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Lesson from the most surprising end of my son's graduation party.

Can’t really explain how I felt when I opened the dishwasher that day. Hilarious or desperate?

Liam (My 17y old son) organized a party to celebrate his high school diploma last month: 25 friends coming home for the night, ready to celebrate and have lots of fun. We trust Liam very much and we agreed that Angela and I would not stay in the house so they could feel more comfortable. And we briefed him clearly (or not) on what was acceptable and not.

Liam: “When we come back tomorrow 10.00am, everything which has been used in the kitchen must be clean”.

And this is what we found…

I laughed a lot to be honest and I’m still joking about the guy who decided to wash these beer cans.

But beyond the funny aspect, there is something much deeper which is also affecting the corporate world: It's surprising to see that even senior leaders have difficulties to make effective requests. And the cost is tremendous waste of time and energy for the reporting lines.

These are some tips that will make your life easier when you want to make an important request:

  1. A committed listener: Does the listener have your full attention when you make the request? In other words: “Don’t make a request about cleaning to a young boy when he is busy moving the sofa to welcome his friends within 10 minutes”.

  2. The right mood: Are you and the listener in the right mood to share and receive the request. In other words: “Don’t make a request about cleaning the glasses to a young boy already tasting if the mojito has enough alcohol”.

  3. The context: Does the receiver know why this request is important for you? In other words, “When we come back tomorrow 10.00am, everything must be clean” has less impact than “Liam, we have friends coming at 11.30 tomorrow. We won’t have time to clean everything if you haven’t already cleaned the glass before we arrive”.

  4. The right level of details: This is the most tricky one. Should I tell my boy that beer can’s should not go in the dishwash? And still, how often do you make unclear request because you think people should know? Next time, instead of thinking "they should know!" ask yourself twice “was I clear enough?” when making an important request.

So, just 4 steps:

  • a committed listener,

  • the right shared mood,

  • a context

  • a clear request.

Easy, isn’t it? Our conversations shape of the world we want to build. We have all been trained in efficient communication and the right use of language. Still the cost of ineffective conversations in organisations is too big.

Why not start by practicing effective requests?

Enjoy your life.. and your leadership practice!


Manu Henrard is a Coach and a Recruiter based in Brussels. He is also an associate from the Strozzi Institute for embodied leadership. Manu's professional commitment is to help leaders increase lasting impact and achieve inner peace. More about his coaching programs here.


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