The science of making requests


Many of our clients become frustrated when their management and support team consistently fails to achieve the quality results they feel they should. Some principals find they ask for something and then discover it hasn’t been done to a level of quality they would expect: they get frustrated with their team and often end up doing the task themselves whilst blaming their team.

However, it’s not their team’s fault. The problem here usually lies in the way they are make their requests. Here’s an everyday dental practice example of a principal who makes what we call a “drive by request”, when the principal cruises through reception throwing a comment at the receptionists along the lines of, “The waiting area needs a tidy,” before rushing back into his surgery with another patient. When he brings the patient back the magazines are neatly piled but the toys are still spilling out of the kids’ area, the vase of flowers still needs some fresh water and the cushions on the sofa still need plumping up.

What’s happening in this simple example is there’s a gap between the principal’s expectations of what tidying the patient lounge means and the receptionist’s understanding of what the principal means by tidying the patient lounge. It’s not the receptionist’s fault, it’s the principal’s!

So here’s the formula for making requests that get you the results you want, every time:

  1. Make sure that it’s you making the request! “I would like you to…”
  2. Be specific about who is receiving the request: “Holly, I would like you to…”
  3. Give sufficient detail about what you want Holly to do: “Holly, I would like you to tidy the magazines and throw away the out of date ones, change the water in the flower vases, tidy the sofa and toys and plump up the cushions…”
  4. Provide a deadline: “Before your coffee break…”
  5. State the obvious. In Holly’s training and job description it should say something along the lines of: “The receptionists are responsible for keeping the patient lounge looking clean and tidy and this should be done when necessary throughout the day.”
  6. Be clear on the conditions of satisfaction. This is the quality that you want from the finished result, and should also be articulated in the job description and training.
  7. Assess competence. Is Holly actually competent to do this?
  8. Be sincere. Is the requester sincere about the request (as assessed by the requestee), or is he just having a laugh? Leave no room for doubt.

You see, it’s a bit more complicated than you thought! But when you take care to include all these elements you’ll get the results from your team that you really, really want, and all that tension will evaporate.

If you’d like some help releasing your team’s potential, contact me for a chat:

  1. 07990 568909
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