The exercises in the second section of Awake Leadership ask you to reflect on aspects of support you need for optimal work performance. This Awake Leadership vital is so important because support is the fuel for your work and your leadership. Without the right support, you may be limiting your potential as a leader. This week, I chose a Support section question I received from an Awake Leadership reader:

Last week, I worked through the Support section of Awake Leadership. The exercises were very helpful in figuring out what aspects of my work schedule and environment I need to adjust to improve my performance and relieve some stress and distractions at work that are keeping me from fully focusing on the vision. However, what if I don’t have control over those changes such as where I sit and when meetings are scheduled? Many of the changes I want and my team wants are not possible because I know my leadership would say no if I ask. My team is hinting and asking for changes also but I know my leader/management, probably won’t make it happen.

Being a leader of your work, whether you are leading a team or a member of a team, involves initiating and implementing change. It’s not easy work. While managing a team or operation entails keeping the current operation running smoothly, leading is about managing but also responding to and implementing change for continuous improvement.

Support is a very personal aspect of work that you often have to justify when working in an organization since each organization has general rules and budgets they believe work for everyone, in general. There are often things like bringing your own lunch that you can usually easily do without having to ask. However, other support needs that involve breaking away from the norm or involve using organization budget usually require approval. Before you ask on behalf of yourself or your team, review the support needs you have identified and really ask yourself if and how they will improve your performance and your day-to-day quality of life at work. I say this because support needs are often conditioned or assumed “needs” that we have or find based on what other people have at work. For example, you see someone else with a standing desk so you immediately consider if you need one, even if the thought never crossed your mind. You see someone else with an office so you want one, even when things were okay as they are. Or, you see someone come in to the office at 10am everyday when you arrive at 7am so you consider asking if you can arrive later. You are not that person and they may have that support set up for a reason like to avoid rush hour traffic or for a specific physical reason. Ask yourself if the support needs you have identified will really serve you and why and maybe even prioritize them if you’re hesitant to ask for multiple changes all at once. If you are clear on why you need the support accommodation or change you’re asking for and you ask in bite-sized, realistic requests, the likelihood of a “yes” response is much higher.

Once you have gone through the Support exercises and identified ways in which changes to your work environment or schedule can positively impact your work performance and your team and why, share it with your leader and keep an open mind about their answer. Though your leader may have refused to accommodate a similar request in the past, it may be because that person did not have the backup work that you have based on your work in the Support section. You have not only identified what changes would help you but also why the change will help your work and enhance your experience day to day. Next, you can practice before talking with your leader. Share the changes with your family or a peer and practice asking. Then ask your leader, knowing that you have done the reflection backup work in the Support section.

If you have done the work up to this point, you may be pleasantly surprised that the answer is yes. Once you receive a “yes” response, make sure to have that “yes” reflect in the quality of your work and attitude at work. If the answer is no, ask why. By asking why, sometimes your leader may think more about it or they can work toward another resolution with you. Sometimes higher-level leadership is also conditioned to accept things the way they are and not make new accommodations, even if it could help the quality of work and the environment for the team. If you still receive a “no” and no alternative support, maybe that’s not the workplace for you. By helping your leader understand and by asking why, you are paving the way to a better work environment and better results for others too. So, take the lead. If you ask with a genuine tone, you have nothing to lose. If you never ask, you may be limiting the potential of your team.

Observe over time, continue reflecting, continue asking with intention, and stay positive. I hope this helps!

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