More? Better? Different? Here's What to Ask for to Help Your Organization Thrive
Sometimes the status quo feels just fine. It’s comfortable. Low effort. Everyone knows the lay of the land and can seamlessly slip into their roles and get the job done. Status quo is working just fine. And that’s the issue. It’s okay. Results are good enough. But we want and need better than just fine.
Coming up with ideas about what we can ask for to shake up the status quo can be a challenge, so here are three techniques to get you started.
Eye on the prize
Kick off your brainstorming by keeping the 3 Es in mind. You’re looking for ways to make your organization’s work (and your own!) more Effective, Efficient and Enjoyable.
Effective: Changes that make you more effective will help you better achieve your goals and targets. This could mean rescheduling an event to better suit your clients’ availability or implementing a new email marketing tool.
Efficient: Improving efficiency can be about moving with more speed or achieving more with fewer resources. This could mean agreeing to lower rates with a vendor or removing excess bureaucracy from your recruitment process.
Enjoyable: Focusing on negotiations that make your work more enjoyable may feel like the “odd E out,” but while we all work hard in our roles, finding ways to suit our preferences and how we work best will help us keep the spark bright and productivity high. This could mean asking for a new monitor for your work-from-home set-up or pushing that late-Friday-afternoon meeting to the following week.
Go with the flow
On the surface, many of the processes in your organization may seem simple:
Client signs up for help à Client meets with an advisor à Client implements the guidance à Client succeeds.
Creating a process map will help you uncover a multitude of smaller activities, each of which is a potential opportunity for negotiation. As an example, let’s take a closer look at the experience of a new client:
- Client contacts us (Web form? Phone call? Email?)
- We respond (Automated? Personalized? Phone call? Email? How long does it take?)
- Client schedules with an advisor (Online tool? Manually? How long of a wait? Can they reschedule or cancel?)
- Client meets with an advisor (Where? For how long? Is there pre-work or a questionnaire? Do they need to attend a group info session first?)
- Client completes advisory session (Is there homework? A shared document? Follow-ups scheduled? How will they be scheduled? What’s the timing?)
At each one of these steps, and with each question posed, there will be opportunities to ask for a change, implement a new strategy, or transform—even subtly—an existing methodology.
Zoom in on your day
At the organizational level there can be many opportunities to initiate change and negotiate for things that will make the lives of your colleagues and clients better, but we can take action to improve our own day-to-day circumstances as well. No, it’s not greedy or selfish or self-centered to take a closer look at what will make your daily tasks more effective, efficient, or enjoyable. In fact, being able to optimize your own work is likely going to help the organization as a whole. After all, a rising tide lifts all boats.
To uncover your personal negotiation opportunities, keep a notepad by your desk for a week, and record each task you perform. Blocking this in 30-minute sections can help with capturing the details. At the end of each day, skim back through the (probably-quite-long) list and flag the following:
Sparks: These are your “more please!” negotiation opportunities. When were you in the flow of work and feeling great? What moments of breakthrough, productivity, or interaction felt good? These are changes that you can ask for more of in your role. For example:
- Video calls leave you feeling more energized than email exchanges? Be the first to reach out to a contact and ask for a meeting instead of the ping-pong of emails.
- A one-on-one with the Director gave you a boost of enthusiasm and clarity for your work in the days ahead? Request a regularly scheduled session, working your way from ad hoc, to monthly, to bi-weekly perhaps (taking it from a smaller ask, to a larger one).
Sighs: These are the “no thanks!” negotiation opportunities. When did you let out that long sigh ahead of getting on a call? Which tasks did you keep pushing back on the to-do list until you couldn’t avoid them any longer? These are changes that you can ask to have adjusted or removed all together. For example:
- A series of unexpected phone calls from colleagues meant that the article you were trying to write for the website took seven hours instead of three? Implement calendar blocking for focused work, and ask that non-urgent requests be scheduled rather than spontaneous.
- You spent a large portion of your week doing administrative tasks for the mentor calendar rather than doing the outreach to bring new mentors onboard? Ask for support from a colleague, build a business case for hiring a part-time administrator, or take action to explore bringing in a local student intern.
Far from having to make do with the status quo or resigning ourselves to accepting that this is “just the way things are,” we’re actually surrounded by opportunities to ask for more, less, better, or different in our work. Whether through process mapping or taking a closer look at our day-to-day tasks, we’ll be able to define moments that are ripe for change.
Devon Smiley is a Negotiation & Commercial Consultant for entrepreneurs and founders that are ready to go after bigger, better deals… without sacrificing vision, impact or relationships.
She’s distilled over 15 years and $5 billion of negotiation experience into accessible and actionable guidance that helps build the skills needed to navigate conversations with confidence.
Working with teams around the world and across verticals Devon has supported founders in cultivating the negotiation, communication and leadership skills they need to grow their businesses.
A strong believer that negotiation isn’t just about boosting bottom lines, Devon has worked with pro bono partners including UN Women and The Clinton Foundation.