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August 17, 2005

Unreasonable Requests

I had the pleasure of a long telephone conversation with Lisa Haneberg yesterday.  Lisa gave me some great tips I’m sure to implement in my Innovation Coaching Program, but one thing she told me really got my attention.  Each week, she resolves to make at least five “unreasonable requests” to people she has no business asking for favors.  She reasons that if just one request is granted, she’s gotten a bit of a bonus that week.  Doing a quick google search, I realize I’m not the only one impressed by Lisa’s approach.

I’m working on my list of unreasonable requests now.  I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.


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the quickest way to lose good employees is to make unreasonable requests - it shows that you have no repect for them, that you don't value them, and that you don't have any concern for their time or levels of stress.

If you don't ask, you don't get, so I say ask. Just don't ask the same person over and over again, ask different people different things and show them how it can help them. Everyone wants to know "what's in it for me" so if you can show this, you have a better chance of getting a yes.

A friend of mine pointed out to me not too long ago a similar concept: "You won't get something unless you ask for it, so it doesn't hurt to ask." Indeed, for my personality this does apply best to requests of corporate entities and people I don't know.

It does work extremely well for getting some excellent speakers onto rosters, I must say.

When I was in my twenties starting out in a small town, I achieved the most impossible things this way - because when I made the requests, I was quite sure they were reasonable. The mayor attended my events, the society columnist judged a contest I'd created..."Grown- ups" would gasp and ask how on earth I'd done it. In genuine innocence, I was able to answer, "I just asked." Who am I to decide for someone else what is unreasonable? I have plenty of my own work to do. I'm sure they'll tell me if it is.

I'd be careful with this approach. It works fine if you have a chance to ask Guy Kawasaki for an exlusive interview, and you're not likely to see him again. But making too many unreasonable requests of too many people might cause harm and turn you into someone known for asking, rather than giving. Have you ever had the experience of hanging up the phone and thinking "Boy, that person has a lot of (nerve) asking for that."? I don't know about you, but I rarely think better of such types. That being said, there is value in pushing the envelope. George Bernard Shaw said something along the lines of "A reasonable man adjusts himself to the world. An unreasonable man expects the world to adjust to him. Therefore, all progress comes from unreasonable men."

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