Leading through ASKing

As a leader do you ever get asked the question or find yourself asking the question, “How do you get more people to step up and serve?”

I have two thoughts on that to consider:
First, it’s been said that people want to follow a leader who know where he/she is going. What kind of leader are you?  If you are too “controlling”, others might feel intimidated and slow to answer the call. By the same token, if you are “sweetness and light” and just trying to keep everyone happy, not wanting to rock the boat, then there really is no end game, no vision, nothing really to sign on to.  One of my supreme pleasures this year has been the honor of serving the Golden Lady herself (Lark Doley). She has the highest standards and knows where she is going, but is flexible enough to know there are different ways to get there. She never asks of others more than she herself is willing to give. So, again, it might be time to do a self-check and ask what kind of leader are you.

Secondly, great leaders know how to ASK.  
Too often I see global emails going out asking for “volunteers”, whether it’s to staff a contest or a Conference or whatever. Phrases like “see me if you are interested” are  just as much in foul territory, however well intended. OK, I know Toastmasters World Headquarters puts out a call for speakers at the Convention each year, and some of you are copying what you have seen, but our global organization has over 300,000 members, so the smallest return rate would deliver what they need. Districts, Divisions, and Areas operate on a smaller scale. Waiting for volunteers is not leading, and it’s poor time management as well. There’s also a subtlety that you may not have considered. Susan Cain stepped into the spotlight when she gave a Ted Talk on the subject of introverts, and has written books on the subject. She was also the Golden Gavel honoree 6 years ago. NEWS FLASH folks –introverts don’t volunteer. They don’t raise their hands and say “oooh, pick me, pick me”. Research also suggests that introverts can be among your highest performers, so when you wait for volunteers, you are flying right over your most fertile fields. You need to learn how to ASK.

Here are my 6 characteristics of a Good ASK:
1) Ask a specific individual (you can have 2 or 3 in mind, so you are not putting all your eggs in one basket). Repeat after me  “When you ask EVERYONE, you ask NO ONE”.  Let’s say that again.

2) Ask for someTHING specific. “Can you staff the registration desk Friday night from 6-8” is a lot more specific than “can you help me with the Conference”

3) Tell the person why you thought of him/her.  “Because everyone else said no, and your the last on my list – we’re desperate!” is not apt to get the desired result. But “You have a reputation in your club for leading great meetings and the role of Contestmaster seems a great fit for you” might be more effective

4) Tell the person what’s in it for him/her. It may or may not mean a check mark on a list of requirements for an Educational Goal, but it’s another way to serve in keeping with one of our core values. It might mean more exposure, or the value that comes from speaking in front of a different group.

5) Tell the person how it will help the organization. Appeal to the nobler motives.

6) Provide support, which can include budget, personnel, written materials, training, pulse checks in the form of meetings or calls.


Leading through ASKing – it works better than waiting for volunteers.

(Author Credit: Al Tuten Toastmasters International Region 7 Advisor)

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