Art of the Ask

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Many of us are in the need of help with something. Some of us need volunteers, others need financial help and others are simply looking for ways to connect with people through an organization. Sometimes I just comes down to the ask, but don’t get me wrong, that ask can be tough. It is a mental game and you really just don’t want to be annoying. When going to ask someone to help, give or just connect here a few thoughts to go in with.

I don’t think I have ever just cold called someone and asked them to be part of what I was doing. I always try to connect with them without my own agenda. I like to get to know them as people and what they enjoy doing. Asking someone to help isn’t manipulating them if you are invested them as an individual over your own agenda. I try not to get selfish with only seeing them helping me out but by getting to know them I can help put them in a place for them to thrive with others. They may not be a fit for the direction you’re going, but you may know someone who they could help considerably.

After getting to know people on a friendly basis I just ask them to meet up and may let them know that I want them to think about helping out. Before I do I really sit and  think through what I am asking that person to contribute. Is it time, their talents, or asking them to give financially.I try to get specific. For instance, instead of asking for money, I tell them about how we need a new printer, or instead of saying I need a new volunteer I talk to them about role they would be filling. I have a clearly defined role planned out, with expectations, for people to understand what they may be committing too before I ask. I try to think through their questions and have some answers. When you have a better handle on what you are asking from people, they get a clearer idea of it too.

I always try to share with them why I feel they would be a great fit. I share with them somethings that I have seen from them already. I talked to them about our need and how they can help. I share stories. Stories are a great way to connect with people. They help connect us to one another and to the mission of where we are going. I try to tell them stories of why I got involved, of other volunteers or success stories that we have seen.

Then, I let them make the choice. I don’t twist their arm, or guilt them into saying yes. I pray hard. I take what they can give and leverage that for wins. Sometimes, a yes to a small ask will lead to a yes to a bigger ask, later down the road.

So what do you need to move forward in your ministry? In your life? In your next steps? Who can you ask to walk alongside with you. Don’t be afraid to ask. Walk with people with no agenda, have a clear idea of how they an help you or someone else, share with them a vision of thriving and then let them do the rest. Be bold in your ask and you’ll be surprised at how people come through.

 

Prototypes

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     Getting unstuck can be difficult. Many people are frustrated with their jobs, their circumstances and feel like they are living without passion and joy. Wrestling with this myself at times, some great discussions with friends and learning about some different ways to design your life I have learned about the concept of prototyping.

     Prototyping is when you design a version of your life that you feel would bring you more joy, give you more passion and more success. Then through this design you begin to test out parts of these plans through prototyping. These are low-risk, high-reward, activities that help you gain perspective on new life paths that can help increase your joy. For instance, if you feel that being a professional musician is what you want to do, prototyping would find you signing up for some open mic nights in your local area. Here are a few steps to help get your life unstuck.

Odyssey Plan

     Bill Burnett at Stanford created the Odyssey Plan. In creating an Odyssey Plan you create a different variations of what you want your life to look like. The idea is there are multiple variations for what you could define as joyful and successful. So you start looking at those variations. First, you use design process to find and define the problem. Maybe it is not enough joy, you need more money, or you just feel stuck at your current position. Then, you begin to create a few variations of your life that brings you more joy, money, and passion. You think through the process to get that life and what it takes for each one. This helps create freedom and drive because you begin to get over the fact that you’re stuck and get forward momentum to create change.

Prototyping

     Once you have a few variations of what you feel your life should be it is time to start prototyping. You being by look at some of those steps you need to take in each variation. Look for ways to get more experience or more knowledge for those variations. This might take time but it is a process. Take a new class, volunteer at an organization, take on a new task, and be fearless and confident in the progress you make. Tweak your ideas with your successes and your failures. Those failures just bring you one step closer to your ultimate goal.

Just Move Forward

     I think the biggest way to get unstuck in life is simply to move forward. Find something you enjoy and work hard at it. Time is wasted when you sit, get in an emotional low and let the life that you hope for slip away. Think about the problems that you have no and begin to think of some solutions and start working toward your goals.

     It is never too late to try new things, chase after new goals and create new dreams. You start by finding the problem, dreaming up solutions, trying hard and keep going after it. Life is so much better when you live in the place where you are using your gifts, talents and passions in a way that brings about joy and meaning.

Systems

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Systems do not create or hinder culture, they allow culture to flourish. There is a fear that systems create a rigidity in an organization. That a system does not allow for adaptability or the handling of unique situations. These systems then lead to a culture and organization that is too rigid. Systems are created to allow the culture of your organization to flourish. If systems are failing to do this for your organization it is time to get rid of them and start fresh.

In creating systems you need to first figure out the identity, and mission, of your organization. Some may call this your brand, I believe though that brand is just one part of the culture. Who you are and what you do creates the culture of your organization. If you are known for incorporating the arts, for outreach in the community, connecting people or for your innovative ideas, systems must be in place to allow those to be at the forefront of your organization. These systems help to prioritize the pieces of your organization you want to see flourish and streamline the messy parts for even greater success. Systems are routines and procedures that are created to help your organization do what it does best.

Whether your organization is just starting or is as old as I am there are always some problems that arise. Being proactive with these problems helps to maximize time doing what you love to do best. Spend some time up front thinking through problems and issues that have arisen in the past, in similar organizations, or that could arise in your organization. What would be devastating to you? What is the most common issue that arises? Then, begin to think through strategic solutions to these problems before they make life miserable. Always in a rut with volunteers? Think of ways to recruit year long, improve the volunteer culture you already have and look for ways to streamline the process. 

In creating systems it takes time up front to analyze your current situation. Be honest with the current state of your organization and think of different ways to make it better. Create systems to further the reach and influence of your organization. As your organization grows the systems you create will change and adapt to meet that growth. When productivity, growth, or your culture begins to go places you do not with it to, begin to look at the systems that allowed the divergence in the first place.

Your organizations culture will flourish and you will find more success when the systems that you create allow it to do so.