Whether we admit it or not, we all have standards, and expectations, and preferences for the way we want things to be done. It doesn’t matter if someone else thinks it’s stupid or over the top or irrelevant because no one else can tell us what we care about. And that’s why it’s so important, in life and in business, to ask for what you want.
At various times as my own boss, I’ve asked assistants to use certain fonts in the presentations they put together for me or provide information in bullet points instead of block text. In other situations I’ve asked my partner to cook a particular recipe for dinner or make our bed a certain way.
Does this make me a diva or just decisive?
Because the thing is, I would rather be the type of leader and partner who is clear about my expectations instead of a passive-aggressive one who pretends not to care but then fumes and burns inside. I care. And if something is important enough for me to care about, then I will make a point to communicate what I want. This is just an easier way to live. We wouldn’t go to a coffee shop and expect the barista to know what we wanted without telling her (well, unless you’re a regular and always order the same thing…), so why do we do that with our partners, our clients, our suppliers, or our colleagues?
Why not just communicate what we want, exactly how we want it, and take the guesswork out of it? Why not be specific about when certain instructions are must-haves and when others can be executed within general parameters? It doesn’t mean we’ll always get what we want, but at least it leaves no room for mis-interpretation. And then any results that are other than what you’ve asked for are failures of execution, not failures of communication.
This isn’t to put blame on others or take responsibility away from us as leaders and people. Quite the opposite: when we communicate what we want and are specific about it, it frees other people from the stress of not knowing and makes is easier for them to succeed. Good instructions set the recipient up to succeed, not fail (I wish someone would tell the instruction-makers at Ikea that!).
If you care about something, if you want something, if you have a certain way of doing things, a certain standard you want to adhere to, don’t be embarrassed or act as if it’s not there. Own up to who you are, own up to what you want and ASK FOR IT.
If you want your co-founder to do more of the tedium that has ended up on your desk, ask them to help. If you want your partner to help out at home more so you have time to build your business, ask them to help. If you want your bookkeeper to send you your P&L statements each month so you can review them, ask them to do it. If you want something but aren’t sure whether it exists, ask Google if it does.
Ask, ask, ask, and ask again. And be specific about what you want. The more you ask, the more you’ll get and the more you’ll see that being a good leader or CEO or partner isn’t about testing other people to read your mind, it’s about giving them the tools and instructions to succeed without having to do so.
Ask, and let yourself receive.