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The Art of Effective Communication

Making a Thoughtful Request

This video is part of the Brilliant Passionate You course developed by UM's Center for Academic Innovation on Coursera. In this segment Wayne Baker, Professor at University of Michigan, talks about strategies and activities for making thoughtful requests for help.

Excerpt From


Right? So I've mentioned the importance of making a thoughtful request and there's some steps to that. And I want to review that and then I'm going to want you to actually go through this process. At the end, I'm going to give you an opportunity to actually make a request while you spend most of your time helping other people. So it starts here with the goal. Play video starting at ::19 and follow transcript0:19 You want to be thoughtful. You want to be prepared. You want to think about what is it I'm trying to achieve? What's the destination I'm trying to get to? What do I want to accomplish? Once I know what that is, then I figure out what's the resource that I need? And here you want to think broadly. It could be information, financial resources, a connection, expert advice, materials, whatever. It could be a whole variety of things, but once you're clear with that is, then you want to be able to make an effective request. I have criteria for that effective request. And then finally, who do you ask? So I'll go through that process. Play video starting at ::51 and follow transcript0:51 So there are three methods that have been developed that enable you to figure out what you need. What's the goal and the resource that you need? There's the quick start, that's the one we're going to use today. Play video starting at :1:2 and follow transcript1:02 Call articulation takes a little bit longer to do. It involves delineating goals in different domains or working through a process to figure out what you actually need. And then visioning is the most powerful but it takes the longest to do. That's where you write a narrative. A narrative of that positive, inspiring future that you want to have for yourself. And in that vision are all kinds of goals that you're going to need help on, right? So the quick start is a series of incomplete sentences that you need to complete. So I'm going to go through them quickly here, but we have a PDF that you could download on the website which you could print out and you could fill this in at your leisure. So I am currently working on. And I could use help to. Play video starting at :1:52 and follow transcript1:52 I am struggling to and I would benefit from. Play video starting at :1:56 and follow transcript1:56 And finally, my biggest hope is to and I need. Play video starting at :2:2 and follow transcript2:02 If you take a little time and you fill in those blanks, you will have gone a long way and figure out what's the goal? What's the destination? What's the resource that you need to help you get there? So I'm going to invite you to do that at the end of the talk and to actually then make the request in the platform I'm going to show you. Play video starting at :2:22 and follow transcript2:22 All right, so how do you make an effective request? You've got the goal, you've got the destination, you've got the resource that you have in mind. You want to make an effective empowering request. And so the criteria are smart criteria. But these are a little bit different than smart criteria for goals, especially the end. So the S is for specific, you want to ask for something specific to be done. A specific request triggers people's memories of what they know and who they know, those are the two ways they can help. Play video starting at :2:54 and follow transcript2:54 Probably the most general request I ever heard was from an executive from the Netherlands who said my request is for information. Play video starting at :3:3 and follow transcript3:03 And that was it. And I said, what can you elaborate? And he said no, it's confidential. I can't say anything more. Well, he got no help that day. He was very generous, he helped a lot of other people, but he didn't get any help. The M is for meaningful. Now for smart goals the M is for measurable, and measurability is nice, but here it's meaningful. It's the why of the request. And often I found that people will leave this out. It's the most important part of the smart criteria. Why do you need that particular resource? What are you trying to achieve? The A is for action. You ask for something to be done. Play video starting at :3:37 and follow transcript3:37 The R is strategically realistic. Though I encourage people to make stretch requests, but they need to be within the realm of possibility. And finally, T, time, that's the deadline. And here a specific deadline is much better than a general one. Play video starting at :3:59 and follow transcript3:59 All right, you've got the goal. You've got the research you have in mind. You've formulated as a smart request. Now who do you ask? Play video starting at :4:5 and follow transcript4:05 But we always think of the usual suspects. You know it, sometimes in the beginning you do know who you need to ask. Maybe it's the boss or somebody in your family or somebody in your community. But often it's helpful to think beyond the usual suspects, the circle of friends and coworkers that you have. And there's three different ways you can do that. One is what I call the two step-method. The two-step method is this. You might not know who has the resource, but you might know someone who does know who has the resource. Now my colleague and friend here, Jeff Degraff, here at the Business School he runs in of atrium, and he said that they use a two-step method on a regular basis and they keep track. In one year they used it 180 times to remarkable success. So I think about, well, I don't know who the expert is, but I know someone who probably does know and you can ask that first person in the chain. A dormant tie. So a dormant tie is a relationship that you once had, but your life then got in different direction. Now, many times we'd be reluctant to ask a dormant tie to rekindle that tie, because we feel that we wouldn't be receptive. But the research here again, it's helpful for updating that belief. What the research shows is that our government connections are delighted to hear from you, and they want to help. And they're really important sources of help, because your lives have gone in different directions. They know things and they know people that are really different from what you know and who you know. Play video starting at :5:35 and follow transcript5:35 So the fourth point here is crowdsource. Every now and then you have an opportunity we could broadcast your request to a very large community. And that's the one I'm going to invite you to use at the end of my talk.