In my career, I’ve seen it play out. We have big goals and we toil to reach them. We put our heads down and work hard hoping the right person will notice. We strategize on how we can grow our presence, master that skill or shine so brightly we are undeniable. We sometimes suffer working in a way that doesn’t work for us so we don’t inconvenience others. We try to run faster, play harder and win. We work to be a better boss or partner in business. We toil.
But there is a magic trick we can use that catapults us toward our goals with less sweat and more speed. It’s a trick that isn’t tricking anyone. It’s something we use all the time for the little things in life and work. And, something we can use more of when it matters to our goals. We can ask.
In my 20 years of helping business leaders and entrepreneurs be compelling in front of the audiences that matter most to their goal, I’ve seen that asking is one of the most overlooked (and avoided) success strategies out there. It’s so simple, so direct and often the shortest distance between you and your goals.
But why don’t we use it? Here are the top three reasons women don’t use asking as often as we can and what we can do about it:
- We think asking is only for “negotiation”. Like a salary negotiation or a contract negotiation. We reserve asking for those moments in our career when we KNOW we’re heading into a negotiation and our friends want to know “what are you going to ask for?” The solution: Look outside the formal negotiations. If we widen our gaze, we can find all kinds of things to ask for that will help us reach our goals faster. Advice, mentorship, an insider look at something, a connection or introduction, a chance to get on stage. There are a million things you can ask for if you look around.
- We love to help, and we hate to ask. We know how it feels to help a friend, colleague or mentee make the big moves that bring them closer to their goals. We love to see our advice or a connection we made turn into a real opportunity for someone. We seek out that feeling and offer our help with generosity and enthusiasm. But when it’s our turn to ask, we don’t want to inconvenience anyone or impose. We worry we’ll be seen as a taker or as too pushy or too direct or too...whatever!
The solution: Remember: the feeling we get when we help, is the same feeling others get when they help us! Giving others the chance to elevate and help us produces that same feeling and satisfaction we get when we elevate and help others. In that way, our ask can be a gift to them- to let someone else be a hero and bask in the glow of having made a difference in our lives and business is a small but meaningful gift wrapped in an ask.
- We don’t like NO. Yes feels great but if we are to make the kinds of asks that really make a material difference in our careers, we’ll be making the kinds of asks that threaten a NO. We’ll be asking someone we’re a little start-stuck by for their endorsement. We’ll be asking for that job that’s a level up. We’ll be asking to step onto a stage bigger than we have in the past. We’ll be asking for that project that feels just out of reach. And so naturally, we may get a no. And too often we let that potential of a no stop us from making the kinds of asks that can change everything.
The solution: Fall in love with your goals. If we are to challenge ourselves to make the kinds of asks that can change everything, falling in love with our goals more than we hate rejection will make it possible to take the risk that comes with the bigger asks. Fall in love with your goals and you can keep you eye on the horizon and role over the no’s you get and not let them stop you. And when you do make the asks that feel big, you might be surprised that your YES-rate is far better than you anticipated. But you’ll never know, unless you ask.