The Big Ask

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January 2011


Return on *Inefficiency

It’s amazing what we will do when we are properly asked. Being invited or even challenged toward greater goal achievement is a significant gift to receive. More leaders would increase the effectiveness of their teams and raise organizational performance by asking bigger. Asking is a leadership skill. Asking big is an advanced leadership skill. Asking well is an extraordinary leadership skill.

Last summer when engaged in some reading, I ran upon a short phrase that immediately caught my attention and it hasn’t left my radar screen since. It’s a concept referred to by leadership expert Bill Hybels as, the Big Ask. I get excited by good ideas and my *ideaphoria was ignited by this. The Big Ask is rich with meaning and opportunities in my world as I consider many leadership development possibilities.

The Big Ask is a bold yet respectful request you make of those you lead that is nothing short of transformational. It incorporates unique abilities, passions, organizational needs and even the impediments of the person you’re asking. It always involves significant change and it is born from your observational skill. The Big Ask requires insight. What have you been really noticing in the person you are leading? The engaged leader again has the advantage because he/she is in the game and has a comprehensive understanding of what’s really going on.

Now the extraordinary aspect of asking well is your ability to look beyond the surface to ask of the other something not only big, but to ask something so incredibly fitting that it nearly takes their breath away. Asking well is also linked to trust. Does the person receiving this Big Ask from you believe you have a full grasp of their skills and abilities? Do they trust your understanding of their situation in the organization? They need to trust not only your eyesight for their unique abilities, but they also must trust your vision for the enterprise.

The Big Ask is not about the doubling of workload or output (could result in that though), it’s about optimizing and transforming a team member’s total contribution, impacting their approach to their work and their presence in your organization. It’s about asking a person to press past their fears/hesitations to start a winning streak like no other. Extraordinary executives and leaders help others win big by asking big.

Let’s close by directing the thought your way… what would be a fitting Big Ask of you?


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