Shy Kiddies get no Sweeties: a lesson in asking for what you want.
Updated: Feb 15
I first heard this phrase from a rough Scottish sergeant major.
I think he was trying to promote initiative in a group of lads. It stuck with me, as actually its something I firmly agree with, it's important to err on the side of supporting a cheeky kid who wants their sweeties than on side of the shy retiring kid.
We all have something we would like, but because of rejection, fear of alienation or lack of confidence we don't ask. This is a call to strap on a pair and ask; you are at your best when working towards a task you can get behind.
To the leadership, an individual who takes ownership for a task is worth 10 that just turn up and do the bare minimum to earn a wage.
Combine the two and helping individuals achieve their aspirations should be a primary effort of each organisation. Now I know what you are thinking, we all would like to do the fun stuff without the boring but the key here is that normally the boring is a requirement for the fun stuff. So it's the leadership's role to help the individual to understand the link between the individual's aspirations and the role they are in.
This is a bit tricky when the role is to storm a machine gun position and bayonet people, hence why the military does so much training and breaking down of barriers. Why would a young lad from Chesterfield charge a machine gun position, or be point man on a patrol through IED infested tracks and fields? Because his organisation and leadership have helped him understand the link between this task and his goals. Fortunately most lads fight for the guy next to them so it isn't that hard actually.
Sometimes there is no link. You are in a job that has nothing to do with your aspirations, no amount of creative language from the leadership can link your shit task and your aspirations. Now there are two scenarios here, you either need to take ownership for your destiny and move/change something. Or its just shit and the key lesson you will learn is perseverance.
The complication comes when your job enables you to live life the way you want to but you still hate your job. What do you do? Risk the good times by quitting and trying to find a job that you do enjoy? This is where having a plan can help provide the confidence to make that jump or perhaps justify why maintaining the shite job is worth it. I would say if you have that itch to try something,
, but have a plan.
As the late Steve Jobs said :
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it.
This leads me onto something I think is vital to enact: being brutally honest with your boss. If you aren't a fan of the work you are doing it's in their interest to motivate you. I actively try and do this. A caveat here is don't be a pessimist, I f*cking detest pessimism, own your problem, understand it but don't bitch about it to your peers definitely don't bitch about it to me...unless your plan involves me helping you own your problem.
A process I use to communicate with my boss/those around me is very simple its 'Plan, Brief, Ask'. This is the formula for 'asking for your sweeties...'
Linked to some of the concepts discussed in this
it is important to understand what it is you want to do, then make a plan to get there.
When talking to anyone about your aspirations you should have 2 levels of pitch: long term, where do you want to be in 5 years? (e.g. I want to be a viking warrior, skilled with sword and drinking home brew), and a short term pitch "I want to do this work to get to my long term goal"(e.g. I want to do all the jobs that involve swinging a sword and invading places)
So when anyone asks you, or alludes to your aspirations, squeeze in your short term goals. What do want to be known for? Being awesome at applying war paint, sailing across the North Sea and swinging a sword.
In my own career post military I've applied this by going around and making sure everyone knows that my focus is on cloud technologies, securing it, designing and building on it etc. This has been effective. If there is a cloud related query, I'm nearly always the person linked in to solve the problem or discuss the client requirement. Therefore helping me achieve my aim of getting better at cloud...
When briefing everyone it is important to dedicate time to ensure your leadership know what your plan is, so this will mean talking to the group of leaders around you not just your direct boss. And I mean your plan, not the plan you think your boss wants to hear. It is perfectly acceptable to say you aren't prepared to jump through hoops x y and z in order to promote as you wish to focus on skills a b and c and they don't fit with the hoops. Remember this is about achieving your stated goal laid out in your plan. Therefore it may be a tactical move to jump through some hoops in order to promote if that is your goal.
Shy kiddies get no sweeties.
If you want a raise articulate your value and ask.
If you want to work 4 days a week rather then 5, articulate your reasoning and ask.
If you want a better laptop, articulate your reasoning and ask.
If you want to take some extra leave, articulate your reasoning and ask.
Can you see a formula appearing? If you cant justify a positive response to the question you are going to ask then why would your boss respond in the affirmative? so Plan, Brief and Ask...
If you can't articulate the argument in a way that promotes a positive response you might be in the wrong environment and its time to change something.
A key part of asking is asking the right person, I would suggest asking more than one person. Try starting with mid-level leadership, gauging the answer, adjusting your approach and asking the next level up if required.
So what fires you up? what can you get behind? what are you willing to suffer to achieve your goal?
Ask yourself those questions and get planning, briefing and asking . Take ownership for your career, life and surrounds. This is focussed at your job but is equally applicable to your hobbies or finding a wife/husband.
If you like this article I would suggest reading the articles linked within the body. They will help you articulate your thoughts.
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