#4Steps: A Guide to Strategy Requests

#11. Step 4  – A Guide to Strategy Requests

When focused on a strategy request, you want it to be concrete, positive, and doable. Otherwise, it’s like depending on telepathy to actually get your needs met.


  1. Strategy requests are concrete

This step is in some ways like the observation step. What would the action or outcome look like if you captured it in a camcorder?

For example, if you want more teamwork or cooperation, what would that actually look like? You probably have an idea; that’s why you’re talking about it. But until you think through what it really looks like, in concrete terms, then it’s only half-baked. For example, would teamwork mean for you that when someone starts a new project that impacts others on the team that they let the others know? Or would it mean checking in with others in key points of the process? Or having a shared document with next steps? Any of these steps might seem obvious. And if it’s not happening and you want more teamwork, it could be a concrete place to start.

By the way, just because you’re focused on making concrete requests, it doesn’t mean you need to do all the legwork. Sometimes a concrete request might be, “OK, so I think we’re all on board with the idea of more teamwork. I’d like to hear from each of you one idea about how we could increase it. Could each of you prepare an idea for our next meeting?” Or, “How about we take five minutes to brainstorm together right now–what would greater teamwork look like?”

When coaching managers, this is often a key area we focus on – how to engage and motivate others. By asking others to help you solve something, it’s a great way to involve them and boost accountability.  

This is a high form of leadership. You don’t need to figure everything out yourself!


Photo credit Tony Brooks

  1. Strategy requests are positive

In addition to being concrete, you want to be positive. This, in effect, is an extension of being concrete. If you say what you don’t want, it’s not really clear what you do want. So what DO you want?

If you send someone into an ice cream shop that has 35 flavors of ice cream and you tell the person, don’t get vanilla or chocolate, how will they know what to get?

It’s a lot more work for the other person to try to figure it out. Stating what you want in the positive makes it easier for the other person to act on it. If it’s negative, there are many different things they could be doing instead. For example, rather than, I don’t want you working on this project right now,” you might say, “Given the bottle neck with the other contract, I’d really like you to focus on the St. Peter contract for the next two weeks. How does that sound to you?”  

(Bonus: Notice that after making a clear, positive, doable request I followed up with a connection request. This is a great way to also keep dialogue open and boost buy-n and engagement—and collaboration! 🙂


Photo credit Tristan Martin

  1. Strategy requests are doable

Often to make things concrete, it’s helpful to have a number of some kind- how many and what duration? This is what also makes it doable. If you don’t give a start or end time, it can seem like an endless task…and there is less accountability.

If you ask someone, “Will you take out the trash from now on?” I hope they say no. That’s an impossible agreement. And the most effective way to create change is via incremental steps, what I call a micro step. “Ok, would you take the garbage out twice this week, and I’ll pick up the mail. Then let’s touch base on Sunday to see how that worked for both of us. How does that sound?”  (Note again that we ended here with a connection request!)

Regarding accountability, someone once asked me to write a letter about an incident that happened. I cared about the issue and agreed.  But there was no timeline. So I still have not written the letter—six years later! I guess I still might. But if we’d had a clear plan: “OK, I’ll write the letter, and get it done by the end of the month,” I’m pretty sure I would have gotten it done by now.

Now that we’ve reviewed the key elements in making what I consider powerful strategy requests (that are concrete, positive, and doable), why don’t you try one? Think of something you’d like to be doing or doing differently. For example, say you want to exercise more. What does that look like this week? Would you for example like to spend 20” this morning doing yoga stretches and ride your bike for 30 minutes or more at least once in the next few days?

Think of a goal that you have for yourself and come up with a concrete, positive, doable request. Make sure you do a micro step–chunk it down. Taking clear, concrete, small next steps is far more effective in the long run in actually running and winning the race! And how does it feel to have a clear, concrete step to take?

Having a concrete next step I find is energizing and motivating. It’s doable and tangible—so gives me confidence and motivation!

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