Why You Should Only Accept These 5 Responses When You Make an Ask

April 2, 2018

Accepting only these five responses will increase collaboration and make your team more agile.

Fred Kofman – author of the critically renowned book Conscious Business and a LinkedIn Learning instructor – sees a common problem in today’s workplace: too much talk, not enough action.

Why does this happen?

Because of a lack of commitment, which leads to a lack of accountability, Kofman said. This is the result of meetings where people might philosophically align, but then don't take the last and most important step – commitment.

“People engage because they want to get something done and they have broad discussions about what to do, what not to do and, finally, they make a decision,” Kofman said. “But decisions are worthless if they don't have the last 10 percent, which is the commitment.”

Instead, Kofman emphasized the importance of building a culture of accountability.

How to build a culture of accountability: clear asks, clear responses

The short answer on how to build a culture of accountability: watch Kofman’s full course today. But a key part of building that culture is making clear asks and having clear responses.

Kofman dedicated a lesson in his course on the importance of making clear asks to others. But, equally important is others responding to those asks with clear responses.

What’s an example of an unclear response to an ask? “I’ll try” or “maybe.” There is no try or no maybe – you either commit to doing something or you don’t, Kofman said.

Another example of an unclear response is “let’s pick this up later.” Unless that later is clearly defined – let’s explore this again in one week – that’s unclear.

The only five acceptable responses to an ask

Instead, Kofman said there are only five acceptable responses to an ask. If organizations are serious about creating a culture of accountability, then their employees should only accept these five responses to any ask:

    1. Yes, I will.

The best answer. And then, if the person doesn’t come through on their promise, you can hold them accountable (click here to watch Kofman’s video on how to hold people accountable).

    2. No, I won’t.

This is not a great outcome, but at least it’s clear. Obviously, the person should provide a reason why they won’t commit.

A key part to building a culture of accountability is empowering employees to say no. If they don’t have the power to say no, they’ll be forced to be held accountable on projects they might not have the bandwidth or skill to execute on – which isn’t fair to them.

    3. I need more clarification.

Again, whenever someone makes an ask, it’s incumbent on the other person to give a yes or a no. These next three questions are just intermediary questions to get to a yes or a no.

Asking for clarification is an example of that. Perhaps the ask or the goal of the ask isn’t clear. By asking for more clarification, the person should get what’s needed to then give a yes or a no.

“The other person may not be sure of what you're asking, or what the implications are by when you want something,” Kofman said. “So that's very reasonable, and then you clarify, you discuss that, and then it's either yes or no.”

    4. I need to check with…

Sometimes, a person might not have all the information to give a yes or a no. They might need to check in with their boss or their employee or get a piece of data.

If someone uses this response, get a timeline, Kofman said. For example, if they say they need to check with someone else or get more time, ask them when they will have that clarity: tomorrow, a week, whatever. That again reinforces the culture of accountability.

“The most important thing to maintain the conversation on track is I'll get back to you by a certain time,” Kofman said. “If you allow someone say, let me get back to you. When? Remember, a commitment is clarity.”

    5. The counter offer.

Sometimes, a person can’t agree to your entire ask. But they might be able to agree to a part of your ask or a compromise.

For example, it’s reasonable for the other person to want to pilot an idea, before committing to it fully. Or, if they need eight hours of your resource’s time, to instead offer four.

Again though, this needs to land on a clear commitment. If the counter-offer is made, then the other person must respond with one of these five responses. This maintains the culture of accountability.

What this all means to you

This sounds straightforward. And yet, think about how many times this doesn’t happen. How many times do you make an ask and get an answer like “maybe” or “I’ll try” or “let’s table this” that ultimately leads to no real action?

By having all employees at your organization utilize only these five responses, you eliminate all of that and build a culture of clarity, commitment and accountability. This will lead to more agile organization that ultimately will execute – and learn – much faster than the competition.

*Image from Forest Runner, Flickr

Want to learn how to build a culture of accountability at your organization? Watch Fred Kofman’s full course today.

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