Asking for things

In management and leadership, we must ask people to do things. These requests should be precise, as imprecise asks lead to wasted effort1. A precise ask will be1:

  • time boxed (e.g. don’t spend more than an hour on this)
  • define whether we are looking for something new or existing
  • explains how the information will be used (is this going to the board, a customer, etc?)

Jeff Wofford detailed the many ways we ask for things, as a leader he called out a few simple tools2:

  • “Please” naturally has the effect of retaining clarity while dialing down the harshness of a request
  • “I need you to…” is a popular way of commanding because it makes it incumbent on the requestee to refute the leader’s needs in order to not do a task
  • “Would you mind…” has the impact of requiring a “yes” (you do mind) in order to refuse the request.
  • “Will you/Would you…” is a popular and useful way of asking for something, it’s clear but not harsh


Your Small Imprecise Ask Is a Big Waste of Their Time. Stay saasy at (2023).
Wofford, J. How to Boss Without Being Bossy. at (2023).

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