In a highly collaborative working environment, the traditional hierarchical relationship between employees doesn’t exist. The result is peers making requests to one another to move their respective projects forward. More akin to a volunteer organization than a button-down for-profit business.
The best volunteer organizations use a 6-step process to motivate peers in assisting. This is a time-proven process for both getting things done and clearly identifying those individuals that are not at all interested in your project. Use it whenever you need to make a request of someone’s time.
- Introduce Yourself.
It’s so easy yet so frequently ignored. If you’re making the request over the phone, it is doubly important that you introduce yourself, the organizations you’re representing, the person you wish to speak with, and why you’re calling.
“Hi, this is Garrick Van Buren from Working Pathways. I’m calling for Darrel Austin regarding the AcmeCo Accessibility Audit. Is now a good time to talk?”
This is very similar to my earlier Get Your Email Read post. Notice the “is now a good time…” question. Always provide an out at this point. It’s most polite to do all this upfront. Otherwise you’re wasting your peer’s valuable time and reducing the chance they’ll help you now or in the future.
- Provide an Update.
This is where you provide a quick, 2-sentence background on the project you’re working on who referred you to them. For example:
“I’m working with Darrel Austin on redesigning the AcmeCo.com shopping cart process. We’re about to evaluate the new model with AcmeCo’s best customers.”
- Define the Problem.
This is why you need their assistance. Again, make it brief – 1 sentence is ideal.
“We have evaluations scheduled for early next week and we do not have all the timeslots booked.”
- Define the Solution.
One sentence describing how you want to solve the previously stated problem.
“The good news is store managers like yourself are helping out.”
- State the Urgency.
“It’s going great, and we have one last remaining timeslot to fill before the end of business today.”
- Ask Them.
This is where you formally request something from them. At this point, they have a clear understanding of the situation you’re in and how they can help. They’re thinking 1 of 3 things at this point.
- “I’ll help by filling in that last timeslot.”
- “How can I help?”
- “I’m not interested in helping.”
This is your opportunity to make a clear, formal request to them:
“Can I put you down for the Wednesday 4pm timeslot?”
If there are multiple ways the person can assist you, start with the option requiring the greatest commitment and wait for a ‘No’ before offering the next option.
If they decline all options – I recommend re-evaluating them as a future resource.