Imagine your team is a living organism — one whose health relies on a network of pathways that carry all the necessary nutrients to its various parts. Now imagine that the lifeblood of your team is made up of requests and promises.

Think about this for a moment: There is a constant exchange of requests and promises happening among team members – either implicit or explicit. It’s through this flow that teams achieve their purpose. This exchange can be healthy or unhealthy, depending on three factors:

That requests and promises are clear, rather than vague.
That requests and promises are complete and not missing important elements.
That requests and promises are reasonable, not unrealistic or unilateral.

When I make a request, I ask for something I need. If my request is unclear, incomplete or unreasonable it is unlikely to be met with a reliable promise. Likewise, when my request is matched with a promise, the clarity, completeness, and thoughtfulness of that commitment makes all the difference.

When the flow of requests and promises on a team are clear, complete, and reasonable, it builds a culture of mutual accountability. When requests (what we need) are consistently and explicitly aligned with promises (what we commit to), we build relationships grounded in trust.

Here’s the problem — most of us are rather sloppy about the requests and promises we make. For example, I might ask: Would you please analyze sales from the past three months? Then I feel disappointed when that sales report is “late” and lacks the specific kind of analysis I needed. But, this is because I was unclear and incomplete with my request.

What does this mean for team members and leaders? We need to learn the discipline of making clear requests and promises. When making a request, we need to think about what we are really asking for, in part by asking others whether our requests seem achievable. When we make promises, we must learn to ask clarifying questions and raise concerns before we respond to a request.

What do you find contributes to a healthy exchange of requests and promises in your organization?

Image credit: WOW Tech on Unsplash

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