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Four Ways to Respond

Updated: Jul 26, 2021

When presented with a request, we often seek the simple action. The simple action for us, however, usually moves any complexity away to someone else.

This is why people just love "please advise" - it's a politely way of wording "I want nothing to do with any risks associated with what happens next."

You have choices when preparing your response. The least amount of work to the most amount of work. Interestingly, you may find you ultimately have less work in the long run if you do more work in the short run.

Your options to respond to a question or request usually are

  1. do nothing

  2. say "what do I do now?"

  3. say "here's what I think we should do"

  4. say "here's what I'm going to do unless I hear otherwise"

Some people even add a 5th one which is the "ask for forgiveness instead of permission" approach: "here's what I did" - those are sometimes appropriate but not if you're in a business where being able to undo an action is a necessary step in risk avoidance.

When possible, choose the "here's what I'm going to do" - it's less work for your managers and will show them you're thinking above your current responsibility level. It's scarier to do at first, then gets easier and easier. And they still retain the ability to disagree with you and intervene. But by wording the #4 answer in that way, they don't have to do anything if they agree with you. Everyone benefits when you have less back and forth internally on these decisions.

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