me, where's this person sending me , and is that the right direction? Is that going to get this other person and me and the team and everybody else what we really need.

Charles: So just thinking about that's check one. Check two, first of all, is there enough information here so that I can evaluate whether to say yes, no. Make a counter offer. ask to, commit to commit later, I'll come back with an answer for you if I can do this, but is there enough information to do that?

Charles: Let alone, is there enough information here if I say yes right now, so that I can actually be successful in, achieving whatever it is. So what are the conditions of satisfaction and is there a clear timeframe that was the other thing on the first story I know, was, there was, there was no clear timeframe was just as soon as possible, which is ridiculous.

Charles: I'm sorry. I shouldn't say ridiculous. it's not useful. 

Ila: not useful. Yes. 

Charles: It's 

Charles: totally not useful. 

Ila: And it happens all the time though. 

Charles: oh yeah. Yeah. We all wanted as soon as possible. so the urgent kicks out the urgent. Okay. I'm more urgent. you go deal with that later. Everything's urgent. Everything has to be done right now as soon as possible. Which compounds all kind of problems, but coming back to just simply having that checklist and I've had this feedback from a number of clients, just simply having that kind of mental checklist, 

Charles: who's asking, okay, that's pretty clear What's the context here what is the action and is that action really gonna lead to. Getting something done And what are the conditions of satisfaction? the rest of the story here, is it enough? Is it too much maybe. and then finally, what's the timeframe that I'm being asked to do this in, that, along with the kind of, like you say, grounding oneself. Taking that breath allows me, has allowed many of my clients to really think through, okay, do I need more information? Do I need to ask for it? or in the, requester's perspective, the customer's perspective and by giving this person enough information, being intentional, about.

Charles: Requests that I make. Am I giving them enough information on me giving them the right direction? am I giving them a timeframe? that's real, I'm not sandbagging on my end. and what is the context? how would I connect this to our bigger shared commitment? so having. Helps also a whole lot.

Charles: grounding into our bodies and then connecting with that, connecting those dots.

Ila: Mm-hmm I think there's another piece that I'd really like to add. and this is something that I think is so incredibly important whether it's the direct report, going back to the supervisor and saying, I just wanna make certain, can I ask a question?

Ila: I need some clarity, whatever those questions are that the leader says, thank you for getting that clarity. Thank you for asking for more information. Thank you for making sure that you are clear what you were saying yes to. So again, rewarding that vulner. I think equally as important is the direct report.

Ila: If the, supervisor sees, you know, what my original request, wasn't clear, I wanna take accountability for that. Here's the additional information or context that I think would be helpful for the direct report to say, thank you for owning that. So again, rewarding the vulnerability in the relat. So that we build trust.

Ila: We build that safety with each other in order to be able to do this better the next time and the next time and the next time,

Charles: Which gets right back to the title of this podcast. Trust on purpose, being intentional about building trust with each other, not, just sort of leaving it to chance. 

Charles: So we've talked a lot about. requests and how to make them, what are the elements of the requests that make it a good, effective request? clear and complete. So now let's circle back and, Maybe offer a suggestion for how each of these two requests in these situations we've been talking about might have been a more request.

Charles: So if you recall the first situation, the person who, was making the request. a boss and the, intended performer, was being asked to do something very specific, which was to contact two different people who might have been able to tell her something about some mystery materials on, uh, premises around the facility that she had jurisdiction.

Charles: and, so she went off to do that, which took a lot of time when in fact, ultimately she simply went and checked out the use logs for those materials and discovered what they were that way. So a more useful request from her boss could have been something like, please find out what those materials.

Charles: and what we need to do about them. And if it's going to cost us money, say more than some, certain amount of money, if their hazardous, for example, I need special attention. And then put that into an email to me so that I can, approve doing whatever it is. And we can go forward from. and please do this by, oh two weeks from now or a week from now

Charles: or whatever, by the way, you might wanna contact these two people.

Charles: They may be able to help, but do what you need to do to get this done in that timeframe. Thank you.

Charles: What do you think 

Charles: that sounds like a different kind of request than what 

Charles: we've been talking 

Charles: about? 

Ila: Very different. I understand clearly what you're asking me I understand the 

Ila: context. So in this particular situation, as we talked about earlier, it was very specific without, for the sake of why, like, what am I gonna do with this task that I've asked you to do in this information? So now understanding the bigger context is helpful for this person to be able to complete think what are other factors that this person may want to know?

Ila: Cuz I understand what the end 

Ila: result is.

Charles: Yeah. And so we talked about how, because of the relationship that, this individual has with her boss, she was not comfortable, challenging this request in any way, but if she had felt a little more comfortable doing that a little, more courageous about it, she could have said something like I will do that.

Charles: I will do what you're asking. And I will also do some research 

Charles: on. my own and see if I can get this closed even more. so, she's not countermanding or saying no to her boss at the same time. She's letting her boss know she's gonna take some extra steps. 

Ila: which as her boss, I would be delighted. Like thank you for taking that on. I appreciate that. That matters. 

Charles: Yeah. Okay. So let's look at the other one. In this case, it was, the boss wanted something done, and in particular wanted, a kind of situation addressed and addressed, quickly and had said something along the lines had made her request something along the lines of, Hey, I, want. Fix this situation.

Charles: and I don't want it to happen again, the situation being that. He had not been notified of something That he wanted to be notified in a timely. an issue that he wanted to, know about and not just then, but in the all future situation. So basically fix it so that I get notified.

Charles: and other people get notified, little context, the background, what had happened there had been an event and, My client had heard about it from a board member. And, he did not wanna be blindsided in that way. He didn't want to hear about something from a board member that he didn't know anything about.

Charles: so a request that would have been, and in fact, ultimately was more useful. could have been something like, and this is actually gets to what he wanted more completely is. Please draft a policy for when and how different people in this organization should be notified when certain kinds of events.

Charles: so that everyone knows, okay. If this kind of event with this, sort of, level of, concern happens that I'm notified and I'm notified by phone or text, not an email later. and that these other people also need to be notified in that way. Other events of, less importance or concern how those events can be, dealt with or who should be notified about them.

Charles: So please draft a policy and send it to me and we can talk about it. And, then once we're both clear on it, 

Charles: implement that policy, please do so. 

Charles: by, two weeks from now or a week from. 

Charles: The context. Of course, again, being, I don't wanna be blindsided by a board

Charles: member knowing something about an event that I don't know about. 

Ila: So much clearer of a request. It makes so much more 

Ila: sense. And especially as this person was a relatively new hire, they didn't have a strongly formed relationship yet. They're 

Ila: still figuring things out. really feels like it set that person up for success much better than the previous request. 

Charles: Yeah, I, I totally agree. So those are examples. just given our situation and when we wanted to close with that. 

Charles: So thank you for this. 

Ila: Mm-hmm um, 

Charles: I hear about it a lot from my clients. Just these two recent stories brought it to mind again, I think this is worthwhile, so I hope you, our listeners have, also found it useful and worthwhile. once again, if any of you out there listening, have an issue or concern that you would like us to address that has anything to do with trust, particularly trust at work, but other areas of your life as well.

Charles: We'd love to hear from you. That'd be Charles @insight, or

Ila: We'd love to hear from you.

Charles: Thank you.