Lesson Learned: Why don’t you just ask?

I have spent most of my career in AEC working full time and raising four very active kids. While I have always been committed to my work I did not have the time to devote to my career that I would have liked until now. The youngest left for college last month and I have an empty nest with a lot of time on my hands.  After years of being insanely busy I find it difficult to be any different now. The whole relaxing thing is a work in progress. Hence, I have been kicking into high gear professionally to make up for lost time.

There were few sports or activities that were not tested in our household over the years. Being very involved with my kids I was usually raising my hand for whatever task was needed to make these activities better.  I have done everything from correcting papers for teachers to running a 40 kid snowboard team for years. Choir, guitar & piano lessons, baseball, football, soccer, basketball, dance, Boy Scouts, art, drama, water polo, swimming – no kidding, the list goes on and on.

All of these volunteer efforts with my kids were time consuming and made for some seriously long days but I learned some valuable lessons in the process.  These lessons are now coming in pretty handy in my work and CSI (Construction Specifications Institute) life.

One of the most important of those lessons is to JUST ASK.

The bulk of my job is company standards, master specs and QA/QC.  None of this is billable and it is often a challenge finding an engineer who is not already swamped with work to assist with some of these tasks.  As President of PDX CSI and Chair of the Institute Cert Prep Committee, my role includes helping to find volunteers to participate in getting the work done. Portland is a busy chapter and we have a lot of work to do. In both work and CSI, I absolutely need assistance from others to be able to do my job and have any success.

This is where all that Mom volunteer stuff comes into play. I learned very early on that if I didn’t ask for help, I was not going to get it. If I didn’t get help, that meant I was going to be doing all the work. I am not talking about asking a room full of people to raise their hand if they want to help out – because those hands never went up.

I am talking about getting to know the people around you, their strengths, their talents, their knowledge and taking the time to ASK them face-to-face. It is rather amazing to see the response you get when you recognize a person’s particular talent and skill, point it out to them and ASK if they will share their expertise.  Generally people are flattered that you notice their strengths.  It makes them feel good and everybody likes to feel good. When people feel good and are valued, they want to help.

People want to be a part of making something better but are often humble enough that they will not stand up and say “hey, look at me – I am good at this!”  You have to notice them. You have to get to know them. You have to appreciate them. And then, you have to ask them. You absolutely have to make that personal connection and bring them into the process. Everyone wants to feel wanted and needed.

I have accomplished some things in my work and in CSI these past few years that I am pretty proud of.  I am currently working on a few special projects either as a direct participant or a facilitator that are very exciting, somewhat disruptive, out of the box and I can’t wait to make happen.  I have accomplished none of this on my own and am accomplishing some of it with people I barely know.

Someone asked me recently “How did you get them to do that?”

My answer “I just asked!”

You should try it.


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